Most student pastors take the next step to become lead pastors, however, I have been called to be a family life pastor. At first I was completely hesitant to take on this role. Then I made a realization that completely reversed my heart and I full-heartedly embraced the role of family ministry. Statistics say that 60-80% of “churched” teens fall away from faith within the first year of high school graduation. Like many veteran student pastors, my ministry was not immune to this statistic. So I realized… in order to save students from this “falling away” I must introduce kids and their families to Jesus much earlier; before their teen years.
After reading numerous blogs during the Family Ministry Blog Tour, a singular theme becomes clear; that family ministry is the deliberate involvement of parents in the spiritual upbringing of a child. But if we simply focus on young children and their families, what happens to kids as they grow up and parental influence begins to dwindle?
There’s an argument that parents will always have influence. I’m 32 and my mom still has influence on me. Parents will always have primary influence on their kids but during their tween/teen years that influence becomes challenged. Tweens and teens seek confirmation that what their parents teach is correct. That’s why mentors or the “spiritual family” often have more of a voice than parent(s). If you’ve ever worked with teens, you know what I mean when parents say, “How did you get my son to serve in Mexico when I can’t even get him to clean his room?” In order to carry on the work of family ministry beyond the years of kid ministry, we must be deliberate in having the “church family” continue the work started by the “true family”. In short, teens cannot be ushered off to the student ministry room; they NEED to be ushered into the “church family.” Look at this graphic:
In most churches the tween years (ages 10-12) tend to be the time that kids seem to be too “old” for kids ministry and too “young” for student ministry; however I would argue that the transition at this age is CRITICAL. Here’s why:
- True family influences begin to subside. Once again, parents have influence however, teens naturally begin to test what their parents have taught them and begin to challenge the ideas that their family has instilled in them. For this reason they begin to tune into voices outside of their family.
- Outside influences become louder. There is no denying it, tweens/teens begin adapting and embracing the influences outside of the church and outside of their families. No matter the impact made at a younger age, tweens/teens are in a unique position to begin making their own decisions. I would still contend that parents hold the majority of influence at this age, but the outside influences are becoming louder, more attractive and more acceptable.
- The church family needs to become more influential. We always hear the cry for more volunteers in this ministry or that ministry. Rather than simply focusing on filling in the empty spots, churches and its pastors need to focus on finding mentors. Mentoring needs to be more than a buzz word but a target that every ministry leader needs to aim at…and nail. This will be easier if the church adopts the notion of spiritual parenting; because as kids grow their parents have the opportunity to mentor and “spiritually adopt” other children whose own parents are becoming less influential. As parents are inspired, equipped and supported they have more of a potential to carry those skills onto a mentoring relationship with the up-and-coming generation in the church.
For a child, there is no question that parents have the most impact in their child’s life and arguably the most important task of forming a foundation that they will build upon. However, where I see family ministry begin to fail is strictly keeping the principles of family ministry to families with kids under age 10. Family ministry goes beyond kid’s ministry. Family ministry is a collaboration of the true family and the church family working together to influence the next generation of Christ believers. This means that family ministry does not stop after promotion from children’s ministry. It evolves and expands to include “spiritual parents” or mentors from the church who will invest in tweens/teens and continue the influence first started by their parents. Their voices should confirm, encourage and echo the need for Jesus. Let me be clear this is not hiring a person to “deal” with teens. It’s the church family embracing the God-given call to own the responsibility of bringing up the next generation of the church.