Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts

Recommendation #12: If you have children, choose a church that will help them to know Christ and to grow as his disciples.

Part 15 of series: Choosing a Church: Some Recommendations
Permalink for this post / Permalink for this series
Obviously, if you don’t have children, then this recommendation isn’t relevant to you. But many who are in the process of looking for a church do have children. In some cases, they are church shopping precisely because they have children, or one child, at least.
During my tenure as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I noted how often parents with a new baby came to check us out. In many cases these parents grew up with some sort of religious background, maybe even with a strong faith in Christ. But somewhere along the way in their college and young adult years they stopped going to church, even though they continued to believe in God and think that God mattered (mostly for later in life). They were too wrapped up in their educations, their careers, or their young marriages to have time for church. But then, all of a sudden, they were blessed with a baby, and their values began to change. They wanted a place for their child to have moral and religious education, as they often put it. Some would even be more specific about wanting their child to know Christ. But most of the new parents who visited our church had only a vague sense that it was important for their child to have a church experience.
I believe that parents are given primary responsibility to help their children know Christ and grow as his disciples. This isn’t something that should be delegate to the Sunday School and youth ministry of a church, even though it often turns out this way. But raising a child as a Christian isn’t something parents are meant to do alone. And in today’s culture which is so hostile to Christian faith and practice, parents desperately need the support and help provided by a strong church.
For many parents, finding a solid children’s program or youth group for their kids is a top priority, trumping many of their own preferences. When friends of mine moved from Irvine to the Chicago area, they hoped to plug in to a Presbyterian church in their community. The church in their town was beautiful, and the worship services were moving to my friends, but the youth ministry was pathetic. They visited Presbyterian churches in neighboring communities, but still couldn’t find a church with a strong, Christ-centered, discipleship-oriented youth ministry. So, after weeks of frustration, they finally visited Willow Creek Community Church, which was a reasonable drive from their home. My friends did not appreciate the Sunday morning worship experience there, which was largely intended for “seekers” rather than mature believers. They liked the preaching, but that was about it. And they did not like the size or the non-denominational ethos of Willow Creek. But their kids loved the youth ministry. My friends checked it out, and soon discovered that it was outstanding both in program and in its discipleship of young believers.
My friends called me for advice. They so much wanted to be in a Presbyterian setting. Yet they wanted what was best for their children. So what should they do? My answer was unequivocal: Join Willow Creek! I explained that if, when their children were grown, they wanted to look for another church, that would be fine. But for many years they needed to be in a place that would help their children know and follow Christ. As it turns out, my friends became deeply involved in the ministry of Willow Creek. Soon they had major leadership positions in the church, and were deeply appreciative of its ministry to them.
VBS worship kidsWhat will a church that helps children to be disciples of Christ look like? The forms can vary widely. Some churches will have extensive ministries for children and youth. Others, house churches, will include children in many adult activities, seeing discipleship more as a matter of family participation. At the core, however, a church that offers what children and youth need will be very clear about the priority of introducing them to Christ as Lord and Savior, and helping them grow as his active disciples. (Photo: Vacation Bible School [VBS] at Irvine Presbyterian Church. One sign of a healthy children’s ministry is an active VBS like that at Irvine Pres.)
If you are looking for a church and you have children, I’d encourage you to talk with those who are responsible for ministries with children and youth. In many cases these will be directors or pastors. In other situations you’ll be talking with elders or other non-staff leaders. Ask those in charge about their ministries. Be specific in asking about their core purposes. Do they see themselves mainly as entertainment or babysitting? Or are they in the business of making disciples of young people. Go with the church that has a discipleship emphasis.

  • Kristie Vosper

    Amen! (says the children’s director at malibu pres) :) We held our VBS last week at the Catholic church. We had jewish folks, catholic families and our own crew in attendance. Biggest VBS we’ve had in years (go figure…fire=growth?), and so many families with NO framework or background for church came to me saying “what is this?” and “how do I enroll in your religious school? I understand it happens on Sundays? How much is it?” I felt like I was a missionary in communist china holding Bibles in my hands…you know…like all those stories missionaries tell in our churches that make us drool.
    It’s so so exciting to see how God can use children’s ministry to bring parents to christ too. And…even better…the Catholic church has asked me to consult with them and wants to buy my curriculum so they can start a Sunday School program because “whatever you’re doing, our kids love this VBS thing and we’ve never really seen it before…we have to make some changes.” Whoa.
    Loved your post. :)

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Kristie: Thanks for the comment. Yes, children’s ministry is so important. Nothing more important for a church to do in its mission. Plus, I love VBS.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Mark D. Roberts. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration ...

posted 2:09:11pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Conclusions
In this series on the death of Jesus, I have presented four different perspectives on why Jesus had to die: Roman, Jewish, Jesus’, and Early Christian. I believe that each of these points of view has merit, and that we cannot fully understand ...

posted 2:47:39am Apr. 11, 2011 | read full post »

Sunday Inspiration from the High Calling
Can We Find God in the City? Psalm 48:1-14 Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers. Take note of the fortified walls, and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. For that ...

posted 2:05:51am Apr. 10, 2011 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? The Perspective of the First Christians, Part 3
An Act and Symbol of Love Perhaps one of the most startling of the early Christian interpretations of the cross was that it was all about love. It’s easy in our day, when crosses are religious symbols, attractive ornaments, and trendy ...

posted 2:41:47am Apr. 08, 2011 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? The Perspective of the First Christians, Part 2
The Means of Reconciliation In my last post, I examined one of the very earliest Christian statements of the purpose of Jesus’ death. According to the tradition encapsulated in 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus died “for our sins in accordance with ...

posted 2:30:03am Apr. 07, 2011 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.