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Parents who don’t disciple their kids

At AIM, we help young people follow Jesus as he intended, whether for a month or for a year, or sometimes more. It means stretching them in a hundred different ways in an effort to help them grow up. The church calls the process “discipleship” (a tired term that needs invigoration). Regardless…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

At AIM, we help young people
follow Jesus as he intended, whether for a month or for a year, or sometimes

It means stretching them in a
hundred different ways in an effort to help them grow up. The church calls the process “discipleship” (a tired term that needs invigoration).

Regardless of what we call it, discipleship as Jesus did it doesn’t happen much in the church any more. Instead, churches substitute programs and activities that coddle young people, doing little to move them to greatness or even wake them up to supernatural reality.

I saw this happening with my own kids and I realized that I couldn’t delegate discipleship to anyone else – if I didn’t do it, it wasn’t going to happen. And even though I gave it my best shot, I missed so much (for example, my 23 year-old son called me up from Africa yesterday to say, “why didn’t you ever teach about things like covenant?).”

Here’s where many parents miss the boat: discipling is a process that usually is attended
by pain and discomfort – things that parents work hard to protect their
children from all their lives. They seem blind to the fact that their kids will never get to greatness without diving headlong into uncomfortable, stressful, ambiguous situations. And because of that, many parents are at odds with discipling ministries like AIM right
off the bat.

We AIM-types want to respect parents
and their investment, but if we are going to have a shot at discipling their kids as Jesus did, we need for them to respect us and empower us. When the distressed phone calls to mom and dad back at the homestead go out, many parents struggle with the angst of letting go – they’ve had the steering wheel so long, they want to keep on backseat driving.

Some of them call or write me to ask detailed
questions about what’s going on with their kid.
Many want to get a regular phone call update from them – something we discourage as it keeps young people stuck and unable to grow. These parents have got elastic apron strings that
sometimes stretch as far as Africa. It’s exhausting for us. Sometimes I just want to refuse to take any young person whose parents can’t prove that they really get this point. It’s a fool’s errand to try and fight them. I want to tell them, “Hey, you did such a great job with your kiddo –
why don’t we send them back home to you so you can have another whirl
at it?”

And the whole thing becomes really complicated when the logistics on the mission field get fouled up and it appears to the overanxious parent like AIM isn’t doing its job. At times like that, I just want to quit this ministry and go disciple African youth instead. Hey, in Swaziland they’re lucky to even have parents!

Raising radicals is dangerous work. It’s got to be uncomfortable and even downright painful if its ever going to happen. And when you’re doing the stuff Jesus did – like confronting demons (see Eric Hanson’s blog from Mozambique) – when a young person’s issues get in the way (or perhaps their theology is exposed as threadbare or impractical), you see the fruit of parents who have been trying to do discipleship on the cheap.

Comments (14)

  • I’m praying for you always, Seth… hang in there… and I’m praying for the young people who are learning to keep their eyes on Jesus instead of on the wind and waves… and I’m praying for the parents who are afraid to let go and trust our awesome God who just happens to love their children more than they do and will never, ever put them in any situation He doesn’t equip them to handle…

  • I think people don’t realize that the World Race isn’t vacation bible school … it’s the Great Commission… it’s following In Jesus’ footsteps as literally as you can…

    It wasn’t easy for the disciples in Jesus’ time, and it isn’t easy for our young disciples today… but it’s worth every hardship, every struggle, every tear… and if you listen to the ones who’ve completed it talk, you know there are far more belssings blessings along the way than deprivations… it just may bless them more than any other single thing they do in their lives… only time will tell what events in their future are being shaped or will be saved by the things they’ve learned out their following in the footsteps of Christ…

    My baby brother was a racer last year, and even tho he was the world’s oldest racer (42 years old), my sweet old daddy and momma agonized over many, many moments of the journey… I think they kept my phone ringing instead of yours, tho, Seth… lol… and still do…

    I can’t help being reminded of Susan… she was 22 years old… a beautiful young woman with curly red hair nearly down to her waist… and her heart’s desire was to be a missionary doctor in Africa… she was also the only child of her widowed mother… and the only family either of them had… but God opened a door for her to go to medical school on a program that would pay for her medical training in exchange for a like number of years on the mission field… she jumped at the chance… with her mother’s full blessings… so how did her mother respond to the naysayers and all those others who tried to guilt Susan out of going and tried to convince her mother to talk her out of it? She said, and I’ll never forget it… “I’d rather my daughter die in Africa in God’s will than to live anywhere else in the world out of His will.”

    Last I heard, Susan is still a missionary doctor…

  • lol… our posts must’ve gone in at the same moment… yes, I know… it really is about the hearts of the parents who love their children so much and fear for them in this big old world… I think they do trust God, but at the same time they want them close… Clinton is going back on the mission field and our sweet old Daddy (and our little momma, too) are glad for him but at the same time they wish and pray he’d find a mission field here in America and work with the kids here… they want their baby boy closer to home in their old age… they’re in my prayers all the time… and I’ll keep all those other parents in my prayers, too…

  • The soldier beheaded John in the prison, brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came to get his body and buried it in a tomb.

    The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

    So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them.

    Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

  • Sawazi sounds pretty good about right now for me as well, when are we going?

    Step it up BIG man the road is a bit smoother just around the next curve.

    Have a Blessed Day !!!!

  • Thanks guys. Hey – appreciate the prayers. I’m fine. This blog is more about what’s going on w/ parents and their kids than it is about anything in my life. It’s tough being a parent these days!

  • If Jesus Were a Parent, by Hal Perkins. Every parent should read it. I am only in chapter 3 and about the whole book has turned my parenting on its ear….if parenting can have an ear.

  • It’s the parents Job to disciple their kids but many “good” Christian parents have forgotten that kids are a gift OF God, not FROM God. They forget that “children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior”. Therefore, when the discipleship is over, they MUST SEND THEM OUT! I can’t wait to hug my son, whom God has given me, and cry GO!

  • wow. look at all these comments. great blog! and what a reaction… way to hit a nerve (a good one for most, it sounds, but I don’t get the verses about J Bap…)

  • Sorry about the confusion…

    It strikes me in this passage that Jesus (in His humanity) was feeling pretty overwhelmed with sadness from the death of John, emotionally spent and tired with the endless demands of ministry and just wanted to ‘get away’ from everything with the disciples so they could grieve and rest.

    When they got to their place, all the snotty-nosed brats were already there still wanting more, and instead of just telling them to go away because of His tiredness and disappointment, Jesus felt compassion and ministered to them – performing one of the greatest miracles of the Bible – the feeding of the 5,000. That’s pretty amazing.

    My observation…it’s difficult to feel spent and unappreciated in ministry and serve others compassionately – especially when those we serve don’t seem to deserve it.

    Jesus’ example here reminds me that it’s possible to struggle and still minister at the same time. I don’t have to choose one or the other.

    When I am sad/disappointed/emotionally drained, it’s okay to withdraw. But if for some reason I can’t, then with His compassion, I can continue to minister even in the midst of my pain. But I need His heart for ministry to happen, because I don’t have enough love in mine.

    That’s good to know.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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