2019 CCCGA Child Dedication
This past Sunday on June 23 at CCCGA, six families, including mine, participated in a Child Dedication during our Joint Service. I preached a topical sermon from various Scripture passages about The Significance of Child Dedication to prepare the congregation with an appropriate understanding of this ceremony. I made the point that this ceremony should really be called Parent Dedication, since it is the parents who are making a commitment before God to raise their children to love and obey God. These parents publicly answered the following questions in this commitment.
- Parents, do you understand that children are a precious gift entrusted to you from the Lord?
- Are you willing to watch your own conduct to be role models to your children, pray for them often, love them, teach them with God’s Word, lead them to know Jesus Christ, and help them receive salvation?
- When your children grow up, are you willing to help them fulfill God’s plan in their life?
“Divided” Movie Review
As I was preparing for this sermon last week, I was reminded about a film I came across a few years ago called “Divided“, produced by the Leclerc Brothes. The full film (52 minutes) can be watched below.
This film opened by presenting the problem that many youths of this generation are leaving the Church and leaving their faith in Christ not only when they go to college, but also even while they are still in middle school and high school. Many youth programs in churches focus a lot on music, pop culture, and entertainment to attract youths and sprinkle in a little Bible teaching. As a result, youth may not see the difference between church and the culture they are supposed to be against. The film pointed out that there is no command in the Bible to create a youth ministry, thus dividing children from the parents in the church. But there are commands for parents to teach their children Scripture. Many parents may not feel comfortable or theologically trained to teach their children and instead trust in the youth pastors and the Church to do the job. But unfortunately, many youth programs in churches are not biblical.
The film showed how the Church has adopted a factory model of education. In society, we put our children through years of schooling, and out should come out independent and responsible adults ready to work and contribute in the world. This factory model had seeped into the Church. Parents think if they bring their children to church for many years, out should come out a strong Christian. The Sunday School model reflects this as well. Children are being divided into different classes by age group and are assumed they should be at a certain spiritual level by a certain age. One pastor in the film talked about how if we followed the biblical model of church, there would be no youth ministry. Another pastor applies a “community” model in the church and brings together children of all ages to join the adults in their worship services. Parents worship together with their children and hear the same preaching of Scripture from the pulpit. Parents have the responsibility and authority to teach and discipline their children according to Scripture. The film concluded with a call to return to the Scriptures so that within the church, we will be reunited and not divided.
Although I agree 100% with the biblical responsibility and roles of parents to teach their children the Bible, the film seems to demonize youth ministry or other church models. I believe that there is a place for youth ministry especially in the Chinese-ethnic church and other immigrant or ethnic churches. Some children who go to church may not have parents who are believers. Even if the parents are believers, there may be language or culture barriers that can prevent them from teaching their Americanized children Scripture. These should not be excuses to relinquish the parental responsibility of teaching children. But the Church and youth ministry has a role to train and equip parents to overcome these barriers to do so. In addition, youth ministry should help the children understand their parents’ role to teach them. It should encourage children to show grace to their parents who are doing their best despite any language or culture barriers. Youth ministry can also help in the situation when parents are not believers or are not even present. Overall, I believe youth ministry can be a supplement to the parents’ ministry to their children. Sending your children to youth ministry should be like giving them vitamins. You cannot just feed your children a diet of vitamins and diet supplement pills. They need a healthy, balanced, diet of real food, which is the biblical teaching that parents can provide. Therefore, I believe youth ministry in the church has an important role to supplement the teaching of the parents. Even though I may not agree with the film’s call to get rid of youth ministry, I agree with the biblical responsibility of parents. I also agree that there are many youth programs in churches today that need to return back to biblical standards and not be just a place of entertainment and pop culture.
At CCCGA, we have separate Chinese Worship Services and English Worship Services. Even though the majority of parents are in the Chinese congregation and the majority of youth are in the English congregation, the intention is not to divide them. The worship services are meant to accommodate worship in different languages. I record my sermons from the English Worship Service so that parents are aware of what their youth learn and can talk about it with them. Once a month, we have a Joint Bilingual Service when both congregations worship together. But I wonder whether the youth and parents sit with each other or even discuss about the sermon afterwards. Before we implemented a new model and approach for Children Ministry a few years ago, I remember seeing elementary-age children being with their parents to sing worship songs in the Chinese congregation before going to their classes. We no longer do that anymore as the children have their own worship service now. I understand that it may have been hard for them to sing in Chinese. Maybe during our monthly Joint Bilingual Services, the children can join the youth in sitting together with their parents to sing worship songs to God in both Chinese and English. We can bring parents and children to worship together more often and not be divided. We can equip more parents to be the main teachers of the Bible in their families. In order to do so, I know we will need to trust and rely on God to work in everyone’s hearts.