In Psalm 127, Solomon refers to children as a “heritage” or an “inheritance” from the Lord. It’s easy to miss how revolutionary that statement is. Solomon isn’t saying that children will receive our inheritance. He is saying that they are our inheritance. But what does that mean?
It means that the most important task we have as pastors is to teach the next generation the gospel.
An inheritance is what you leave behind for future generations. So when a church thinks about what they are “leaving behind” for their city, they shouldn’t be thinking of ministry plans or church buildings. They should be thinking about families. When a minister ponders what God has called him to, at the top of the list must be his own family. His children are the first ones that God has given him to win for the gospel. They are the inheritance he is leaving.
That means our primary responsibility for our children is to teach them the gospel—and to equip them to teach it to others. That is the most important task any parent has. And I don’t exaggerate in saying it’s the most important task of any church. Jesus once asked, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his soul?” We might also ask, “What does it profit a preacher if he grows an enormous church and yet loses the souls of his family?”
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 100 hours a year with the kids. Parents, on the other hand, have about 8,736 waking hours with them. No matter how amazing our kids ministry is, what we do 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. It is where they see the unconditional love and forgiveness that flows from hearts touched by grace. It is as we do everyday life with our kids—cleaning the garage, driving in the car, going to bed—that we have the opportunities to apply the gospel to brokenness, pain, or conflict. This is doubly true for those of us who are in professional ministry: our kids aren’t going to learn the gospel most in the way we preach it on the weekend, but in how we live it out during the week.
It should go without saying, but that can only happen if we as parents are present with our kids. It doesn’t matter how big or impressive your ministry is: you can find someone to replace you in your ministry. 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: 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 other than their parents to speak into their lives or for them to confide in. My wife and I have developed strategic relationships with other parents in order to give our kids other people who will speak into their lives. It’s not a shortcoming on our part to recognize that they need more mature Christian adults than just mom and dad.
The church can’t make up for what isn’t happening in the home, of course, 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.
Your kids are going to be visitors somewhere and a part of a community somewhere else. Sadly, many kids—even children of the pastor—are visitors at church, while their true community is, for example, on their athletic team. So look at their peers on their sports team, and you’ll see where your kid is headed. Not happy with what you see? It’s up to you as a parent to prioritize the community of God for your kids. Kids who walk away from the faith their freshman year in college don’t do it because of philosophy arguments, but because of the community their parents valued when they were in junior high. So choose their community wisely.
The most important task we have as pastors is to teach the next generation the gospel. Don’t overlook the first mission field of your family. God has given you two gardens in which to grow your children, so drive the roots of the gospel deep and watch God grow something incredible.
ABOUT: J.D. Greear is the pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send (2015), Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011), Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013), and Jesus, Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You (2014). Two main things characterize The Summit Church: its gospel focus and sending culture. The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity, it’s also the pool itself. Joy, reckless generosity, and audacious faith all come by learning more about God’s extravagant love found in Christ. J.D. completed his Ph.D. in Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also a faculty member, writing on the correlations between early church presentations of the gospel and Islamic theology. Having lived and served with the SBC’s International Mission Board among Muslims, he has a burden to see them, as well as every nation on earth, come to know and love the salvation of God in Christ. He and his wife Veronica live in Raleigh and are raising four kids: Kharis, Alethia, Ryah, and Adon. Find out more about J.D. Greear at www.jdgreear.com/about