Most of the comics that are shared on social media are good just for wasting time or just for a quick laugh. But every once in a while there’s one that sticks with you. I have no idea when I even first saw this particular comic (if we can’t use the actual picture: I have no idea when I first saw a comic of a side by side comparisons from 1969 and today.
On the 1969 side, there is a student looking down in shame while his parents and his teacher are on the other side of the desk telling the kid “Explain these bad grades.”
On the today side, the parents are on the kid’s side of the desk and are angrily asking the teacher to “Explain these bad grades” while the kid is wearing a pretty confident smile.) While I never had to explain bad grades, I still know that if I would have had any I would be doing the explaining to my parents, not my teacher. I can’t verify how accurate this comic is to the 1969 side, but the today side is fairly accurate for most parents.
While this is a great insight into the educational system, it also gives us a lot of insight into the church discipleship system as well. Often people will hold the pastor or church staff responsible for their spiritual problems, or to be more true to the comic and my ministry focus, the spiritual problems of their children. “My kid is struggling with x, so you should do more lessons on x so that they know how to deal with x.” And while the “x” is meant to be a stand-in for any number of issues, it also applies to the drug x which isn’t too far off from a real conversation I've had with a parent before.
Grades and Church
While that particular example might sound absurd, maybe this example will sound more realistic to you. “My kid doesn’t like coming to church, can you do something so that they want to come?” I’ve heard everything from giving away iPods, bringing in more kids their age, buying giant inflatables, to bringing in a Super Bowl MVP (seriously) to make a particular student want to come to church.
I don’t know how many variations of this I’ve heard, but every time I’m conflicted. On the one hand here is a parent who cares about their kid coming to church who has come to me asking for help (which is part of what I’m supposed to be doing). But here’s the other hand… They are trying to outsource their responsibility to someone else. They are setting the precedent that you only go to church to get an iPod or because your friends are going or because of whatever else that isn’t Jesus.
We all have the same goal in mind, we want students to have an authentic relationship with Jesus. The difference is the responsibility is actually with the student, not with a church staff or even ultimately with the parents. Just like in school each person has their own responsibilities. The teacher/church staff person is there to give the students the tools they need to learn and to apply knowledge to their life. Parents are responsible for making sure their student shows up, making sure they are dedicating enough time to learn what they need, and helping the students where they have questions.
The students are the ones ultimately responsible for what they learn. They have to put the time in to learn what they need. The quadratic formula doesn’t just appear in your head because your math book sits on your night stand anymore than atonement theories pop in your head because you have a Bible on your shelf. In the end it’s a collaborative effort where the best results occur when all parts work together, but parents will have the biggest impact on their kids spiritual lives.
Nathan Persell serves as our Youth Director. When he's not leading devotions and playing basketball with teenagers, he enjoys disc golf and bike riding. Learn more about Nathan here.