Peter PanToday’s post is from Mel Walker. Mel is a veteran youth worker, speaker, and writer. He is the Vice President for Communications & External Relations at Summit University in Clarks Summit, PA and is the co-founder and president of Vision For Youth – an international network of youth ministries. He most recent book is Inter-Generational Youth Ministry: Why a Balanced View of Connecting the Generations is Essential for The Church.

Children grow up!

Certainly, we know that to be true. But, I am convinced that there are many parents and church leaders alike who are so concerned with now that a long-term view of maturity can be lost in the immediate reality of what is necessary at the moment. We want our children to grow up and we want them to grow into maturity in all aspects of their lives. But, the pressing, current matters of life often crowd out the enduring end result of what we want for our children. Spiritually speaking, we want them to grow up and go on for God! We don’t want them to stay locked into a Peter Pan[1] existence of eternal childhood. We want them to grow into mature adulthood.

This process demands intentionality – both from Christian parents… and from the church!

Many years ago I had an experience that I will never forget. As a young youth pastor, I was called to make an emergency visit to a local children’s hospital. I somehow took a wrong turn in the hospital and ended up in the wrong room. In the center of the room was a cold, sterile hospital crib occupied by a baby hooked up to several monitors by a series of wires and tubes. My heart was broken as I looked at this child who obviously had a very serious medical condition.

Just then a team of doctors and nurses entered the room. That particular hospital required visiting ministers to wear name tags with the word “clergy” clearly printed across the middle of name tag. The staff was helpful and pointed me in the right direction and I soon found the correct room. But, just before leaving, I took the opportunity to ask what was wrong with the child.

I’ll never forget what the doctor told me. He told me that the baby in that crib was about 8 years old, but had not grown in any area of his life. He would never grow like other children. Although still alive, with breathing capacity and a heartbeat – this little boy would never grow.

What I saw that day is still one of the saddest experiences of my entire life. Even writing about it now makes me hurt and I have a deep sense of sympathy for that child and his family. Physical growth should be a natural process, but this particular child would never grow up.

Spiritually speaking it is even more important that our children grow up – and go on for God. That’s the very idea that the Bible presents to us in Ephesians 4:15 & 16 and in Ephesians 6:1-4. Notice the language in both texts. God wants our children to “grow up” and He designed two institutions, the Church and the Christian home, to ensure that takes place. God wants both of them to be about the business of helping the next generation grow up and go on for God.

Both institutions must be committed to helping children grow up into spiritual maturity so that they go on for God as adults!

So, why not work together?

Reggie Joiner, the founder of the “ReThink Group”[2] and the author of Think Orange: Imagine the Impact when The Church & Family Collide, puts it this way, “What if the church and the home combined their efforts and began to work off the same page for the sake of the children? We propose… the potentially revolutionary effect that a true merger between the church and the home could have on the lives of children.”[3]

Certainly we understand that the ultimate responsibility for raising children rests with the parents. But, the Bible is clear that the Church is designed by God to help produce spiritual maturity as well. That’s why Christian parents must work alongside of church leaders with intentionality to help this grand purpose become a reality.

There are extreme cases that demonstrate the weaknesses of these institutions not working together. We all know some parents who try to relinquish their God-given responsibility to raise their children spiritually to the local church or some other organization like a Christian school. I’ve met other Christian parents who believe that they are the only ones who should have a spiritual influence upon their children. These parents, perhaps with a misguided since of arrogance, believe that they are the only ones who can impact their own children.

I am convinced that there is a balance in the middle of that continuum. Christian parents must proactively and intentionally raise their own children to love the Lord (see Deuteronomy 6:1-9) and to grow up and go on for Him. Likewise, Christian parents must make the local church a top priority in the lives of their children and must work together with the other Godly influences from the church to model a consistent and lasting walk with Christ in front of our kids.

Our kids will grow up. My prayer is that parents and church leaders will work together to shatter the myth of a Peter Pan existence of perpetual and lasting childhood. It is God design for our kids to grow up and go on for Him!

[1] See J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Chapter 1 – sentence 1.

[2] See http://whatisorange.org/

[3] Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church & Family Collide by Reggie Joiner, David C. Cook, 2009 (p. 25).

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