Stages of Parenting
In his insightful book, Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again), Wayne Rice draws a comparison between church programming and parenting.
Stage One (ages 0-2) – This is a Catering stage where parents care for a child’s every need.
Stage Two (ages 2-10) – This is a Controlling stage where parents establish absolute control over their child setting up boundaries.
Stage Three (ages 11-14) – This is the Coaching stage where parents “let out some rope” as a child enters adolescence, while keeping authority.
Stage Four (ages 15-18) – This is the Consulting stage where parents do less micromanaging of teenagers giving them more natural control. There are still limits allowing teens to make mistakes in a safe, grace-filled environment at home.
Stage Five (ages 18 +) – This is the Caring stage where parents let their child(ren) go. It is time for them to start living on their own as a young adult. All a parent can really do is care and pray. And become a friend and mentor.
Stages of Programs in a Congregation
Following a description of these stages, Rice offers a connection between parenting and church programming:
Stage One (Nursery) – Parents are responsible for their children, but the church helps provide support, education, childcare during worship times etc.
Stage Two (Children’s Ministry) – Parents are encouraged, taught and given tools to pass on their faith to their children at home. Children’s ministry should be there to encourage and equip parents.
Stage Three (Middle School Youth Ministry) – Parents are encouraged and equipped to continue to build relationship with their child and pass on faith to them. The JH ministry exists to reinforce what is happening at home, provide “rites of passage” into church membership, surround them with mentors and introduce them to adult ministries in the church.
Stage Four (High School Youth Ministry) – Parents are encouraged strongly to stay connected to their teens having “faith conversations” at home. The high school ministry is there to support parents providing opportunities for parent-teen dialog in intergenerational activities and begin to integrate teens into the life of the body of Christ.
Stage Five (Adult Ministries) – Students take their place alongside other adult members in the church body by becoming members of the church, congregational leaders, life-time learners, and committed followers of Christ.
All of this makes sense, but have today’s parents given over the responsibility of teaching faith to their children to the church? The challenge before us is to build bonds of sharing responsibility with parents as the spiritual caregivers of their children first and the local body of believers being present to support, equip and love the coming generations into the body.
Sharon Ely Pearson is a 30+ year Christian formation veteran, currently serving as an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated. Wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she enjoys connecting people with each other and the resources they need for growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus.