Jen Willard
December 3rd, 2020

Parent’s have to be the only God-given spiritual leaders of their home. This theology doesn’t matter much anymore.

Please don’t write off this article because of the opening line. There are many Biblical reasons for being a solid spiritual leader for your family. Many families boldly proclaim the passage from Joshua 24:15 and declare that no matter what is happening around them, they will continue to serve the Lord. The family unit is obviously important in the Bible. And a parent’s spiritual leadership of their student an important part of their daily lives.

However, you and I are encountering more and more students each week whose parents have sworn off attending church and would never dare to enter our buildings, even on holidays. Many of our students also come from broken homes and will never know what it feels like to have a traditional, two parent family.

The longer I do ministry, the more I find that the students who encounter the love of Christ in a radical way for the first time in their lives are the students who become the most bold leaders for Christ. For this, we should be praising God! I have also found that many of these students come from families that are anything but “traditional.”

Many of our ministries have taught our students to look to their parents as their spiritual leaders. But what do we do with the growing number of students who don’t have parents who are engaged spiritually? We often offer them mentorship under one of our ministry leaders.  

This is a positive move, but still doesn’t teach them their tremendous value in the Kingdom of God. I recently had a student tell me that he could never be a strong Christian because he didn’t have the right kind of spiritual leading growing up. While it isn’t bad theology to remind our students that their parents should be teaching them spiritually, I would argue to say that the theology might not matter as much to youth ministries engaged with teenagers from diverse family backgrounds.  

Here is what we can teach our students. Christ emboldens students to go back into their homes as missionaries for their non-believing parents.  They can become spiritual leaders in their own home.

Matthew 28 calls everyone to go into all the world, even to their own home, with the love of Christ. In teaching these truths, we will engage both students whose parents are spiritually leading their family and those whose parents are not. We will train our students to be spiritual leaders and let them know that they can take responsibility for being a spiritual leader in their home now and in the future when they lead their own family.

A practical thing that you can do to instill this teaching into your students is to allow them opportunities to be an example in your faith community.

  • I like to give students, even whose parents don’t attend our church, leadership opportunities during the service.  
  • I get them to read scripture or help with communion.  
  • When they share their excitement for service with their parents and grandparents, they may be interested in coming to see the ways their student is leading the church.

All believers are called to lead in their faith regardless of age, gender, race, or however else we can think to divide ourselves. The Kingdom of God can use all of us to be spiritual leaders to those we come in contact.

God wants to use the teenager, whose faith may be the size of a mustard seed, as leaders.  We need to be teaching theology that enables our students to recognize their importance in the life of their families and to the Kingdom of God.

Jen Willard

Jen Willard is currently the full time Youth Pastor at church near Little Rock, AR. She loves continually learning about ministry and is a graduate of Nazarene Theological Seminary’s MDiv program. Jen loves drinking coffee and traveling to new places with her husband Bryan. Follow her on Instagram at @duckjd.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.