6 When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. 7 And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel.8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. 9 And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. 10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
Judges 2:6-10 (ESV)
How could one generation live passionately for God and the next generation become a bunch of pagans? I think the answer could possibly be that the people forgot to pass down from generation to generation the knowledge of the holy. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 states,
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Each generation is given the duty of preserving the key doctrines of the faith and instilling that knowledge in the coming generations. This can be most practically observed in the individual family unit at home. Ultimately, the father and mother of the home serve as the primary spiritual leaders to their children. The children’s ministry and youth ministry at your local church is not the primary place of spiritual training for young people; that foundation is laid at home and is built upon by the local church.
All that it takes for the coming generation to not know the Lord is for parents and guardians to neglect their duties as the primary source of spiritual training for their children. I completely understand that many adults do not feel comfortable in this role, but not feeling comfortable does not reduce the great need of our children or the command given by God. The road to recovering the spiritual well-being of the next generation will be long and hard, but it is worth it.
As student workers, we do not live in a perfect world where every home is fully stocked with two loving parents who are part-time theologians. That would be amazing, but that is not reality. We live in a broken world filled with broken homes and neglected youth. Often times our churches have laid the burden of rescuing these young people solely on the backs of youth workers. This is not ideal, but it is certainly better than nothing. I am personally a product of a local youth ministry reaching out into the community. I grew up in a divorced home and received absolutely no spiritual guidance from my father. My youth pastor took time to invest in me spiritually when no one else was available. I am willing to die on the hill of youth ministry because I know how beneficial it can be. I am first hand evidence that it works. But I am not naive enough to believe I can do this alone. In order to impact the coming generations we must make a united effort to reach families and equip parents to be the primary spiritual leaders. By reaching parents we significantly multiply the impact on youth.
Are you spending time each week working with parents?
How can you open new lines of communication with parents of youth?
What ways can you equip and involve parents?