Student ministry is filled with excitement, spontaneity, late nights and life changing moments. At the same time there are some hard aspects of helping lead students and parents into a growing relationship with Christ. I guess I had some assumptions going into ministry back in 2004 that parents in the church are making decisions to lead their children to prioritize their relationship with God. The truth is there are equal issues within the church as well as outside of the church. Attending a church on a weekly basis does not automatically mean a person is a follower of Christ.
Here are a few things that I find absolutely crazy as a student pastor:
1. Parents who make conscious decisions to put sports, school, activities, etc. above church (worship, small groups, mission trips).
It goes a little like this, the parents have great "intentions" for their children to follow Christ and make wise decisions; but, their direction is leading them to basically look at church and a relationship with God as non-important. I've had conversations with this type of parent and usually they come to me in a state of emergency "I-need-the-student-pastor-to-fix-my-child" mode. What breaks my heart the most is that they will spend years investing loads of money, time and effort into sports, activities, clubs and barely invest the Word of God into their lives! If all you do is push them to achieve perfection in every area except serving Christ, you will more than likely reap this result. Spend time training up children to pursue and share the gospel of Jesus! Remember, good intentions are never enough. Key verse: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
2. Parents living through their children.
Everyone will live through their children to a point, but what about going to extremes?
Example 1: "Super-Insecure Dad." We have all seen it. There is that one Dad at the baseball game who is jumping and screaming in the stands at his son (who is trying his best, but isn't a Major League baseball candidate). This Dad is basically "Uncle Rico" from the movie, Napoleon Dynamite! He makes his son play sports with the hopes of one day receiving a full scholarship to college. It is a worthy goal, but is your child truly passionate about playing? Are you boasting in Christ or in your children's ability? Key verse: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
Example 2: "Perfection-Expecting Mom." There is that mother who pushes her daughter to achieve A+ grades at any cost and if she receives a B grade her self-worth is beat down by the expectations of the parents. Parents need to encourage their children to work hard, try their best and more... but not at the cost of building their identity into a grade, class or an activity. Students today are more stressed out than ever before. Can grades become an idol? Can the pursuit of perfect grades simply be an extension of pride?
Example 3: "Emotional-Stalking Parent." The last example is the parent who treats their son or daughter's boyfriend/girlfriend as their spouse! Most students date because they want to be "popular" and accepted. Boundaries are almost forgotten because of the parents becoming emotionally involved in living through their children and building their own self-worth through the relationship. Students who date in middle school and high school leave room for more temptation rather than spiritual maturity and purity! Why are parents pushing their children to date seriously before they are even emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally able to understand true love? Is it due to the parent feeling "special" because their son or daughter has a significant other? (Twilight obsession anyone?) "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." 2 Timothy 2:22. "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." Song of Solomon 8:4.
3. Parents who steer their children away from following God's call on their life.
I have had the privilege to encourage and equip students (college and high school) who feel God calling them to do something for God's glory. I went to college with many friends who had parents who were not supportive of them going to Bible college. Because to the world (and some parents) going into the ministry is a low income decision, and we know that everyone has an "opinion" about people working for churches. I think some parents want their children to know God but not love Him enough to give up a six figure job to go into ministry. Is ministry hard? Yes. But it is a privilege to serve a God who is alive and share that good news with a world that is dying without the hope of Christ! Jesus warned about building earthly wealth over building His kingdom.
I'm not a parenting expert, but I hope to encourage parents to set the spiritual direction in the home while allowing their children to develop their own personality and passion to honor God.
Key verse: "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:5-7.