A few weeks ago, I posted the Primary, But Not Only. In it, I argued that while parents are the primary spiritual influence of their kids, they can't be the only spiritual influence. When we err too far to either side we risk pushing our kids and students further away for Christ. Here's what I mean:
If Parents are the ONLY spiritual influence
My kids need other spiritual influences in their lives for the same reason I do. If I am the only spiritual influence of my kids, they will most likely struggle in the same ways I do. If I'm not overcoming my sin and experiencing victory, how can I expect to lead my kids through the same issues.
For example, if I'm not dealing with my impatience in a healthy and grace-filled way and instead dealing with my kids out of my anger; how can I expect them to learn patience and joy. Because our kids catch more by our actions than they ever do by us simply telling them, they need other people showing what grace and godliness look like while we parents are displaying godly grief (2 Cor. 7) and repentance.
One of the main reasons kids struggle in the same way as their parents is that parents often aren't prepared for their kids to grow up. Because of that fact, they treat them as kids, not as young adults, even as they enter young adulthood. Todd Tripp in his book, Shepherding a Child's Heart, reminds parents that as their kids grow up they need to be reminded/taught different things. From birth to around age 4 or 5, a child needs to be taught about authority, early childhood to about age 12 they need to be taught about character, and through the teen years they need to be taught about the fear of the Lord and disassociation from the wicked. If parents aren't teaching, training, and reminding kids where the kid is at, they aren't giving them what they need or aiming at the heart. This is typically because they are treating the child like they are younger (and therefore at an earlier stage) then they actually are. As this continues, the child will withdraw from the influence of their parents and look to other sources for support and encouragement. In the end, it's really not that the child is withdrawing as much as it is the parents pushing them away.
If the Church is the ONLY spiritual influence
The church can never completely replace the influence of a parent or of the parents. The church simply doesn't have the same kind of time with the kid that parents do. It's hard to model a life of worship and devotion in a hour or two a week. It's simply not enough time. At best the church can point in the right direction and encourage faith in the students. When the church is more willing to spend time training the parents, everyone wins because all are moving on to maturity (Col. 1:28; Heb. 6).
It HAS to be both/and
At the core of this dilemma is that fact that the church historically has not done enough to train parents. As a result, parents hold the church "professionals" responsible for the spiritual upbringing of their kids.
When we fuse the time parents have with resources of the church, kids will gain a better, more well rounded view and experience of the Christian life. A lifestyle of worship will become something real and tangible to them.