About two decades ago, while attending the National Youth Workers’ Convention, I heard a strong woman in youth ministry say that, when she and her husband discovered they couldn’t have their own children, they resolved to adopt the next generation of believers. 

Why has that stuck with me for so long? Because spiritual mentoring and discipleship is a decision and she’s done it. I just double checked and, after nearly 30 years, she’s still doing it. She’s still discipling the next generation through youth ministry. I respect her commitment to God and applaud her tenacity and faithfulness.

Youth Ministry

Youth ministry isn’t meant to last 7 years then be done. Some of my youth ministry relationships got deeper when my students graduated from high school. I make it clear the choice is always the student’s whether to continue, deepen, cut off, or pause the relationship. There are students I don’t hear from for 15 years then get a text or FaceBook message from because they need some guidance or prayer in their new stage of life. There are “students” who are some of my closest friends and we raise our children together. There are students who I run into at the store, we hug, get a quick life-catch up then see them in another five years. I love the parenting questions I get from time to time. Still. Their choice to connect or not, but they know where to find me… and do when they need me.

Parenting is not a Seasonal Ministry

Now, let me be clear. Some relationships meant to be seasonal… honestly, most relationships are seasonal, but the relationship between parent and child… that’s long-haul discipleship. There are some silly parents who think their job is done when their kids graduate high school then move out for college, but there’s still more work to be done, more discipleship needed for a different stage of life. Sometimes those relationships even deepen with age. That’s my prayer for my children and me.

Lifetime Ministry

Parenting is Lifetime Ministry. Like that strong woman in Youth Ministry that I respect, you have the opportunity to disciple the next generation of believers. You simply have to make the decision to make it a priority in your parenting and relationships with those God brings into your life to speak into, encourage, empower, and follow you as your follow Christ.  

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Psalm 127:3

What would it look like for you to disciple your children for the rest of their lives?