Who bears the responsibility for the discipleship of the next generation? What are parents called to do? What is the role of the church? What is the relationship between the two?
That's the focus of the second of the seven commitments featured in the book Zealous: 7 Commitments for the Discipleship of the Next Generation.
In this 7-part series, we're spotlighting each commitment with a summary, an excerpt from the book, examples of applications of the commitment, and recommended resources.
God has called both the church and home to raise up the next generations to know, honor, and treasure God through Jesus Christ. This is accomplished through a strategic, loving partnership between the church and home. This partnership affirms that parents by proximity, opportunity, and God’s design, bear a unique responsibility for nurturing their children’s faith. (See Deuteronomy 6:4-7.) This partnership also affirms the role and responsibility of church leadership to provide encouragement and training for parents, as well as the formal instruction for children and youth.
[W]ho is responsible for the discipleship of the next generation[?] There are extremes on either side. Some say the church is solely responsible for the spiritual education and development of children. Others believe that responsibility rests entirely with parents and it is wrong for the church to step in where only parents belong. In their view, the only biblically warranted involvement the church should have is to exhort, instruct, and equip parents to fulfill their God-given responsibility.
Most parents and church leaders who have wrestled with this issue usually find themselves somewhere between these two extremes, tilting one direction or another. In many cases, the responsibility that the church and parents have for the spiritual development of children is ambiguous. How the home and church should relate and carry out this responsibility is seldom taught or discussed.
Sometimes parents assume their children are being discipled through the ministries of the church more than what is actually the case. Sometimes church leaders assume more is happening at home than is actually the case. In many cases, neither parents nor church leaders are giving much thought to the discipleship of the children, and even less thought to the nature of their responsibility.
Where there is a decline in the intentional, comprehensive discipleship at home and in the church, we shouldn’t be surprised to see a corresponding rise in biblical illiteracy for those who have grown up in these homes and churches.