I believe that one of the essential jobs of the local church is to equip Christian parents to take the lead in spiritually training their children. Passing faith to our kids is not the church’s job – it is ours.
But what about all the unsaved kids who don’t have Christian parents to disciple them? Sadly, our modern youth ministry methods are not very effective. We can get a ton of kids or teens to attend an awesome event, but precious few come to Christ and grow in Him for a lifetime.
I once gathered together my team of ten paid youth ministry staff and asked them a question: “Can you give me the names of students who have come to Christ in this last year?” I didn’t want names of students who checked a box on a card. I didn’t want names of students who were on fire for a month and disappeared. I wanted the names of students who a year ago were lost, in families that were lost, and who were now converted, walking with Christ, and meaningfully connected with the church.
The response? At first, silence. Everyone was racking his brain trying to think of a student who was a new believer. This was in the context of 500 active students from 7th-12th grade. This was in the context of a ministry dedicated to outreach and evangelism. We were blowing the doors off. Many events were standing room only. Yet, we were struggling to come up with specific students who we knew had been converted. After more thought, we identified five students who we believed were new converts. Five out of 500.
I set out to interview these five new believers. I wanted to find out what happened to them. What was their story? How did God take them from darkness to light? Many of their answers would not surprise you. God brought them a Christian friend. They attended a couple youth group events. They heard some portions of Scripture. But there was a common thread. Each of these five not only had a Christian friend, but they were also meaningfully involved in their Christian friend’s family life. They shared meals with them. They joined in for family activities. They could walk in the front door without knocking, because they were so welcome in that home. They saw love, forgiveness, grace, joy, and the gospel in action.
I asked them, “From your perspective, what had the greatest impact on your journey toward Christ.” They all said in their own words, “being a part of that family.” This is the way the New Testament Christians did outreach! They opened their homes! Evangelism did not begin with a church program. It began with hospitality.
As a father, it is not my job to simply say to my children, “You need to be sharing Christ with your friends.” I am convinced that God calls us to minister together as a family by opening our home to children in the neighborhood. Our family is a powerful evangelism and outreach center! This is not because we are super-spiritual, but simply because we are Christians and the grace, mercy, and word of God are present in our home.
If we are going to get serious about reaching children who don’t have Christian parents, we need to unleash every single one of the local church’s “outreach centers.” Your home is one of your church’s “outreach centers!” Don’t give your best efforts to getting your non-Christian neighbors to church – invite them over for dinner.
Imagine if the parents and grandparents in your church stopped looking to the youth ministry to reach the unsaved students in the community, but instead took the responsibility to intentionally welcome their children’s friends into their homes with the goal of reaching not only them, but their entire family for Christ!