When I first starting having children, I was reminded that the years go by fast but the days are long. With each phase in a child’s life come new challenges and exciting opportunities. How do we, as parents and the church, help leverage our influence during each one of these phases?
In a single year, parents have approximately 3,000 hours to influence their child and the average church has around 40 hours. Parents clearly have the most influence in the life of a child… whether good or bad. Yet many parents rely on the church to ensure children learn a certain amount of scripture, to explain the importance of having a devotional time, and to bring children to an understanding of what it means to have a relationship with Christ. So, how can the church equip parents to lead well and do more by being spiritual leaders at home?
The following statements, referred to as the Orange Strategy, were given by Reggie Joiner, who helped shape and create them:
- Nothing is more important than someone’s relationship with God
- No one has more potential influence in a child’s relationship with God than a parent
- No one has more potential to influence the parent than the church
- The church’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when it partners with a parent
- The parent’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when that parent partners with the church.
The Orange Strategy, simply put, is the church and the family working together to leverage influence in a child’s life. Red represents love (the family) and yellow represents light (the church). When you combine these two colors (or influences), you get orange. Two combined influences make a greater impact than just two influences working independently.
The idea of the church partnering with parents is a different way of thinking for some. So, how can the church partner with parents and lead them to use those 3,000 hours of influence a year? The goal is not to encourage parents to do everything, but encourage them to simply take one “next” step. Here are a few “next” step ideas:
- having a family meal together
- a mom re-connecting with her son and convincing him that he matters
- a dad praying with his kids before bedtime
- parents vowing to get their family to church more regularly.
- reading and discussing a take-home devotion that fosters conversation about what God is doing in the life of a teenager
The church should be challenging parents to use their influence in a positive and God-honoring way.
Now let’s consider how can the church use their 40 hours a year to influence children.
I heard this analogy awhile back and it has stuck with me. I have over 800 contacts in my phone. You may have half that amount or double. Even if you had 100 contacts, I imagine you wouldn’t know each of them very well, at least not deeply and personally. You couldn’t because our relational span just isn’t big enough.
But, within my contacts is a list of favorites – the people who are one touch away from a call or a text. My favorites list has less than 10 people on it. If I am honest, there are probably only five people that I call or text all the time. These five closest people in my life know my good points, my not so good points, my dreams, my struggles, my favorite things, and my least favorite things. They’re my friends, but also great advisors and encouragers. I’m sure you have these people in your life, but do our children?
When your kids need to talk to someone, who do they reach out to? Lets face it, the last thing a 10-year-old needs is advice from another 10-year-old. And no matter how open you think the communication channels are, children don’t always want to share everything with parents. Did you tell your parents everything?
I believe every child needs five adults, other than their parents, whom they can talk to about important stuff: school, the opposite sex, parents, the future, God, and faith to name a few.
If you were fortunate when you were growing up, you might have had someone you could talk to other than a parent about the big and the little stuff. Maybe it was a coach, a teacher, or even a neighbor. If you had someone like that, you know what a difference those relationships can make.
If every child and teen ends up with five adults on their phone’s favorite list, we might indeed be onto something: raising a wider, more secure, more grounded, more Christ-centered, more joyful generation than we’ve seen in a long time.
- Five adults guiding them and giving input
- Five people who know their hopes and dreams
- Five people who know their quirks and their strengths
- Five people they can talk to about what’s really going on in their lives
- Five people who can offer wisdom when life gets confusing
- Five people who care about them, want to pray for them and point them to a relationship with Jesus
As the church, we should be desperate to be one of those five voices. I want to take you to the greatest example I know of…Jesus. He spent time with His disciples breaking bread, praying together, having conversation and spending time with his followers. He built relationships that showed them who He was.
What if, instead of children’s ministry, we were more focused on family ministry? What if our goals shifted from simply teaching kids the Bible and memorizing verses, to building relationships with kids and parents that point to Jesus? What if we came alongside parents and helped them find the tools to lead their kids to a loving relationship with Jesus by simply taking one next step? What if we began fostering conversations that have purpose and meaning and allow children to have a safe place to ask questions and explore and discover their faith in a journey to make it their own?
I truly believe if this started happening, we would see fewer students questioning their faith and we would stop seeing college students walking away from the church. I believe we would see young adults looking for a church where they can plug in, serve, and be part of a small group. Perhaps, they’ll even move toward being one of those five voices in the lives of the next generation.
A true family ministry is when the church invests in the life of children by partnering with parents through the journey of life. If the church isn’t speaking truth and supporting and encouraging parents, who will?What if we came alongside parents and helped them find the tools to lead their kids to a loving relationship with Jesus simply taking one next step? Click To Tweet