The Church Can't Raise Your Kids
I believe (and there's some research out there to back this up) that every parent knows that when it comes to shaping the morals, values and ethics of our kids, it should be the parents driving that bus. I also believe that most parents feel overwhelmed and undermined as to how to go about doing it. In the absence of a plan, they most often turn to the only experts they know and trust: the church. Most of the people who read this blog will attend church somewhere this weekend. You are thoughtful Christian people for the most part; many of you are thoughtful Christian parents. You take your kids to church, to a youth group or to Sunday School, and you expect them to learn something there that will help shape their faith and character.
That's fine insofar as it goes. But I want you to hear this: the church can't raise your kids.
It's not supposed to, and it has done a terribly ineffective job when it has tried.
I love the fact that churches are getting more and more intentional about providing good, quality programming for children. It ought to be innovative and inspiring. It ought to rival the best Disney and Nickelodeon and PBS have to offer in terms marrying creativity and educational content. Churches ought to increase the percentage of their budget that goes to children's programming, even if it means cutting some long-standing programs that benefit adults.
But I'll say it again: the church can't raise your kids.
I say it because something really tragic has happened over the course of the last several decades. While we were busy developing innovative programming for children, we somehow convinced parents that it would probably be in their best interests to leave the faith development of their kids to experts like us.
Somehow, though I don't think we did this intentionally, the faith development of children has largely become church-centered and home-supported.
Church is where kids go to learn about God and faith and morals and all that stuff. Families support those churches financially and by making sure the kids are there as often as possible. As long as parents have their children at church frequently enough, they feel like they're doing their part to shape the faith and character of those children.
There are lots of reasons why this has happened; none of them are good enough. It hasn't worked. It won't work. I can't work.
God has not set it up to work. God established the family to be the primary unit of faith development. Families may come together to form a church, and that church can support what's going on in those families. But the faith development of kids is supposed to be home-based and church-supported.
I have looked all through the Bible and have not found one verse that tells churches how to raise kids. God put those kids into a family -- under your leadership -- and he calls you to do the heavy lifting. Raise your own kids. Stop relying so much on the church to do something God hasn't called or equipped it to do.
Beginning next week, we're going to talk more about how to develop a plan. I'm not going to give you a plan. I'll give you suggestions, but this is something I would never presume to tell you how to do. You know your kids. Anyone who ever tells you that all children should be treated the same way is wrong. Anyone who offers you the false hope of "one-size-fits-all" parenting should be dismissed. Kids aren't animals, and kids aren't computers. They have minds of their own and the ability to make their own decisions and choices. You must tailor your parenting to suit the personalities of both you and your child. Failure to do this is failure to honor your child and failure to honor the God who creates us uniquely.
For now, here's the thing I want you to remember: the church can't raise your kids.
These ideas reflect the tone of my new book, Hearts and Minds: Raising Your Child with a Christian View of the World. The book, co-authored with Dr. Kenneth Boa, is published by Tyndale Publishing and has a foreword by Chuck Colson. If you are interested in reading an excerpt, request an electronic copy in the comment section of this blog. You may invite John to come to your church to conduct a parenting seminar. You will also soon be able to purchase an autographed copy of the book from our online store.