I ran across this blog article a couple days ago, and I highly recommend you take a read if you are a parent of a teen or going to be at some point in the future. Good advice in here about what teens need from Christian parents. But #3 really struck me and I feel a little compelled to add some thoughts to it. Jeff Strong writes:
3. Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation.
While youth group and church is very important, another mistake I see Christian parents make is assuming they can completely outsource the spiritual development of their child to these two things. I see the same pattern when it comes to Christian education: parents sometimes choose to send their children/teens to Christian schools, because by doing so they think they’ve done their parental duty to raise their child in a godly way.
As a parent–and especially if you are a Christian yourself–YOU are THE key spiritual role model and mentor for your teen. And that isn’t “if you want to be” either–that’s the way it is. Ultimately, you are charged with teaching and modelling to your teen what follow Jesus means, and while church, youth groups, Christian schools can be a support to that end, they are only that: support mechanisms.
Read Deuteronomy 6 for an overview of what God expects from parents as it relates to the spiritual nurture and development of their children. (Hint: it’s doesn’t say, “Hand them off to the youth pastor and bring them to church on Sunday.”)
I want to highlight this because it is one I suspect is a big temptation for many of us in the WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, for those not in the know). See, we have an excellent, wonderful, fantastic, amazing Christian Day School system and super Christian High Schools, with a top shelf worker training school that is the envy of many church bodies. All this is a blessing from God, and one to be cherished.
Unfortunately, the Enemy is always seeking to use God’s blessings to work our downfall, and I think the temptation with this particular blessing is that we end up doing exactly as Strong suggests – we outsource our kids’ faith. I have heard people say, “I know I’m doing the best I can to raise my children to know the Lord because I’m sending them to our school.” I know the heart behind that statement, and I don’t believe it is in the wrong place. I do think it is misinformed. If you want to know you’re doing the best you can to raise your child to know the Lord, then look at what is happening in the home and the kind of Christian life you are modeling. That’s what your child is going to take away.
I don’t want to minimize the value of sending your child to a Christian school; it is a very good choice. But remember that whatever school your child attends, the biggest influence in their spiritual development is still the adult they most want to be like – mom or dad, in most cases. A teacher, a pastor, a youth leader, all these can be strong positive influences in the life of a child or teenager. But ultimately, it is the parents who show the child what it looks like to be a Christian.
So don’t waste the time by thinking, “I pay the tuition bill, and that is enough.” Use the time to lead your child. Engage in devotion and prayer time at home. Go to church as a family. Find ways to serve together with your kids. Read the Bible in front of them and pray out loud for them. Talk about what your faith means to you. Lead and guide and model and then go to bed saying, “I know I’m doing the best I can to raise my children to know the Lord because I am seeking to follow the Lord every day, and I’m bringing them with me!”