Influencing the Influencers?

In the study of motion, we find a principle called “net force.” Net force accounts for the impact of multiple influences on an object. It is factored by considering whether these multiples forces are working in the opposite or the same direction. If two forces act on an object in the opposite direction, the net force is less than their individual force. However, the science of motion tells us that the impact of two forces combined and working in the same direction is always greater than either of the forces individually. Simply put, two combined influences can make a more significant impact than two influences working independently.

It could be argued that the “net force” principle finds a grounding in a Bible truth. Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.”

Each child has several significant people in their life.  We refer to those people as “influencers.”  They include parents, other family members (such as grandparents), teachers and coaches, friends, and the church.  Although the church has a significant role to play in the discipleship of children, the top influencers in a child’s life typically do not come from the church.  They are usually parents, other family members (particularly grandparents), teachers and coaches, and their friends.

On average, children spend at most 3 hours a week at church.  When we account for the rise of weekend sports activities, blended and single-parent families, and hectic schedules, the actual number of hours a child spends in a church is typically significantly less.  It has been estimated that the average church attendance for a child is now twice a month.

International Children’s Ministries believes that if the church wants to disciple and influence the current generation of children for Christ, then we must intentionally and strategically influence those with whom children are spending the majority amount of their time.

“Church-centered, Family-supported” Vs. “Family-centered, Church-supported” Discipleship

After children have decided to follow Christ, our number one priority as a church should be discipleship.  Many churches view discipleship to children as offering a teaching hour (such as Sunday school), a worship hour (such as children’s church), and some midweek programming. If churches are offering these programs, they often feel that they are discipling children.

Similarly, parents who have their children attend these programs also feel that they are discipling their children.  This idea of allowing churches to provide programs for parents to drop off their children to participate creates a culture that Josh Mulvhill refers to as “church-centered, family supported” discipleship. This is a skewed view of God’s commandment to disciple children.

The Bible never indicates that the church should be the primary discipler of children.  Instead, parents are to disciple their children, and the church should come alongside them and support them.  This type of “family-centered, church-supported” discipleship can be seen in scripture. Consider thee Biblical truths:

  • God expects parents to disciple their kids, which is family-centered discipleship (Deut. 6:6-8, Ephesians 6:4)
  • Yet, this training and instruction are to be done in the context of a loving faith community—the local church (Exodus 10:9, 2 Chronicles 20:13, or Nehemiah 12:43).
  • The local church is responsible for the growth and maturity of every member of the faith community, regardless of age. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Meeting the Challenge?

We all want to have churches where children grow into young adults who know love and serve God.  Unfortunately, we are all aware of the crisis the church is facing related to young adults leaving the church and their faith. One of the best ways to reverse this trend is to have churches and families that model the Biblical vision of discipleship, with churches offering tools and support along the way.

The words from the book Generation at Risk are biblically accurate,  “. . .the Christian home is the inner circle of life.  However, God never intended Christian families to be islands of spirituality.  There is a second circle of influence (the church).”  The local church is to be that second circle, embracing, influencing, and equipping all families to disciple their children while valuing, including, and preparing children to do the works of service God has purposed for them to do.

One-Day Training Experience

Throughout the coming year, International Children’s Ministries has made equipping local churches to influence the influencers a strategic priority. A brand new one-day training intensive is available to nations, regions, states, and churches who wish to expand and equip their ministries to meet this challenge. Each one-day includes four sessions:

  • Influencing the Influencers—Every child has influencers in their life. This session answers who are and why are they significant? It also defines the biblical view of discipleship (family-centered, church-supported) vs. what is often currently modeled (church-centered, family-supported). Participants will understand the need for churches to equip and influence the influencers in a child’s life for full discipleship of children to occur.
  • Influencing at Church—Much of a church’s ministry to families includes each member of the family going to a separate location for ministry when they enter the building. While this is a great way to provide age-appropriate ministry, it also has the disadvantage of keeping parents and children disconnected in their time of worship. This session will examine ways churches can meet the individual needs of family members while providing times of shared worship in a balanced approach to family ministry.
  • Influencing Beyond Church—At best, the church has a few hours each week to introduce children to Jesus and disciple them. Other influencers (parents, grandparents, other relatives, etc.) have multiple hours to teach and live out a biblical worldview with children. If the church truly wants to reach children, then they must influence those who are with children the most. In this session, participants will learn that the church can and should provide resources, assistance, and guidance to the other influencers in a child’s life beyond just offering church programs.
  • Milestone Moments—If we are to impact a child through their family, then the church needs to play a significant role during specific milestone moments in their lives. By partnering with influencers through the preparation and celebration of these milestones, churches can demonstrate their love and commitment to the whole family.  This session will present five significant milestone moments in a child’s life.

To schedule this one-day training experience, contact Children’s Ministries at (423) 559-5331 or email cgpkids@cogop.org. Download the informational brochure here.

—Written by Melissa Minter and Shaun McKinley, as printed in the February 2020 White Wing Messenger.