Amazing. I remember being the 20 year-old, part-time Children’s Pastor at a small church in Jenks, Oklahoma. A parent approached me with his 4th grade daughter (this did happen on more than one occasion) and said, “Mr. Kenny, my daughter want’s to receive Christ. Will you pray with her?”
I look at this situation differently now than I did 11 years ago. I said “Absolutely… let’s pray!” Now when I look back at this situation I see a different picture. It’s a little strange (but far too common). A grown man, a father, was handing off his child for me to share in the most important decision of her life. I understand. He probably saw this as my “job.” He also probably felt unqualified. However, how hard would it have been for me to coach him in leading his daughter to Christ. She was ready. Has this ever happened to you?
How about this one? On occasion I would get a phone call from a confused (sometimes angry) parent. The child came home from church or from VBS and told his/her parents that he/she had committed his/her life to Christ. The calling parent would sometimes just question if we really believed a child could make this kind of decision. They’d sometimes question our approach, asking kids to make a decision before they really understood what they were doing. I had one parent angrily accuse me of luring kids to raising hands, praying a prayer so I could go back to my staff and tell them how many I had converted.
I have always felt a heavy responsibility for inviting kids to follow Christ. Certainly I was to take advantage of my opportunities, but I also made every effort to contact families of kids who made decisions. And this is the struggle I had. We would see hundreds of kids come to Christ at VBS. Over the following months we would baptized dozens. However, I’d always have one or two of these phone calls/conversations. I rationalized that it was okay to alienate one or two people as long as we would see kids come to Christ by the dozens. But I still didn’t always feel great about this, it just didn’t seem right. In situations where kids are given an opportunity to receive Christ, how do you involved the parents? How do you respect them as the spiritual authority, regardless of whether they take it seriously.
Here’s how we “fixed” this:
We’d give an invitation whether it was VBS or regular weekend service. We’d either send home a packet with them that day or mail on to them the next day. Ultimately the packet explained that the child had made a decision, we were excited and we’d love to help follow-up. We’d give them options to attend a baptism class or meet with someone on staff. However, we were putting the “ball” in their court. A portion of these parents did call us, come to baptism classes or meet with the staff. Many did not, but we decided that we needed to respect the parents in this process. We would usually send a follow-up letter to those who didn’t respond to our previous letter a few weeks later, but after that we would let it go. The result? I stopped getting those phone calls. Kids were coming to Christ and I felt like we were respecting the parental authority boundary.
Wrapping this up tomorrow.
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