Andy Stanley, pastor of one of America’s largest churches, stirred up a hornet’s nest when he implied that big churches do a better job raising children in the faith than small churches. You can read the offending excerpt here.
Stanley called parents who raise their children in small churches “stinkin’ selfish” for putting their own comfort ahead of the spiritual development of their children. He implied that a church without a large enough youth group could cause kids to grow up hating church.
What ensued was a fierce debate over the power of large vs. small churches to influence young people for Christ.
To his credit, Stanley quickly apologized for disparaging small churches. But his comment was based on two other questionable assumptions: 1. Youth group and Christian peers are the biggest influence in a teen’s spiritual life; and 2. Parents should choose their church based on the spiritual needs of their children.
At Church for Men we believe both assumptions are flawed.
The most powerful witness to children is not a dynamic youth group or a great preacher. Sure, these things can help. They do help. But any youth leader will tell you: parents have the most influence over their children — by far. There is no more powerful witness to teens than seeing their parents consistently transformed by Jesus through their local church. Research bears this out.
It’s like the flight attendant always says: Adults should don their own masks before assisting other passengers. When it comes to choosing a church, parents should put their own spiritual development first — before taking their children to a church with a better youth group.
Your kid needs to see church as something you love – not something you hope he will come to love. Children don’t do what they’re told – they do what they see modeled. If your son thinks you’ve chosen a church to keep him on the straight and narrow, he’ll run for the exits.
I understand what Andy Stanley was trying to say. He was trying to point out the importance of a good peer group – which is impossible to find in many small churches. You don’t want to raise your kids in a dull, lifeless church that makes a life of faith seem like a bore.
But dull, lifeless churches are no good for adults, either. At Church for Men we strongly advise adults to attend a church that helps them connect with Jesus. As Christ changes you he will change your family.
The Lord said, “I am the vine. You are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.” That includes influencing your children for Jesus.