The National Study of Youth and Religion is a research project that sought out answers to the influence of religion on teenagers. One important factor that came out of this study: The most important social influence on the religious and spiritual lives of adolescents is their parents. Grandparents and other relatives, mentors, and youth workers can be very influential as well, but normally, parents are most important in forming their children’s religious and spiritual lives.
The book of Deuteronomy says that the words God has commanded to the people of Israel should be recited to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7), so this idea of parents as the most influential in forming children’s spiritual lives isn’t necessarily new. I do think this runs a little counter to what many think of the Church, that it is the place that should be most influential in shaping children’s lives. I am not discounting the Church’s role here – just pointing out the importance of parents.
When something good is going on with children or youth ministries, I often hear about it. Folks are quick to credit me. I say thank you and then gush about their parents. These children and youth spend a lot more time with their parents than I do, and so it is apparent to me that a lot of the goodness that we get to experience in the youth and children at River Road can be attributed to God and their parents.
Three examples of this happened last Sunday in Children’s Church:
- One child was having a hard time. We’ll call her Beloved. The story I heard is someone wasn’t being very kind. When I asked the children to grab a bulletin and a buddy, another child (let’s call her Wonderful) took it upon herself to invite Beloved. The parent helping me that day told me (and Wonderful’s parents) that it made Beloved’s day to be asked to be Wonderful’s partner.
- One of my helpers in Children’s Church is Logan Cowardin, a 7th grader. Last Sunday, we had a memorial service for his mother. During our time of prayer, I reminded the children about this service. I found this note after Children’s Church.
- Each Sunday during Children’s Church, we light a candle. We remind each other that it is a symbol that God is always with us, no matter what. I found this note after Children’s Church.
Thanks be to God for opportunities where children minister to me. Thanks be to God for River Road Church, who provides opportunities to be formed into people who love God with all of who they are and love their neighbors as themselves. Thanks be to God for parents (and other adults as well) who understand the important role they play in helping children become followers in the way of Jesus.