Parents, Families, Video Games and Growing Spiritual Champions

I ran across this article in the UK Telegraph while perusing my daily Kidscreen email.

Let me put out some disclaimers out there before I go on… Yes, this is a study done by Microsoft who has a stake in making video games look good. Yes, this is an article from a British news site. My point in bringing up this article isn’t to agree or disagree with the findings.

With all that being said, the article talks about how most parents think that video games, including online gaming, is something that can be beneficial. They do express concerns, though about the safety of their children. Most children in the study want their parents to check out the games they play and want their parents to interact with them.

What stood out to me in the study was that, although most parents did not check out the games themselves, they wanted to but just didn’t feel equipped to do so or have time to do so. (OK, I might’ve read into the study a little.) What the parents were looking for was help. Most want a resource to let them know about what games are out there and popular and how to interact with their kids about it. They want to be involved in their kids’ lives.

Now, beyond providing resources for parents about video games out there, what is something else that we, as ministers to children and families, can take away from this? What do studies like this tell us about parents? What does it tell us about their desire to be involved in their children’s lives? What does it tell us about their desire to guide and teach and shape their children?

Study after study about parents and children show us that parents want to interact with their children on how to make choices and have right beliefs. Why is it, then, that most of the church continues to beat parents up? Why do we say things like there is more of a parental delinquency than child delinquency? Why do we applaud when leaders say that the reason children aren’t connecting to God in such a way that they don’t walk away from God later in life is because parents abdicate their responsibility to be “the primary spiritual teacher” to their children?

Maybe it’s because it makes us feel better? Maybe it’s because we want to blame someone rather than try and engage and work together as a church community to help children develop an environment where children learn and know who God is, how much God loves them, how they can best follow God to have the most amazing life, and how they can change the world around them as they choose to follow God?

Most parents want our help. Yes, there are those we can all point to as the exception, but over and over we see that MOST parents want our help… and by “our” I’m not just talking about children’s ministers… I’m talking about each church community.

I could go on… and you thought this was going to be a simple post about video games and families…

What do you think about the negativity that has grown around parents from those of us in the church? Do you agree that it exists? Maybe, I’m overstating my bias? What are you doing to engage families? What are you doing to help the church community be a part of engaging families? I have some thoughts, but I’d like to hear from you all.

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12 thoughts on “Parents, Families, Video Games and Growing Spiritual Champions

  1. gina says:

    I agree. Parents want to have meaningful experiences with their kids. But they just don't know how or feel ill equipped. The funny thing is… the phrase 'practice makes perfect' is a lost concept here. As a parent, I've seen too many Hollywood moments where the sun was shining as the parent and child strolled down the path. Though the parent stumbled, they finally came up with the right words, the child responded, the music climaxed at the just the right moment… the perfect interaction. I stumble around and never seem to find the right words. I lead my child to greater confusion than when we began. I suck at this. So I quit trying. I find the perceived 'expert' and make an appointment for my child to see them. :)I no longer complain that parents don't disciple their kids. They do. But their goal is to raise a well-rounded kid. So they find the expert and enroll their child in lessons. My mission in kids ministry is to reshape mom and dad's goal. To lead their child to love God with all their heart, mind and strength. That can only be demonstrated by the most influential people in their child's life… them.That's my $2 & change… Sorry for the rant.

  2. henryjz says:

    Gina thank you so much for your thoughts! I think you made a good point in the stumbling around as a parent with our kids…. I think we need to encourage parents to keep stumbling through and be honest about our own stumbling as well! What better way to encourage them!And, then, us as the “experts” need to continue building relationships with those parents so that we can truly partner with them. God bless you as you continue to help reshape parental culture.

