I have been involved with ministry to families in one role or another for over 20 years. For the last 13 of those years, I’ve also been a father.
Ironically, the twin roles of pastor and father collided for me when my kids were preschoolers.
At the time I was an associate pastor responsible for discipleship and education ministries at a county seat, First Baptist Church.
As a student of the Bible I knew that scripture was clear that my God-ordained responsibility as a dad was to make disciples of my son and daughter (see Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and Psalm 78:5-8 for starters).
Yet as a minister I realized that the programs I was planning and leading for children and youth had little to do with helping parents know how to disciple their kids.
It’s not that the church programs I was leading were hostile to parents. Instead, these programs did not address the role of parents as disciple-makers.
The church programs relied on parents to be volunteers, workers, chaperones, and chauffeurs, but not necessarily disciplers.
Over the years I have realized that I am not alone in this tension between church and family.
I am encouraged that many voices are emerging and calling churches to be more intentional in encouraging and equipping parents in discipleship at home.
NAMB photo by Jim Whitmer
In his book, The Legacy Path, Southern Baptist pastor Brian Haynes comments, “for a very long time parents have depended on children’s pastors or youth pastors to disciple their kids.
“This is a great partnership but it does not take the place of parent-to-child faith training.”
I am convinced that a dearth of family discipleship exists in large part as an unintended consequence of our stellar church programming for youth and children, which is relegating parents to the backseat when it comes to delivering faith to our children. Notice I said “unintended consequence.”
We are, as it were, victims of our own success when it comes to ministry to children and youth.
We have given parents a “drop-off” mentality in which they perceive their role in spiritual formation ends when the child is transported to the church.
Because we value the role of parents and churches in family discipleship, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has launched a ministry called “Church and Family Connect.”
The cornerstone of this ministry to date has been the Church and Family Connect Podcast featuring authors like Brian Haynes and other significant voices who are leading this movement for more intentional family discipleship. Also available is the Church and Family Connect seminar.
The seminar is a two- or three-hour workshop that can be customized for your church to specifically address the needs of parents, church leaders, or preferably the whole church to talk about how to make disciples of the next generation.
Coming this fall, we will offer a family discipleship survey that will help churches assess the state of discipleship in the homes of their members.
One of the questions I am frequently asked is, “Who is doing this well in North Carolina?”
In the current episode of the podcast, we begin to answer that question. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Pastor Michael Barrett and the pastoral staff of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church in Pleasant Garden.
In the July and August podcast episodes they share the journey that they have been on in transitioning to a more intentional partnership with parents.
You can listen to the podcast and learn more about Church and Family Connect by visiting our website, www.ChurchAndFamilyNC.org.
For more information or to schedule a Church and Family Connect seminar contact us by email at [email protected] or by calling (800) 395-5102, ext. 5635.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Upshaw is church ministry team leader for the Baptist State Convention of N.C.’s Congregational Services.)