Are Parents Really The Primary Spiritual Leader Of Their Kids?

There is a big emphasis in churches today on family ministry.

In the context of family ministry, we hear a lot of talk about parents being the primary spiritual leaders of their kids.

Many churches take this concept so far that they will not pray with kids to receive Christ, as they say, this is the parent’s responsibility.

While it can be a special moment for a Mom or Dad to lead their child to Christ, I don’t think the Lord really cares who leads the child to Christ. He simply says, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

While I agree that the church and the home make a powerful team, I’d like to give some push back on the idea that the parents are the primary spiritual leaders of their children.

Here are 4 reasons I disagree with this statement.

  • Not all families are the same. Families come in many different shapes and sizes. We have single parent homes, two parent homes, kids that live with their grandparents and foster homes, so to make a universal statement like this is not accurate.
  • Many times a child’s faith will surpass their parent’s faith. Kids are created with a nature to believe. Jesus said it like this. “Anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter in.” Jesus is honoring the faith of kids. He is saying to the disciples that, “It’s not that the kids need to grow up and become like you, but you need to grow down and become like them.”

I did not grow up in Christian home. I came to Christ at 17 years of age because my Dad came to Christ, but in a few short months, my commitment to the Lord and my spiritual growth exceeded my Dad’s spiritual growth. I am grateful for my youth pastor and other pastors in the church that could take me past the point where my Dad was at.

  • Part of the mission of Christ is to be a father to the fatherless. There are lots of names for God, but the name He likes best is Father. The reason I believe this, is because that is what Jesus called the creator of the universe. I believe there is a special place in the heart of God for kids that come from what we would all dysfunctional homes.

There are 25 million kids in America growing up in homes without a Dad. This is one of the primary calls of a Kid’s Pastor – to be a conduit of the Father’s love to a fatherless generation.

My point is this, if we put most of resources and time toward ministering to kids through their parents we will miss the fatherless generation.

  • Every child needs a pastor and a parent. When the church and the home work together it increases our effectiveness, but we are called to do different things.

As a parent, I am thankful for the pastors in my kid’s lives that helped them along the way. I found out the hard way that I couldn’t be both pastor and parent for my kids. I needed someone to see things in my kids that I couldn’t see.

On the other hand, as a pastor, I can see gifts in other people’s kids that they didn’t see.

A good example of this is David.

God spoke to Samuel to go to the house of Jesse and anoint one of his sons to be the next King of Israel. Jesse has seven of his sons to pass by Samuel and the Lord rejected all of them.

Samuel looks at Jesse and says, “Do you have any more sons?”

“There is still the youngest, but he is watching the sheep.”

We all know the rest of the story. Jesse sent for David, his youngest son and Samuel anointed him to be King of Israel.

Here is my point, Samuel saw something in David that his Dad didn’t see.

This is still true today. Sometimes the people that are closest to us don’t see the gifts that are in us. That is when we need Samuels to step up and say, “I see a future King.”

  • Are there young David’s in your class?
  • Are there gifts in the kids in your class that their parents haven’t seen yet?

When God looks at an 8 year old, He doesn’t see an eight your old. He sees their whole life in a split second.

When God looks at an 8-year-old, He doesn’t see an eight your old. He sees their whole life in a split second.

Should we empower parents to minister to their kids?

Absolutely, but part of your job is to look for the David’s in your class.

You will see gifts in kids that their parents may not see.

Do not back away from it.

It’s part of your call. 

Mark Harper

11 thoughts on “Are Parents Really The Primary Spiritual Leader Of Their Kids?

  1. Trisha Peach says:

    Oh my goodness, this is powerful and spot on. Sir, I deeply appreciate your courage to tell it like it is, scripturally- not just trendy. We are still called to the least of these, Christian parents or no. Many kids pastors, leaders are in the trenches reaching out to kids who may just be first generation Christians- and difference makers in THIS generation. Thank you. I’m sharing this. 🙂

  2. Nick says:

    A lot of great thoughts in here that I rad and agree with some but not all. Yes the parent should be the spiritual leader of the children whether it is a single family home or not. Those children learn by watching and listening to who the are around. If they go to normal church services they spend about 2-3 hours with the CP or teachers that teach them on a consistent basis. I am a CP and work a full time job besides that. My Kids see me roughly 4hr of the day before I go to work and when I get home. In 1 day I have surpassed the time that they would spend in a church setting. That’s also not counting weekends. I do agree though that if a child is ready to ask God in there heart it doesn’t have to happen just on the home. I also feel like if you do not tell your parents they will stand judgment for the things they teach their children you need to. As a CP I feel if I get to lead your child to Jesus it is a great blessing but also feel like I am stealing from them. Do I feel bad about that no because they are coming to a relationship with Christ and it is miracle that needs to be celebrated with the whole family. Lastly yes there are many David’s in every church and others do see things that we as parents do not see. It was not Samuel that saw it in David, it was God that saw David and lead him to the house of Jessie. Samuel was just the instrument God worked through to fulfill Gods promises. God never gave the ok for Samuel to anoint any of the other brothers. When David came in then God said this is the one I have chosen. Great read and hope to hear more. God bless yu and thanks for inspiring my mind to discuss these things.