  3. Desiree says:

    Well I hope once we share our thoughts, you share yours 🙂 I'm interested. We are having a CM meeting soon.Anyway, I see what you are saying about the “negativity” against parents. However, I think it is somewhat warranted. There are many parents who just think if they send their kids to the appropriate places they will be “fed”. They don't seem to get how to be connected to what is going on in their child's life, and rely a lot on their “good intentions”. But when it comes down to it they just want an easy answer and aren't willing to put in the time, except in crisis. An example of that can be seen on the show Super Nanny where parents are resistant to submitting to Supernanny's methods, but in the end once they have tried them, they are so much happier.On the flip side, I do think the church could be better at equipping parents with tools and options for helping protect and guide their children. We need to be more current with what is really going on. For instance I just got a Facebook friend request from a teenage girl that I never interact with. I know her parents a little but I was surprised to get the friend request. I think what happened is she may think I am my sister in law because that happens so frequently. So I clicked on her profile and realized it was not very well restricted. There is a danger there. Parents don't realize it because they aren't familiar with it until they hear some worst case scenario and then they freak out and over react with no good basis.Another aspect to consider is helping parents transform their lives, that it's not just a Sunday thing but when they have a relationship with Jesus, that it is supposed to change us in every area of our lives. Our goal is to know who God is (or his nature) and then be like that. That once we accept him, we live differently. We don't look to the world to tell us how to live, we look to God. Not to say there is no good in the world outside of church but if there is an issue that stands against God's nature, we need to submit to that. That is a very important issue. Our response to that bears witness to whether we really make Jesus our God, or someone else. Is he our God? Or is he just another (one of many) Facebook friends, where we treat the Bible as God's status update? (or “tweet” for twitter people 😀 ) Luke 8:19-21 describes his true family as those “who hear God's word and put it into practice”.I think we need to help parents be able to “feed” themselves because we only have them for about an hour maybe two a week. I'm not exactly sure how to do that but I think that will have the impact on them in a way that will directly affect how they interact with their children.Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.So the church (the leaders and the body) needs to accept the parts they are responsible for (technology and faith strengthening) but parents have to be honest with themselves about their short comings as well. They need to ask themselves if they are really willing to learn, or do they convince themselves that they care because otherwise they might be a “bad parent”. Really caring inspires action. We need to help them care more. And when they do, we actually need to have something with substance to lead them to.

  4. Desiree says:

    Ok, I came in late to the conversation I think because I didn't see the other posts. But I really agree with you Kathy. I hope your summer plan really works. It's sounds great.I agree that we ALL seem to be stumbling around not knowing what to do. A crazy thought came to me… Why don't we pray and ask God? Haha! It seems so obvious doesn't it? yet so cliche too. (bummer about that) But there really is no short cut to God but praying and reading the Bible.And Gina, I think I won the rant award 😉 Lol.

  5. henryjz says:

    I just wanted to ask about your comment, “Why don't we pray and ask God?” Are you implying that if we are stumbling through that we aren't praying and asking God?I think that even when we are earnestly asking God for guidance, we still stumble around (at least feel that way) because God doesn't simply come down and make everything neat and tidy for us. Living life with God isn't as black and white as we would like it to be. There is much that God chooses not to make clear, and we have to be OK with that and be willing to struggle through it all… even as a parent. Now, I know that not everyone agrees with that view of following God, but isn't great that we don't have to agree on every theological aspect. I just think that life with God is a lot more nuanced than some would like to admit or are comfortable with.

  6. Desiree says:

    No, I am not trying to imply that if we are stumbling around that we aren't praying. I just meant praying more specifically about how to approach it. Often times we spend a lot of our own energies on trying to make things work in various ways. I admit to stumbling around sometimes when it comes to leading and I think that can be God trying to remind us to trust him and that it isn't always about us. The best results come when we humble ourselves and realize we are his servants to carry out his will. Sometimes we let our circumstances define who we are and what we do and we can be upset about how things aren't going right. And it's those times we need to stop and breath and remember how big God is, and he wants us to come to him even in the small things.Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Proverbs 3:6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.I was just trying to reiterate the concepts in those verses. When I feel frustrated and like things are out of control or like I don't know what I'm going to do, I often realize that I haven't even had a conversation with God about it. Maybe I have prayed in general for my plans to go well but, I am am talking about a conversation with God, where I don't rely on myself. I assume that most Christians can can identify with that. I was saying let's not forget we have access the God who made the universe! If we really believed that all of the time, how would we act differently?

  7. henryjz says:

    Thanks for clarifying that. I think that we also need to remember, too, that God is sovereign and we can be praying specifically and trusting God and “doing everything right” but still not have things “working out” at least according to our understanding. When I say I feel like I'm stumbling along, I don't mean that I am lost or not at peace… I am just saying that I don't always have the answers but trust that God does and know that he is in control so it is OK for me to feel as if I am stumbling around sometimes… like you said, it reminds me that God is the one in control and not me… even when things don't work out as neat as I want them to.

  8. Desiree says:

    Yes :-).
    And just because we pray in faith for something doesn't mean we can force God to conform to our plans. I find my plans are very short sighted in comparison to God's. Funny how that is! But I just have to tell myself that I am responsible for the small piece that he has given me. And I pray I recognize what that is so I don't do too much, or too little.

