God has two “gardens” in which he intends to grow our children—the home and the church.
The home is the primary garden in which our kids will learn the gospel. If a family is actively involved in church, the pastors and volunteers only have about a hundred hours a year with the kids. Parents, on the other hand, have about 8,500 waking hours with them. No matter how amazing your church’s children’s ministry is, what happens on the weekend pales in comparison to what happens in the home.
The home is the place where our kids will see the gospel lived out. As we do everyday life with our kids—cleaning the garage, driving in the car, going to bed—we have opportunities to apply the gospel to brokenness, pain, and conflict. And our kids have the opportunity to see the unconditional love and forgiveness that flow from hearts touched by grace.
That can only happen if we as parents are present with our kids. You can find lots of people to replace you at work, but your kids get only one daddy and mommy. So rearrange your schedule to ensure that you’re prioritizing relationships in the home. And for those of you who think, “Well, I’m not sure I’ve got that much to offer,” remember this: What your kids need from you is not another coach, teacher, or college prep specialist. They don’t need you to be a perfect role model. They need mommies and daddies, broken parents who will teach them to love the Savior who loved them first.
The church is God’s other garden for our kids. Almost all of the great parenting passages in Scripture are addressed not to parents alone, but to the entire community. That’s no accident. As Reggie Joiner says in Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, our kids need a “second family” to have a full sense of belonging and identity. They need mentors, older men and women who can speak into their lives and in whom they feel safe confiding.
The church can never fully make up for what we fail to do in the home, but it can complement it. That’s why it’s so important for our kids to have significant relationships within the church. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” In other words, show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future. It’s up to us as parents to prioritize the community of God for our kids.
In Psalm 127, Solomon refers to children as an “heritage” from the Lord. When we think about what our churches are “leaving behind” for our cities, we shouldn’t be thinking of ministry plans or church buildings, but kids. The children in our church are the first ones that God has given us to win for the gospel. Because they are the inheritance we are leaving for our city, the single most important task we have as a church is to teach the next generation the gospel.