Written by Shelley Henning
Romans 10:13-15 (NLT): For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
When you read these words, what do you think of? Close your eyes and picture the feet of these beautiful messengers of the gospel. What do you see? Do you envision bare feet crossing a parched land? Feet bruised and bandaged from a long and arduous journey? Feet that have spanned enormous distance to reach far off lands and cultures?
That was always the portrait in my mind. Then one day, a phrase I’ve read hundreds of times before turned my perspective upside down. In nearly every children’s and student ministry I connect with today, I see some form of this statement: ‘Partnering with parents to raise devoted followers of Jesus’
I have no doubt that you’ve seen it, too. The church has fully embraced its role in reaching children. As leaders, we identify that our place is not to take the reins of discipleship away from parents. We understand their calling and responsibility laid out in both Deuteronomy 6 and 11: “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…” So many leaders let it be known that the ministries of the church are not a replacement for home discipleship by putting it right out front in their mission statements and values.
Personally, I think that is wonderful.
Serving for many years in ministry to children, I’ve done it myself. Yet, we all know the sad reality. Youth and young adults are walking away from the church. Worse still, they are walking away from Christ. There are all kinds of books and studies today that evaluate why this is happening as we scramble to understand what’s going on.
I’m certainly no theologian, but I can see at least one place where my own leadership in ministry has fallen short. Look back at Romans 10:13-15 with these thoughts in mind. When you close your eyes this time, do you see anything different? My vision changed to many feet: dad’s, mom’s, and pairs of children’s tennis shoes. When I saw this picture, accompanied with the phrase ‘partnering with parents’, God brought me to a profound place.
As leaders in the church today, we cannot only partner with parents. We must prepare the feet of parents.
We assume that church-going moms and dads know exactly how to talk to their family about God when they walk, when they sit and when they get up. I will be the first to admit: this does not come naturally to me. It is a struggle every single day. If my husband and I do not make intentional efforts, we miss opportunities to marvel at Christ and His works with our children.
There are parents who are blessed to have learned from a generational example of speaking of God’s wonders. It may come easier to them. But what about those who grew up in a home where mom and dad were not a good example of living out their own faith? What about those who were raised in families where parents and grandparents were not followers of Christ? How do they live out the calling in their family when there is no example to follow? Who is teaching parents how to live out Deuteronomy 6 if they aren’t sure what that looks like?
It is their feet carrying the good news to their children. It is the feet of those children who will carry the message of the gospel to their grandchildren. If the church doesn’t help work to prepare the beautiful feet of parents, we will continue to lose a generation.
It was in this calling – preparing parents – that God connected me with RoseKidz to create 24 Easy-To-Do Family Ministry Events for the Holidays. It sounds like fun, and it is! But, I assure you it is also extremely intentional. We’ve worked very hard at creating a resource for churches and families that will create environments to talk about our great God in everyday conversations. It is our prayer that this will serve as a guide to help teach parents what it looks like to live out the Deuteronomy 6 calling. It’s one way for leaders in the church to prepare the feet of parents!
Another way? Connect with Church Leadership Center to see how we can partner with you to train and develop leaders in your ministry. Together, we can work to prepare leaders and parents to be messengers of the good news!