First things first, you are probably wondering if I am qualified to write this post. Well, between my husband and I, we have 2 Masters of Divinity, a Masters of Theology, a PhD in Theology, and 22 years of ordained ministry experience. So yes, I am qualified. So why write it? Well, because a pastor’s job is to love on their congregation. Loving them means shepherding them and yes, sometimes that even means showing them “tough love,” but more often than not, pastors don’t like showing tough love. They would much rather focus on the positive and feel loved by their congregation in turn. So here are five things every pastor NEEDS parents to know. In fact, these are probably five things your pastor is dying to tell you, but is also probably afraid to mention out of fear that you will leave the church. So Mom and Dad, are you ready? Here goes:
You are your child’s primary spiritual educator
What does that mean? Well, that means that your child is going to learn more about the faith from you than from their pastor, teachers, adult mentors, or anyone else. Some of you might be getting sweaty right now. Some of you might already be in straight up denial. It’s a lot of responsibility; there’s no doubt about it. But if you want to pretend that what I am saying is not correct, then all I have to say is, “Sorry, but it’s the truth.” And it’s the truth because kids naturally desire to be like their parents. AND because kids spend way more time with their parents than anyone else (except for their school teachers). That means that the brunt of your child’s spiritual education falls to you, whether you like it or not.
An hour (or two) isn’t going to cut it.
I think it is hysterically funny (in a sad and perplexing way) when parents take their kids to church on Sunday morning for an hour and think that’s going to cut it. Or worse, that they take their kids to church every couple of weeks or once a month, for just an hour at a time. If you aren’t doing the majority of your child’s spiritual education at home, then one hour every week or so isn’t sufficient time to teach your kids the faith. It just isn’t. Did you learn to be a lifelong anything in a few sporadic hours? Probably not.
What you do (more than what you say) matters.
I am going to talk about this from a more positive perspective in just a minute, but what you do and say matters. And conversely, what you don’t do and don’t say also matters. I had a friend who was a professional parent advocate, and she once told me about a presentation she did with a group of parents. At one point, she said, “Do you want your child to be patient? Then stop muttering and complaining to yourself when you are standing in the checkout line at Target.” She said that because how you behave at any given moment teaches your kid a lot more than anything you will ever say. So if you want your child to learn to love God, you need to love God. If you want your child to be filled with patience, hope, love, and joy, then you need to be filled with those things. Don’t tell your kid to be patient and then lose it in the Target line. It won’t work.
You don’t have to have all of the right answers.
Remember how I just said that what you do, more than what you say, matters? Well, that is also a really great thing! I will never forget when I was four or five years old and had my mom serve as my church school teacher. Do I remember a single thing she said? Absolutely not! But I do still have a vivid memory of her passing coloring sheets around to all of us kids. Later on, when I realized that church was important to me, I also realized that it was important to me because it had been important to my mom. My mom didn’t know the answer to every single Bible question. She didn’t have a degree in Theology, but she taught me by demonstrating with her time what was valuable to her.
In the same way, my husband once had a parent call him and tell him that their son was going to miss Confirmation Sunday. Here was a day that this kid had worked towards for an entire year, but he had decided that he was going to miss it so he could attend a soccer game. What was my husband’s response to this parent? “You’re his mom. You can tell him he is going to the soccer game. Or you can tell him he is going to Confirmation Sunday. But whatever choice you make, he’s going to remember it, and you’ll be teaching him what is more important in life: soccer or church.” Guess who was there on Confirmation Sunday?
Allow them to find themselves in the story.
Focus on God’s story. No, that doesn’t simply mean having your kid memorize Scripture or regurgitate Bible stories. Rather, it means allowing your child to find themselves in the story. “What does this story say about me?” “What does it say about God?” “What does it say about God’s relationship with humanity?” There are several goals here. When you allow your kids to find themselves in the story, you are helping them to realize that God’s story is still relevant today. But you are also helping them to realize that God’s story is still going and that they are a part of it! Our desire to be a part of something that is bigger and better than ourselves is powerful.
Encourage conversation and wondering about God’s story. AND focus on wondering about things yourself instead of fearing whether or not you will have all the right answers. Demonstrate for your kids that you think about God’s story often. It’ll work wonders,
So there you have it! Five things every pastor NEEDS parents to know. And now I want to hear from you! Did you resonant with any of these points?
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