Children’s ministries have a glaring fundamental flaw that is rarely spoke of publicly in the church. If the pastors or elders did speak from the pulpit on this flaw it would seriously offend some people and money would walk out the door. We all know that we have to be hyper sensitive to people in today’s day in age where we get easily offended by the simplest words.
The first problem is that we have a multi-billion dollar children’s church industry. I am not a fan of separating children from parents in church. It creates subcultures in the body that breed discention, a lack of community and a disconnect between generations. Once a child graduates children’s church they are moved to youth group where they are separated still. They then move up to young adults and college & career where they are still living in a subculture that is separate from the rest of the church. Kids don’t get to witness their parents worshiping, they don’t get to see other adults worshiping, they don’t get to witness adults learning and taking notes. The family often has no idea what went on in children’s church and the answers from their kids when asked is often ” it was OK ” or ” it was fun “. When asking what the children’s pastor taught they shrug and mutter something about fun or a character in the Bible. There is nothing for the kids and parents to discuss. Is it any wonder why each subsequent generations church attendance gets smaller and smaller? They no longer feel that they have anything in common with the older generation that they were separated from. The sad fact is we are stuck with it for the forseeable future.
We are in an age where everything has to cater to the individual. The individual needs to be entertained. We can’t take responsibility for our kids in church, we need them out of our hair so we can relax. They need to be someone else’s problem. We can’t take responsibility to discipline them during the rest of the week so we can’t make them mind during a two-hour church service. We have trained them through T.V and video games to switch topics ( gears if you will ) about every minute or two. Now the pastor is too boring because he isn’t fast paced and loud so we feel the need to farm them out to the children’s ministry and expect them to make a huge and lasting impact on their behavior.
Now that that’s out-of-the-way. The problem is not the Children’s pastor or the volunteers. My wife and I were children’s pastors, led Royal Rangers and Missionettes ( Impact Girls ) volunteered in inner city outreaches to kids and with our churches children’s ministry in other areas. There are some really good volunteers and children’s pastors who try, care, pray for and cry over the kids they see each week. The problem is they only see the kids a couple of hours a week. They might have them two hours on Sunday morning and that’s it for most of them. They get to see a few more back on Sunday night and even fewer on Wednesday night. All in all they might see your kids a total of 4 hours max out of 168 hours. That leaves 164 hours where the kid is being influenced elsewhere.
The remaining time is split with roughly 45 hours a week at school for around 180 days a year. That leaves as few as 119 hours a week where the primary influence on the child is at home. That is a huge and insurmountable difference between time under the influence of a children’s pastor and influence of the parent. Those 4 hours your overworked children’s pastor has can not overcome the learned behavior of the other 164 hours a week. Sure, the children’s pastor can influence your child. Sure they can help instill a love for Christ and the knowledge of good and evil, but they are not the primary influence in the child’s life. Mom and dad – you are.
How can you as a parent honestly say the children’s ministry at your church is ineffective when your actions and behavior at home counter what they are being taught at church? In church the kids are taught the importance of reading their Bible, yet your kids never see you reading yours. They may not even know you own one! They are taught not to gossip about people but over dinner you gossip about that coworker living with his girlfriend who can’t chew gum with her mouth shut, or you gossip about sister so-and-so who wore that hideous dress that made her already large behind look even larger. They are taught not to lie, but they watch you lie to get a discount or get out of a speeding ticket. They are taught to pray, but the only time they see you pray is when the car breaks or something goes wrong and you mutter “Jesus Christ!” They are taught to be kind to the poor and watch you badmouth the homeless guy on the corner. See where this is going?
Parents, you are the most influential person in their life and they learn what is important from you. They learn if church is important by your commitment. When you pull them out of church at 8:30 PM because it’s a school night, but you don’t bat an eye when they stay on the ball field until 10:00 PM on a school night you are showing that sports is more important than church. The same is true when you blow off numerous services in the name of sports throughout the year or every weekend at the beach during the off school months. When you casually blow off church you are telling your kids church just isn’t that important.
In short you are spending the week undoing what the children’s pastor and volunteers are trying to teach. Then you get angry with the pastor and volunteers when your kid doesn’t know even the simplest Bible stories or is frequently needing discipline during service for acting up. The problem is not the children’s pastor, it’s not the volunteers, it’s not the curriculum, it’s you!
No one ever said parenting was going to be easy. No one ever promised you a rose garden once you became pregnant with your first child. The responsibility to raise them and instruct them in the ways of the Lord is your responsibility, not anyone else’s. Children are a tremendous blessing that come with an incredible burden. In truth all great blessings come with a great burden of responsibility that can not by delegated to someone else. None of us will parent perfectly, but you will be amazed at the grace your kids will show you when they know God is your first priority, your spouse is your second than them. That grace comes from security in their position with you and later from their own relationship with the Lord.