What do you deeply believe about family?

Youth ministries that pursue familiesSo, let’s say a mom of two teenagers comes to you and says, “My husband is spiritually absent from the family and we’re really looking for a place where we can plug in and grow spiritually. Can you do that for us?”

What response would you expect from a typical youth pastor?

“Why, of course! In fact, we have several programs and small groups that are designed to do just that for you and your kids!”

But stop and think about what just happened in that natural transaction.

There’s several things we could pick apart, but let’s boil it down to this:

If the youth pastor deeply believes that the family is God’s design for passing faith to the next generation, why does the church and its programs become the automatic solution for this problem?

Instead, what would happen if a youth pastor said, “No ma’am, I’m sorry, I cannot replace your husband’s spiritual role in your family and neither can this church, but I will do everything I can to pursue your husband.”

This might be the best youth pastor those kids ever had. In fact, that youth pastor may influence an entire family tree instead of just a mom and two teens.

What we deeply believe about family will influence how we do youth ministry.

Posted on March 5, 2013

  • Joe Dore

    This is a great point and I love the idea. Can’t say that I’ve done it myself, but it’s something that will be on my mind from now on. Being honest about the fact that our role is, more importantly than anything else, to equip the family. Programs and events are a small piece of that puzzle, but they should only supplement what is done in the home. If we can make that known to the family right away, maybe the family will take responsibility sooner than later.

    • Glad this is helpful for ya, Joe. What does it look like for a community of faith to equip a family without defaulting to more programs, events, and meetings? I’m not saying those things are bad, just wanna give us the freedom to think a bigger than that.

  • My church has not adopted these things, but they are some that I have thought through a bit. I would enjoy some feedback on if these are things we could say we believe about our ministry to the family.

    A pastor on staff with me says, “What you believe is not what you say, what you believe is what you behave.”

    So my thought is that maybe we should come up with some things that we believe and then say them, write them down, approve the document and then figure out as a church how these things can be lived out in our own local church.

    1. We believe that within a Christian home, the father has the God-given ministry and responsibility to train his children in the instruction of the Lord.

    6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

    2. We believe that throughout the Bible, God relates to his people in terms of household, family, children, husband, bride, mother, father, brother, and sister. This is vitally important as we try to understand the role of the church in relation to each Christian family and the spiritual church family as a whole.

    3. We believe that children are under the authority of their parents and are commanded by God to respect, honor and obey them.

    6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

    4. We believe that children can, in some ways as Christ did, at a young age (around 12), begin to listen to and interact with church leadership and have intelligent spiritual discussions and grow in every respect.

    2:46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

    2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

    I Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

    5. We believe that the regular hearing of the Word of God preached is what will bring about faith in the lives of families.

    Romans 10:14,17 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? …So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

    6. We believe that the Scriptures are clear that older men need to “urge” younger men and older women teach younger women.

    Titus 2:3,4 Older women are to likewise…They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands
    and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and
    submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.

    7. We believe that those, within the church, with the gift of apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, pastor/shepherd, and teaching have the responsibility to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Therefore, Christian parents, especially fathers, who have the ministry of training their children, need to be equipped by those people.

    Ephesians 4:11,12 And he [Jesus] gave the
    apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry for the building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

    8. We believe, based upon the example of the Trinity as well as the instruction and examples in Scriptures, that Christian fellowship is essential in the lives of all Christians, young and old.

    9. We believe young people can play a vital role within the church environment at large as well as outside the church and they can contribute to the overall edification and ministry of the church.

    10. We believe that young people who regularly attend our church, whose parents do not, need special attention given to their parents as well as their situation in order to see the entire family come to know Christ and see spiritual maturity happen in the young person. These students may need more spiritual “parenting” to happen from those within the church if their parents are not open to participating in it.

    11. We believe that we are to have a special heart for the fatherless (including those who have lost their father to death or abandonment.)

    • Good stuff, Brett! It’s easy to give mental consent that these things are true, but deeply believing them to the point that they change us is something else.

      How has believing these 11 points changed you and your family?

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  • Ben

    Can you clarify something for me, do you believe the Bible to be saying that parents are the “primary” spiritual teachers to their children or the “only” spiritual teachers to their children. Your above scenario makes it sound like that if the youth pastor/church takes any spiritual role in the life of this student then they are taking control away from the parents.

    I firmly believe that parents are to be the “primary” spiritual leaders to their children. I also believe that most churches including mine have unintentionally created systems that don’t encourage parents to be spiritual leaders. As I look for a response to this, I don’t want to run all the way to the other side of the spectrum counting out the church as a whole in the spiritual development of students, because I am not sure that is the biblical response either.

    If a family spends quality time throughout the week reading scripture together, praying together, growing in faith together, does that family give up their spiritual authority by allowing someone else to invest spiritually in the lives of their children 1-2 hours a week? I am not so naive to think that most families are doing this, but can this be the balance or the biblical goal? To be a both encouraging, training, and equipping parents, and also investing the little time you have with students, as opposed to an either/or?

    • Good clarification, Ben. Thanks for asking this.

      I definitely agree that the parents are the “primary” spiritual influence and that raising children should be a village approach. Other voices are always valuable in all our lives.

      What I’m jabbing at here is that the way we respond to situations like this reveals what we deeply believe about family.

      In this example, the youth pastor didn’t say that this family shouldn’t get involved. He just focused on addressing the root issue instead of offering a bandaid for it.

      • Ben


        Thanks for responding to my questions. I think you are absolutely right that “the way we do respond to these situations does reveal what we deeply believe about family.” And in traditional youth ministries we give lip service to things like family spiritual development, and parents taking on their spiritual role, but when it comes down to it what are we(I) doing about it.

        There has to be a balanced approach. Do I want parents to be the spiritual leaders in their home? Yes. Does that mean that they have to be the only ones that give their kids spiritual instruction at church? not necessarily. If I look at Deuteronomy 6 the implication is that the instruction is on going and daily. I want to help families do that, and then at those times when someone else is investing in their kids lives, those adults are just reinforcing what is going on at home.

        It’s easier to just do what has always been done, but it is also ineffective. But that ship has been sailing for so long, it will be tough to turn it around and start a new course. It is certainly worth trying, because it is the right and biblical thing to do.

        • Yeah. And really, a lot of people miss that Deut 6 was spoken to the nation of Israel, not just to individual families. “Hear, Oh Israel,” implies a village approach to spiritual influence on children. In their mind, though, that meant living together, not just attending weekly get-togethers.

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