  3. Joe Bridger says:

    Good. I am one of those who’s faith in Christ surpassed my parents. I think the challenge is that curriculums are written with a blindspot. Cause most curriculums are written from two perspectives. A southern nuclear family perspective, and an lack of resources perspective. Both are blindspots. One assumes that Most families are together as one unit, and that parents are present and active, and want to participate in the spiritual lives of their children. Their curriculum is written from a culture that is very southern America where values wrap around the idea that someone is churched, and in this order experiences God. Saved, Sanctified, Discipled, Empowered, and Serving. Children’s and many families however do not experience God this cleanly and in such a systematic way. If they did family ministry materials would be perfect. The other blind spot is lack of resources. There is again an assumption made on the part of the currriculum companies and materials developers that if parents had more resources and we put more things in their hands that they would come to realize that they are the spiritual heads of the household. A “push the button harder” mentality. Neither are good answers and Christian Education companies are left chasing their tails when people write back to them explaining that they don’t use their materials because they find them “ineffective.” Which is also a blindspot on the parts of the the churches trying to use them.

  4. hendry grobler says:

    Yes this is a very shortly stated clarifying idea and well written and expressed. Torah is still the truth and the only plum line for the whole world to use and a very very strong foundation which leads all people not only Christians to the correct instruction to help communities do what is right! Of course, we will have many different schools that will teach their own and very strong interpretation of thought and training that will help people or communities to obey TORAH,That we have plenty of, and their success is because they were and are doing what Torah is also saying. And time will tell if these schools are interpreting what Torah is really saying! You will be very surprised how excellent a ruler is when you want to draw a straight line. No matter how good you are able to draw a straight line,The ruler is the standard! Period! If you think the way you are able to draw lines are so perfect, that you start forgetting to remind people that the ruler is still very very important to use. You will be teaching the next generation that you are the ruler and they will follow you because you did not tell them why you were always able to draw straight line. So in short our ideas might only be following another well intended good man’s idea.And why i truly and humbly can make that kind of statement is.Let’s just look at what our church fathers have done to our early church Jewish brothers! The church has so far gone from Torah ( cut off our Jewish Roots)!! So make a choice today do what Torah is saying, The G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Jacob) is the way the truth and the life and Wow does he love children?? Yes and Yes forever!!! what i am talking about is a tough road ahead. and that is our calling, But G-d is faithful!! Yeshua (Jesus) reveals the Father.He (Yeshua) only did what the Father said!!

  5. Joy Feemster says:

    JUST wrote a blog post about this! Family ministry is extremely important, but we can’t forget about those who are virtual or literal orphans. (Blog should post soon on

  6. jon says:

    Youth and Children’s Pastor for 20 yrs, Foster and Adoptive parent here…Parents ARE the primary spiritual leaders, that is how God intended it, unfortunately that is not how it always is. So the goal should be Family Ministry, minister to the whole family until that parent or guardian becomes the spiritual leader they are called to be. Samuel recognized and afforded David great things just like it was done for him, but he still had to go through Davids father.

  7. Jeanne Bowser says:

    Yes, we do go through the parents. However, the same Holy Spirit that is in us as adults is the same Holy Spirit that is in children. It’s up to the children when they are at the age of understanding how much they want from God. I minister to children outside of church at a Good News Kids Club. It is frustrating at times to reach parents, but I am called to the kids, like the orphans and those, that even their parents don’t pay much attention to. I have seen as small as 4year olds outside unattended, uncared for, and this is America.. I have found that our greatest need is to continue to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as we reach out to families. Parents who don’t know how to love, cannot love their children God’s way, and rarely make an effort to train them. Their issues surmount at times…kids go running to those who can help them. I am speaking from firsthand experience.

  8. Mark Kilcoyne says:

    Thanks Mark for the post. Your synopsis is thoughtful and strategic. If we stay pedagogically pure we will miss a lot of opportunities to reach kids for Christ. Unfortunately, what we hope to be the norm rarely shows up at our doorstep.

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