I spent most of last year researching families, specifically the degree to which parents intentionally disciple their children. I listened to parents and children, observed them in their home environments, read reports from research colleagues who did likewise in their settings domestically and around the world, interviewed experts, and read many books and journal articles pertaining to the issue. A number of themes emerged. Some were encouraging. Others were troubling. One, in particular, deserves to be brought to correction.
We need to stop hammering parents with what we perceive they are doing wrong.
Not what you expected, I will warrant. But there you have it.
Yes, I understand that some parents need a wake-up call concerning their obligations to their children and to the Lord. I get that. However, there ought to be ways to do it without bludgeoning them with data and horror stories about how they have failed their families or God.
Most parents are quite aware of their struggles. And most want to do the right thing. They just are not sure how to go about doing it. The fact that some church leaders and popular authors continue to assail them with their faults is not helping matters. Especially when we are largely responsible for the problem. Indeed, together we are products of a culture in America which, by default, has assigned primary responsibility for childhood education to public institutions and primary responsibility for spiritual instruction to local churches. Oh, we say it is the primary responsibility of parents, but our behavior demonstrates otherwise. And so we go with what we have known most of our lives, as do many of today’s parents. So why be so critical of them? Why not provide solutions? Why not provide gentle encouragement, coming alongside parents with practical tools and showing them how to live out discipleship in their families by our own examples?
I am happy to point out that many voices out there are initiating solutions, both in traditional education and in the context of the church. That is an encouraging thing. I only ask my colleagues abroad to consider the tone and content of their rhetoric as they communicate with parents in their congregations. They are human, too. Like you. Like me. Full of insecurity. Prone to build walls when they sense yet another lecture or attack on their parenting ability. Let’s tear down the walls, starting with ourselves as leaders. In our vulnerability, let’s show them we know what it means to struggle with uncertainty and parenting challenges. We don’t have all the answers, but we will join with them in seeking God for his best solutions. Let’s be real. Authentic. Then we will begin to see some meaningful conversations take place about spiritual formation in our homes. Then we will see fathers taking ownership of family discipleship along with their wives. Then we will see children flourish.