  9. Kathy says:

    I'm on staff at a church in the family ministry area. I hear the blame being placed on parents quite a bit. I do think this is to keep the finger pointed outwards and deflect the responsibility we might have as the church, due in my opinion to the same response that parents give, I want to help but I'm not quite sure what to do. I am coaching my staff to encourage parents, our job as a parent is hard enough as it is, and build them up, give them resources, be on their side. And I also have conversations with parents where I tell them the same thing when they complain that our student department isn't measuring up, encourage the leaders, build them up, be on their side. Seems we're all in need of a plan and a sense of teamwork.

    We're embarking on a summer of intergenerational services. This will be a departure from our normal segregated programming. We are in the midst of a strategic move to getting our folks involved in a 3 part discipleship process: reading the Bible with others, engaging the community incarnationally and celebrating together during the weekend services. Our focus for the next few months is on getting individuals reading the Bible, listening to the Holy Spirit and applying it. The summer will be focused on reading with your family, engaging each other in spiritual conversations and listening to how the spirit wants you to love others. We'll bring everyone (apprx. 1,000) together for the weekend service, read through a Gospel, give and demonstrate tools/resources on how to do this during the week and pray like crazy. (because we think we might be) That's our crazy idea for the summer to see if we can help parents by bringing them together with their kids, demonstrating in the main service, challenging, sharing stories through blog and testimonies, service opportunities as a family and a few other ideas. Will it make a difference? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that!

  10. Erin Z says:

    I just have a hard time when anyone points a finger at any one group to blame them for something like a child's salvation. It's not just up to the church, and it's not just up to the parents. Where is the Holy Spirit in this conversation? I know He cares even more than both the Church and the parents combined and does even more than both of those entities. If it were simply a black-and-white plan – all you have to do is model it and teach it and let the Holy Spirit work it – then we wouldn't have so many families with both Christian children and children who are not. I think it's very important, in order to avoid a legalistic mindframe, to keep in mind that God has given each of us the ability to choose for ourselves if we are going to follow Him or not. And what about those people who, without any idea of Who God is, are drawn to Him and discover life in Him?

    I also think we need to consider the parents and churches we know. Although they may not be doing what *we* think they should be doing, how many people do I actually know that aren't doing what they know best to introduce their children to God? Even most people who say, "I want my child to discover their own faith – whether it's Christian or not," have deliberately chosen to do that. They are not being lazy. They have, in their minds, a very valid reason for that. Most people aren't as lazy as we are judging them to be. I'm tempted to think that the people we imagine as being lazy are just ones we've seen on tv.

  11. Desiree says:

    I assume the Holy Spirit lives inside the Christian, thus that is how we model Jesus. Prayer is also a part of connecting to him. He helps us share the gospel and Jesus and thus isn't separated from that. When you say the Holy Spirit cares more than the church or the parents, I agree to some extent because we aren't big enough to grasp the total of eternal consequences. However, as we are transformed we desire God's will more and more. And he gives certain people certain burdens for the lost and I believe they can be quite heavy. The church is not just an organization. God set it up for us to help us. It sounds like you are saying that the church is a man made thing. I'm just confused on that. ?

    I agree that if you map everything out for the parent, then it runs the risk of being legalistic. That's why I think we need to teach the parents to feed themselves spiritually and point them to great resources for the practical. Also help them use the Bible since many are intimidated by it.

    I'm not trying to point the finger and single out "lazy parents". I believe every parent could be considered "lazy" to one degree or another. There is always room for improvement because no parent is perfect. I personally like the show Supernanny.. I think the parents who go on there are to be commended for putting themselves and their faults out there. I don't think it is a show that should be viewed as some sort of spectacle so we can judge them. I think it is a very useful tool for parents to recognize where they could improve. And they actually get to watch how a method is carried out, verses just given a parenting book and then expected to "just be a good parent". They get to see it and see that it will be messy and hard at first but if they are consistent, they start to see changes.

    I don't think the people who go on the show come to the conclusion that they are lazy, they just know that what they have been doing isn't working. Or they try to say they just have bad children and that they have tried everything. I think they all had good intentions, but good intentions do not automatically equal good results. So no it's not just the parents, and it's not just the church. And I don't think the Holy Spirit or the burden is left out at all if the people in CM are in the ministry that God has called them to.

  12. Desiree says:

    One thing I forgot to say to you Henry was that I agree that the "experts" need to develop a relationship with the parents.

    And props to your second reply about my clarification. That was well put. A lot of times I think we have miscommunication because of personality types but I thought it was a pretty succinct thought.

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