Ask Rooted: What Do You Wish You Could Share With Parents About Church Involvement?

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Dave Wright, Coordinator for Student Ministries in the Diocese of South Carolina (Anglican):

Your students are far more likely to have a life-long faith if they are active in the life of the church during these formative years. This has been proven by research. By life of the church I dont merely mean youth group attendance, although that is helpful. Rather I mean participating in worship, serving the church, and being part of the life of the congregation. This is where valuable intergenerational relationships are formed. In these, your son or daughter can learn what the gospel looks like in all the different stages of life. They can seek advice and guidance from believers who have an entirely different life perspective. The benefits are endless and the end result is what God intends for all young people.

Kevin Yi, Youth Pastor at Church Everyday in Los Angeles, CA:

Asian American youth groups are essentially separate cultures within the church. So corporate worship is not going to be possible in any consistent way. Instead, we’re talking about encouraging the youth group to be open to adults coming to serve or worship with the students. From my experience, sometimes Asian American adults don’t feel welcome to come to the youth room. That’s how divided it can feel sometimes. So in that sense, I wish parents knew that they’re welcome in the youth environment. As much as we want our students to worship with the adults, the adults can make such an important statement by coming to worship with their children occasionally.

Ben Birdsong, Minister of Students at Meadow Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL:

When it comes to church involvement, parents set the priority of corporate worship in the minds of their kids by the decisions they (the parents) make. In a world filled with travel ball, weekends at the lake, and late-night Saturday activities, it is easy for church to become “the thing we will do if we arent busy.” To make church a low priority is to communicate that nearly everything else matters more.

Many parents find themselves at a loss for words when their kids dont attend church when they go off to college or career. Often students who dont value church involvement have been discipled into the idea that church is something you do if you cant find something better to do. In college and career, it is easy to continue this pattern.

As a parent, what you model and personally practice with regard to church involvement will be what impacts your student. You can say that church matters to your family, but until your family calendar reflects that priority, it is not a true priority.

Seth Stewart, Student Pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, OK:

Youth group should not be the way you meet your kids’ felt needs for friendship, spiritual depth, role models, or moral education. Hear me, all those benefits are important and Im glad when your kids find them in our ministry. But a “felt needs” approach to church attendance is destructive in the long run. Take, for example, a student who attends one youth group on Sunday night, another on Wednesday night, and goes to Young Life and a parachurch Bible study. I think most parents would say “Thats great! I want my child exposed to as much Bible, godly friends and role models as possible!” But when I talk to this student, what I hear her say is “X church is where I get spiritually challenged, Y parachurch ministry is where all my friends are, and I really enjoy the worship at Z church.”

Although it’s not your intention, the message your kids are hearing is that spiritual health is found in a buffet of church experiences, not in committed membership to a local body of believers. This is not the biblical understanding of discipleship or spiritual growth. You have an opportunity to disciple your kids to commit to a local church the way Christ committed to death for the global Church. Statistics tell us that between 60-80% of youth group kids drop out of church in the college years. None of us can control this, but you can model for your kids a counter-cultural (and statistic-flipping) motive for local church attendance – Gods glory and the expansion of his kingdom.

Chelsea Kingston Erickson, Pastor of Youth and Families at First Congregational Church of Hamilton, MA:

Throughout the New Testament, the Church is depicted both as Christ’s Body (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Ephesians 3:6, 4:11-13, 5:23) and his Bride (Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 19:7-9). Both metaphors drive home the point that loving Jesus means also loving the Church.

The goal of youth ministry, whether its done in the local church or in parachurch organizations, should be to help students love Christ and take their place in the local church. Im delighted when students connect to our youth ministry; however, youth ministry by definition doesn’t last forever! A significant part of our mission as parents and youth workers must be to help students love the Body of Christ. Whether or not your student is connected to your church’s youth group, I would encourage you to prioritize her engagement in corporate worship, her connection to godly adults (and if possible, peers) who will help her grow, and her service to others in the local church. This is all a part of helping to form her as a disciple of Jesus more than simply the recipient of a ministry program.

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