Should students (K-12) be separated from their parents at church? This is a question of much debate among some. Those who argue that separation is negative for the family believe children need to see their parents worship. They learn by imitation, and, the way our culture is heading, students and parents already spend a majority of time apart from each other doing their own thing. Besides, there is something special about parents worshiping alongside their children. I see value in that.
Yet, my experience with this says children are mostly bored with “adult” talk and don’t engage in this setting. I think having times where togetherness happens should be a part of every local church’s planning, but more than ever, our churches need strong children and youth ministries that are intentional about engaging students in ways that train them as Christian warriors. It is beneficial for students to be with their peers learning about Jesus and what that means for their lives. Adults need that alone time with their peers as well.
Every pastor to students (children and youth pastors) worth his salt longs to do family ministry. Pastors don’t want to be “all things spiritual” to students. They are burdened for parents to step up and be the spiritual leaders. They long to walk alongside them in training their child spiritually. They don’t want to replace the parent, but they are experts in understanding how students tick. They know their needs are different than adults, and they know how to engage minds and hearts in a way students understand. Instead of hoarding this knowledge, they desire to help parents better engage their children spiritually.
Yet, most parents see student ministry as a replacement rather than a supplement. “Teach my child spiritually because I am not doing it at home” is how many parents in the church are approaching their child’s spiritual life. This is not healthy! Student pastors are aware of this and long to see parents wake up to the reality that they need to be the loudest voice spiritually in their child’s life.
Our children are under attack. Everywhere they turn, their inexperienced eyes are bombarded with temptation, immorality, cruelty, and wickedness of every kind. There is no debating this is only getting worse. It doesn’t matter if you send your kids to public school or homeschool; unless you lock them in a room and keep them away from all technology and outside influence, they will face these things to some degree. Even if you manage to shelter them from most of it, eventually they will step into the world as young adults. No matter what, they will face the realities of this wicked world.
Good student ministers intersect the Word with life on a level students get. These ministers speak honestly and boldly about temptations that will be faced and help students be prepared to stand against them. They are skilled and passionate and, therefore, effective at not only training students but also working alongside parents to train their children to be in the world but not of the world. The best student ministers do not oppose family ministry but embrace it by seeking to influence parents to better engage their children with spiritual truth.
I see four ways that motivate student ministers in these tasks:
- Teach the Word to students in an engaging and practical way that students can apply to their lives.
- Teach students to serve the Kingdom now and not wait until adulthood (which usually means they probably won’t serve then either).
- Engage parents on what is happening in their ministry so parents can utilize the information in spiritual training of their children.
- Equip parents to be the spiritual leaders to their student at home.
Thriving student ministries have no desire to isolate students form their parents. Instead, they provide a valuable service of walking alongside intentional parents who long to see their children know God and make Him known. Rather than dismissing student ministries and bringing families together for the whole time at church, Christian parents need to catch a vision for their role as spiritual leaders to their children and embrace student ministries as a helpful reinforcement to their own efforts with their children. Our children need godly parents and godly student ministries. This will lead to children becoming mighty warriors for God.