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Just a Phase: Reactivate Parents

Doing ministry with the conviction that what happens at home is just as important as what happens at church…well, that’s easier said than done. We have a larger amount of control over what we program on a Sunday or Wednesday. We know what we’ll say to kids, which part of the Bible we’re teaching, and what we expect them to do. Okay, maybe we don’t always even know that.

We certainly don’t have control over how parents will disciple their kids. Which is why I think it’s very tempting for the church to create a dependency for parents by trying to always have the answers and program families to death. But in the end, is it really that effective? Will having families come to church on Sunday morning for Sunday School, then for church, then Sunday night, then Wednesday night, and then for special events really swing the discipleship pendulum so much?

Sure, it gives me a little more job security, but in the end, we all end up worn out with very little time to live out the gospel.

That’s why it’s our job to, as this chapter says, “reactivate parents” every year so kids will stay connected to them. Parenting a preschool takes different skills than parenting a middle schooler. And if parents don’t retool along the way, they’re in danger of missing out on the relational influence they can have. The church has an advantage in this: Volunteers get to work with a bunch of kids at the same phase. Which leads to familiarity with the characteristics of kids at that phase. Which leads to the ability to help parents see who their kids are becoming.

Joiner and Ivy give the example of companies who didn’t adapt with changing times:

  • Kodak went from $16 billion in sales in 1995 to $7.1 billion in 2010.
  • Blockbuster (who?) went from $8.4 billion net worth in 1994 to $24 million in 2010.

Similarly, others did adapt:

  • Disney World went from annual attendance of 12.5 million in 1975 to 50.1 million in 2013.
  • Amazon went from $15.7 million in sales in 1996 to $88.9 billion in 2014. That’s nuts!

The point is this: If parents (and the church) don’t adapt how they parent (and make disciples), they’ll miss out on relational influence (and relevancy).

Parents have an average of 12 hours a day with a preschooler, 6 hours with an elementary student, 4 hours with a middle schooler, and 2 hours with a high schooler. At the same time, those 12 preschool hours are largely about positional authority: “I’m dad; do what I say!” Those 2 high school hours are largely about relational influence: “How’s school going?” while on the way to a baseball game.

So how can our church help parents as their kids grow through the phases?

  1. We can help them parent with the end in mind. They are raising kids who will become adults. What does it look like to be a disciple of Jesus?
  2. We can emphasize the transitions. This is why we have UpStreet Parent Preview. We want moms and dads to not only see where their kids are going next, but also to talk with them about the spiritual growth of their kids at this elementary phase. It’s why Randy meets with parents of graduating 6th graders and has a CREW Preview Night for parents and kids entering youth group. It’s why we make a big deal for graduating HS seniors with a banquet.
  3. We can resource families. This is why our church website has a list of resources for families (

In the end, we don’t have control over how parents will own the discipleship of their kids. And that’s ok. The same God who formed the church formed the family. The same God who gave His Spirit to the church at Pentecost gives His Spirit to individuals still today. Just like He doesn’t control us, we don’t control others. But we can have…you guessed it, relational influence.


Scot McKnight posted some new stats about marriage and the family. Relevant stats about the changing face of marriage and when people choose to have children. How should the church respond? Especially a church like ours that emphasizes partnership with the family?

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