A vital question that every parent and guardian must ask is, “Who is the primary spiritual director for my children?” The answer to that question will have profound impact on your daily life. Typically, we see two places, or institutions if you will, where the spiritual development of children takes place: the Church and the home.
The Church, of course, is the meeting place of the people of God. We will go with Edward Hiscox’s definition of what a Church is, “A Christian Church is a company of regenerate persons, baptized on a profession of faith in Christ; united in covenant for worship, instruction, the observance of Christian ordinances, and for such service as the gospel requires; recognizing and accepting Christ as their supreme Lord and Lawgiver, and taking His Word as their only and sufficient rule of faith and practice in all matters of conscience and religion.” (Edward T. Hiscox, Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches, page 20) Hiscox’s wordy definition includes with it the idea of teaching and instruction. One of the main functions of the Church, then, is to teach individuals about the doctrines and practices of a Christian. (For a thorough treatment on the subject of the Church, see James Bannerman’s classic work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church. Not only does he provide a detailed look at the subject, but he also provides an enormous amount of Scripture.)
The home, according to Scripture, is the very first institution which God created (see Genesis 1:26-30). In God’s initial creation, humanity was to procreate and cultivate the earth. Along with those two goals, the communication of God’s revealed truth existed as well. Notice particularly, God’s command concerning the tree (see Genesis 2:15-17). This would have been vital to pass on to Adam and Eve’s children. When we enter into the time of Abraham we see a commendable description given by God. God acknowledges that Abraham would transmit God’s truth to his children (see Genesis 18:19). During the Mosaic Law the home was to be the primary place of spiritual development (see Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Even the New Testament addresses the role of the home in the development of the spiritual life (see Ephesians 6:4).
Now, there are two statements that we can deduce from these thoughts:
The Church is not the home. The home is not the church.
These two statements seem to be self-explanatory. Most people that I talk with agree with each statement, at least in theory. Practically speaking, however, we do not believe either statements.
Today, the statements would read more like this, The Church is primary place of the spiritual development of my children.
Now, parents and guardians generally believe they are the primary developers of their children’s faith (for more detailed information about this, check out Barna). There are several reasons that parents do not engage in this life-changing endeavor. That will be the topic of our article today.
- Parents and guardians do not feel adequate to develop their children spiritually.
The research of Barna concludes, “The survey data indicate that parents generally rely upon their church to do all of the religious training their children will receive. Parents are not so much unwilling to provide more substantive training to their children as they are ill-equipped to do such work.” (Barna) Parents and guardians may not have received the training during their own childhood, so the practical side does not exist. Churches have failed to help train and educate parents and guardians to develop their home into a greenhouse for spiritual growth. Parents and guardians have failed to seek out opportunities to learn more about this as well.
- Parents and guardians see the Church as the institution to develop their children spiritually.
We return to Barna’s research yet again. When I mentioned that in practice parents and guardians believe the Church is the primary institution the research backs this up. Consider the following, “Related research, however, revealed that a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children. However, about two out of three parents of children 12 or younger attend religious services at least once a month and generally take their children with them. Most of those parents are willing to let their church or religious center provide all of the direct religious teaching and related religious experiences that their children receive.” (Barna)
Did you catch that? “The majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children.” (emphasis mine) This statement, besides being incredibly sad, reveals the truth that parents and guardians do not see their role to develop their children spiritually. The Church has accommodated to this by creating different classes, groups, and activities.
- Families are too busy to develop their children spiritually.
One of the aspects of our culture today (I am speaking of the culture of the US) is busyness. We are constantly on the go, active, productive. Consider this paragraph from research conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“Did you know that over the past 20 years, children’s free time for play and unstructured activities has declined by 12 hours per week? During that same period, time in structured sports has doubled, and passive, spectator leisure has increased 5 times, to over three hours per week. The impact this has had on families is profound: a 100% decrease in household conversations, a 33% decrease in family dinners, and a 28% decrease in families taking vacations.”
In the past twenty years, free time has decline by 12 hours and structure activities have doubled. This, of course, has profound impact on the daily life of the family. If your child is involved in 3 or 4 extra-curricular activities, how will they have time to be educated in the truths of God? If you are involved with groups, book clubs, bowling, etc., every night of the week, how will you have time to educate your children in the truths of God?
These reasons are not exhaustive. They are also general in character. For example, a single mother working to provide for her children may not have a choice but to work extra hours in order to meet the needs of her family. I am discussing the family that consists of a father, mother, and one or more child.
In his book, Orange Essentials, Reggie Joiner notes the amount of time parents and guardians have with their children compared with the Church. He writes, “There are 8,760 hours in a year. The average parent has 3,000 hours in a given year to influence a life. The average church only has 40 hours in a given year to influence a life. (Reggie Joiner, Orange Essentials: Five Priorities for Building Faith in the Next Generation, pages 8-9)
Parents and guardians, do not shirk your responsibility to teach and train your children. The Church is a partner. We can work together for our children’s spiritual good. I have posted two other articles on how to conduct family worship. You can check them out here and here. This is the unique opportunity that God has given you.