How to Reclaim Parental Spiritual Responsibility in Advent (Web-exclusive story)

by Stan Palmer

Although written from a modern evangelical perspective (Fuller Youth Institute), “Silence is Not Golden” is a thought-provoking discussion about the ongoing parental challenge of effectively communicating and nurturing the Christian faith in our children. It is a problem that not only transcends denominational boundaries, but it is one that is worsening in our post-modern culture.

The author poignantly identifies the root problem: a “church culture that [has] allowed parents to outsource the development of their own kids to the youth leader.”  This outsourcing mentality, of course, is not new.   Many educators lament that parents have abdicated all teaching and educational responsibilities, leaving such matters at the doorstep of professional educators.

Sadly, many Christian parents have (intentionally or by default) done the same to spiritual training as well, thinking that such matters are best left to church professionals, such as pastors or Sunday School teachers.  In their fast-paced, chaotic lives, parents limit their spiritual responsibilities to dropping off their kids at Sunday School or confirmation class and picking them up later.

A bold parent might ask his or her child, How was it? only to receive the answer, Fine.  Often, there is no further discussion. As the authors have clearly pointed out, the fruits parents have reaped from such attitudes are minimal. Only 12 percent of youth have a regular dialogue with their mother on faith/life issues, and a scant 5 percent have such conversations with their father.

Such data might leave Martin Luther reeling, but then again maybe not; he faced a similar predicament in his time.  The bottom line? For parents to abdicate their God-given responsibilities as the primary spiritual leaders of their children is neither fair to the pastor, nor is it biblical (Deut. 6:69).

In fact, Lutheran pastors and church workers would agree with the authors: There is an urgency to reminding parents of the importance of having family devotions.  Taking proactive steps to talk about faith (beyond the interview in the car) is essential.

The Holy Spirit does His work through the Word, since faith comes by hearing, and through His Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  It is the parents job, however, to create purposeful opportunities to bring Christ into conversations at home.  That means not merely bringing children to church, but also speaking God’s Word to them and leading them in family devotions.

This Advent, take time to restart family devotions in your household or to start them if you havent before. If youre unsure of what to do, begin with the Small Catechism. Aside from the Bible, the Small Catechism is one of the most valuable tools that we Lutherans have at our disposal for family devotions! Its easy to limit the catechism merely to being a so-called confirmation textbook, but, in fact, its a resource for lifelong Christian learning.

The good news is that family devotions don’t have to be complicated; in fact, simpler is better.  It can be as easy as reading a portion of Scripture or from the catechism and then saying the Lord’s Prayer. You can also talk to your pastor. He will be more than happy to assist you with developing ideas for family devotions and can direct you to other helpful resources.

Making time for family devotions and starting purposeful conversations about the faith in the home isnt always easy. But parents who take on the challenge of communicating and nurturing the Christian faith in their children can be assured that the Lord is there among them, at work in the lives of even His littlest ones.

About the author: Stan Palmer is a Master of Divinity student at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

December 2011

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