Our oldest daughter, who is turning sixteen soon, said to me when she was about eight or nine, “Dad, I’m glad you are a pastor.” Having grown up a pastor’s kid myself, I was a bit surprised! When I asked her why, she said, “Because you teach us the Bible.”
One of the greatest joys in my life is being a dad and having the privilege to be a pastor to our children. The truth is, every parent should be (and can be) a “pastor” to their children.
Family discipleship is a combination of learning, listening, watching, and doing. This context provides the opportunity for children to not only learn God’s Word but also grow to love God’s Word and to put God’s ways into practice in every part of life. Ultimately the goal of our teaching as parents is to disciple our children in the Christian faith so they will develop a lifelong personal relationship with Jesus.
This is a calling that is becoming increasingly more challenging in our culture. There is a significant decline of faith formation in children, youth, and young adults growing up in Christian homes. We might say that statistically, what we are noticing, is fewer families are passing on faith to the next generation as that generation leaves the home.
Some research suggests that 40 to 50 percent of students transitioning from the home to young adulthood are experiencing a faith that does not last.
So how can we as pastors, help parents “pastor” their own families? Let me offer three simple ways that we as pastoral leaders can help families pass on faith to the next generation.
1. Model the right example
As a pastor who has children, we can help other families in our church pass on faith by modeling what it looks like to disciple our own children. We can model this in what we do or by sharing stories of our successes and failures. Jesus’ great commission to “go make disciples” starts right where we are – at home.
Our first calling isn’t to raise godly children, it’s to be godly parents.
We are called, by God’s grace, to not only pass on faith to our children, but model godly parenting, for those we are leading in our church. What if you are single, without children, an empty-nester, or grandparent? You, too, can set an example of investing in the lives of “spiritual children,” as the Apostle Paul did with young Timothy.
2. Regularly communicate God’s expectation
The Bible presents the family as one of the primary vehicles for passing on faith to the next generation. The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (6:4-7) contains one of the key passages of Scripture where God describes his purpose for a family, as the ancient Israelite community would have understood it, to pass on their faith to their children. Through Moses, God shared the vision and instructed parents on how to be teachers of his Word. Regularly communicate God’s expectation for parents to be the primary spiritual influence in their child’s life.
Many parents might believe that it is the church’s job, your children’s ministry, or a youth pastor’s role to pass on faith. While the church can lead and support in many meaningful and important ways, we can help parents pass on faith by reminding them of their God-given role in the home and family.
3. Intentionally equip
And lastly, as pastors we are called to equip (Ephesians 4:12-16) the church. This includes equipping parents to feel confident in their calling to shepherd their children in God’s Word and God’s ways. This might include a sermon, teaching series, workshop/seminar, or providing resources for parents and children. In many cases, parents see the example of others, understand God’s expectations, but feel inadequately prepared to be “pastors” to their children.
We can take the fear out of a parent’s calling by equipping them with the right resources that are appropriate for various stages of spiritual growth.
How To Use This Book
Like I mentioned, many parents feel unqualified when it comes to teaching their children the Bible. One resource that as a pastor I have created to help further equip parents to pass on their faith is Faith Forward Family Devotional. Each devotion features a Bible passage, a teaching that’s applicable for kids of any age, key ideas to learn about God and His character, questions to spark family discussion, and a prayer.
Faith Forward Family Devotional is aimed primarily at families of kids ages 8–12 but also includes ideas for activities for younger children and recommendations for further study for older kids, so the whole family can join in the devotional time together.
Whatever season of parenting your church families are in, sharing this devotional time together will help parents and children nourish a faith that lasts a lifetime. Learn more HERE.
Patrick Schwenk is a pastor of nearly twenty years and the co-author of Faith Forward Family Devotional and For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House. He is also the co-founder with his wife Ruth, of the popular blog, FortheFamily.org. Along with being a Michigan sports super fan, he loves to read and spend time with his family. Patrick has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Biola University and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife, four children, two hamsters, and a loyal Labrador Retriever.
For daily encouragement, connect with Patrick Schwenk on Instagram HERE. Also, you can help parents create a unique Family Mission Statement for following Jesus with this free download from Patrick and his wife, Ruth.