A Pastor’s Note to a Young Family Considering a “Bigger” Church
Guest Article Written by Will Jacobs
I want you to know that I sympathize with you and your wife’s situation. I also appreciate you being honest with me about your struggles and potentially seeking another church with a better equipped and vibrant youth program. Your child is definitely at an age where he is most vulnerable to either positive or negative choices, and seeking a community of peers that will help him in the right direction is not only wise but biblical (Psalm 1)! As you wrestle and pray through this very important decision let me offer some helpful insights/suggestions/observations, for what it’s worth.
1. No matter the vibrancy and health of a church youth program, nothing will transform your children’s lives more than you and your wife.
The Bible greatly emphasizes the important role of the parents in the lives of their children. Deuteronomy 6:1 and following speaks of the parents as the primary teachers of their children. Proverbs, for example, is an entire book where a father seeks to pass on godly principles to his son. The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6:1-4, admonishes dads to “instruct their children in the way of the Lord.” Along with that, Titus 2:4 speaks of the importance of the mom loving her kids. One of the major confusions among Christians today is that many understand churches to be the primary spiritual teachers of their children. But, in actuality, the church is simply meant to equip the family (see Ephesians 4) and supplement the parents so they can train their children well themselves. The parents are supposed to be the primary spiritual leaders and teachers of their children.
2. If you and your wife are not 100% devoted to the local church in attendance and service, it doesn’t matter how great of a youth group you find for your child—he will most likely leave the church after he is out of the home.
One article has shown that “82% of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home attached great importance to their beliefs. It also found that children who were active in their congregations while growing up tended to be religiously active as young adults. It was parents engaging with their children about their faith that made the difference.” Thus, a constant self-examination of both you and your wife’s devotion to Christ is very important. You must ask the questions: If the kids were not in the picture would this still be a major concern for us—would we still have a hunger and desire to be committed to Christ and His church? I believe if you and your wife’s devotion to Christ is primary, then your children will follow. Discipleship is “caught” as much as “taught.”
3. Youth DO need good and godly people around them, even peers.
While I believe youth programs are not necessary for kids to grow in their Christian faith, I do believe surrounding them with Christian influences is necessary. The apostle warns us in one place, “Bad company corrupts good character.” So, your child needs Christian friends and acquaintances rather than being out on his own or wandering into a bad crowd. However, if kids have godly parents who exemplify and emphasize holiness, and they are involved in a church where the people surround him with love and support, I truly believe this is a sufficient influence for his Christian development. Yes, Christian peers of the same age can be beneficial (and they seem to naturally come given time), but what is necessary is the example of godly parents, a godly church, and peers to show your child how to live.
4. As long as you and your wife are devoted to a Bible-believing, God-honoring, Christ-exalting local church (and find one with a youth program you feel is more beneficial to the growth of your children), then you have my full blessing to go to that church (not that you need my blessing).
The selfish part of me would obviously desire that you stay with us, but I ultimately want to see the spiritual growth of your family. I understand that at our current stage as a church we are unable to provide families with some of the options other churches have available. I am confident that as we grow numerically we will be able to offer more opportunities for our kids, but as of now we simply do the best we can with the resources we have. Thus, if you prayerfully decide to devote yourselves to another local church in order to help your child in his Christian walk, then, by all means, do so. We will be 100% on your side and praying for God to use whatever church you join to assist you in training your kids in the instruction of the Lord.