If you have been in Kids Ministry for very long, no doubt you have encountered this scenario already. Church is over, a parent walks up and says, "Johnny was asking me questions about how to get saved last night. Would you explain what salvation is all about and pray with him to receive Christ?” For many years, I have the standard answer... "No, I won't."
Now that you've decided I am a terrible Kids Pastor, let me explain. When I first began in Kids Ministry, I would have answered differently. After all, I was the resident "expert" on children’s spiritual needs. I was trained, and it was part of my spiritual DNA. I could communicate God’s grace to kids in a way that was clear and understandable. Slowly, I came to the conclusion that I was the go-to person to meet the spiritual needs of every kid in our community. I was filling a huge need, and it felt great. As my confidence grew, I concluded that parents obviously aren’t equipped to share deep spiritual truth to their children. I was so wrong.
Let’s face it: God created the institution of the family long before He created the church, and kids’ ministry leaders came along even later. The first chapters of Genesis establish the family as the primary social unit under the leadership of God. Of course, those chapters also describe the fact that we chose to avoid God’s rightful role in our lives. We rebelled and experienced the devastating consequences of sin, but God didn’t leave us helpless and hopeless. His grace shines through even in our darkest moments. The role of parents is front and center in the process of reclaiming hearts.
Many parents are very conscientious about the spiritual role they play in their kids’ lives, but some struggle with this responsibility. Why? There are many different reasons. Shaping a son or daughter’s spiritual life is difficult and demanding. It requires insight and determination. There are no guarantees that a child will respond with glowing gratitude to a parent’s initiative. Many parents haven’t been equipped to impart spiritual life to their kids. They may be doctors, lawyers, carpenters, or skilled in some other way, but a lot of parents feel completely incompetent in leading their kids spiritually. Sadly, the church hasn’t done much to equip them.
To compound the problem, some kids’ ministry leaders have gotten in the way of parents. A savior complex causes us to elevate our roles and look at parents as second class. When confidence becomes arrogance, we become a hindrance to God’s grand plan. In addition, many churches have programmed the family worship experience out of existence by dividing up every age group and seldom (if ever) having the family together. In an effort to fill the void left by inadequate parenting, some kids’ ministries have elbowed parents out of their roles as the primary spiritual leaders of their children.
That's why I now have made the decision that I will not pray the "sinner's prayer" with the child of a parent who approaches me. Instead, I lovingly say, "No, I won't. But, I absolutely will stand here and agree with you as you, the parent, lead your child to Christ. I would NEVER want to take away the greatest joy that a parent could ever have. The joy of leading their own child into a relationship with Jesus Christ."
What do you think? Am I wrong on this? Should a Kids Pastor spend more time praying with children to receive Christ OR equipping parents to lead their children to Christ? Which will be more effective? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.