Moses stands before the nation of Israel, the people he has led for 40 years, as they camp outside of the Promise Land. He knows he will soon die, and he gives one final address to God’s chosen nation. He reminds them of the pain of disobedience, and the sweetness of obedience. He does not just call them to serve Yahweh, though; he charges them to pass their faith to their children.
“Involving parents. From the beginning of God’s Story, he makes it clear that families are a central part of his plan for teaching and training children to seek after him. As Moses gives his last speech to the Israelites, he tells them, ‘These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.’”
Moses charge offers wisdom about the importance of families in leading kiddos to know and love Jesus. Children’s ministers, we get anywhere from 1-4 hours a week (depending on your church’s programming schedule). While students can learn and grow during this time, the proportion of time in church to time at home and school highlights the importance of partnering with parents.
Pragmatically, this will look completely different from one situation to another. For example, in a community where families are not strong, this may include both encouraging families to spend time together by hosting family oriented events while also encouraging families in the church to “adopt” kids that do not have a strong mother and father figure (intentionally seeking out that child about once a week to every other week). In other areas, most families may have a mother and a father figure that simply needs resources to lead their family. In the inner-city area where I served, we took these steps:
- We planned events where families were encouraged to spend time together. I tried a family night of worship that was like kids church on Saturday night and a game night. Honestly, neither of these proved successful. They required lots of planning and coordinating, and no one came. In another situation, this could potentially be helpful. It just did not prove to be a good plan for the area in which I served.
- We sent home communication about what we discussed in class. This may be a worksheet or a summary. Ideally, families will get these a week in advance so they can be the primary teachers and church time can center around reinforcing and discussing.
- We planned a baptism class for students and asked adult class members to sponsor individual kids. They were asked to discuss given questions, and listen as kiddos talk about their relationship with Jesus. Honestly, this, too, flopped. I could not find adults interested in sponsoring kiddos. I think the adults felt intimidated.
Overall, I think committing to this point in my philosophy of ministry led to the most frustration. In my time there, I had to embrace that I am responsible for myself alone. I possess no magical powers to force families to attend events or adults to rub shoulders with students. This point can feel overwhelming because, unlike the other points, it requires other people buying into the vision.
Do you have any ideas about how to see this point to fruition? Do you have any practical suggestions for casting your vision? I’d love to hear from you!