Four Ways Churches Can Help Parents

It is clear in Scripture that parents have the primary role in the spiritual formation of children. We have affirmed this and noted that parents ought not outsource this responsibility to the church. But what is the place of the church in partnering with parents?

 It is true that Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 78 and other biblical texts place the onus on parents for discipleship, but in those same passages we should note that these parents aren’t discipling kids in a vacuum. In fact, this command to parent discipleship is given within the context of a broader faith community. In the Old Testament, this faith community is the nation of Israel. The passage known as the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 begins, “Hear, O Israel.” The command was given to the whole nation, not just the family. Implicit in this is the idea that families need support from the broader faith community. Today that faith community is not a nation, it is the church.

The church should not replace the parents, but parents should not undervalue the church’s role in discipleship. A few years ago the motto for The Home Depot was “you can do it, we can help.” As I have studied the role that churches should play in discipleship for the family, I think that is an excellent motto that could be applied. Churches should affirm that parents are the primary discipling agent, but that the church can encourage, equip, and resource them.

So, how can the church help parents? There are lots of ways, but here are 4 big-picture ways churches can aid parents in discipleship:
  1. Voices – In the book Think Orange, Reggie Joiner talks about the importance of parents having other voices in the lives of their kids saying the same things they are saying. I think this is the most important role the church can play in helping parents. Kids need other adult influences in their lives. Parents need to know that there are leaders, teachers, and even younger adults around their kids who will reinforce the gospel-centered values that they themselves possess and are trying to pass on.
  2. Resources – Parents need resources that can help them make disciples at home. When I mention resources I am not referring to parenting classes. These can be of some help, but I believe that churches can serve parents better by utilizing a curriculum that will give parents tools to use at home that are in concert with what is being taught at church. The new Treasuring Christ curriculum designed by Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh is one of many examples that are starting to appear with this kind of strategic focus in mind.
  3. Encouragement – Unfortunately, lots of sermons to parents focus on the command to take responsibility but not on encouraging parents that they can do it. Parents hear the responsibility message a good bit, but do they hear the message that they can do it? Parents know they ought to, they need to know they can be enabled to do it. This happens formally through teaching and informally through relationships with others who have been through the parenting journey.
  4. Strategy – Another way that churches could help, but honestly rarely do, is by offering a strategy for parents on how they can work together for the sake of family discipleship. In most places partnership happens by accident. A strategic focus on programming, training, and curriculum could help make church and family connections for the purpose of maturing kids in the faith. More books are being written on this subject but two of the best and most practical are Shift by Brian Haynes and Think Orange.

If you are a pastor, take a look at your church. Are you taking a “You can do it, we can help” approach to family discipleship? How could you leverage what you are already doing to help be a better partner for parents? What do you need to start or stop doing to help parents?

If you are a parent, have you talked with your pastor about his thoughts on family discipleship? What could you do to encourage your church leaders to partner with you more strategically?