Yesterday in church, Matt Jones shared about his role as a parent in the lives of his children. Specifically, Matt was alluding to his job (along with his wife, Cara) as the chief source of spiritual development for his children. While he appreciates the role of the church (particularly its programs), he does not “outsource” his primary role to the church. In other words, he doesn’t leave how his kids are going to turn out spiritually up to the church Sunday School program and mid-week gathering time. Matt said these church programs are great collaborative efforts to subsidize (not replace) what he and Cara are doing as parents with their kids.

Kudos to Matt and Cara Jones for starting this conversation in our church community. I really appreciate it.

I came across a blog post the other day that went right along with what Matt talked about:

“I have outsourced my child’s swimming development.

You see, I’m just not an expert on the subject. I haven’t studied swim theory and I am completely unfamiliar with what it takes to learn how to become a swimmer even to the most basic of levels… which I would assume is ‘not drowning’.

So – I am comfortable with giving away control of my child’s swimming ability to a professional. In fact it seems to be working; my firstborn no longer screams when he observes large bodies of water and is slowly heading towards the aforementioned ‘not drowning’ level of swimming ability.

As parents and rightly so, we want to open up our children’s worlds as wide as possible and allow them to experience life to the full. My children will study science at school but may not become scientists; maths, but may not become mathematicians. So I am comfortable allowing many of these skills to be developed by teachers far more capable than me (especially maths ☺).

At this point in his short life, it is highly unlikely that child No.1 will become a professional swimming athlete. His parents simply don’t have it in them to generate the kind of passion for swimming that he would need to succeed in that arena. But on the off-chance that he develops a passion for and wants to pursue a career in professional sports then I’m confident my attitude will completely change and I’ll become far more involved in the training and discipline that it will take to pursue that dream.

Far above any academic or physical achievement that my children can attain is my desire for them to have an Olympic-sized faith. I desire to have kids who can stand up to the culture of this present age and live in such a way that they demand the attention of the world. I want my children to have the kind of faith that moves mountains and stands strong against any trial or tribulation that they will face; to grow up in a way that identifies them as a living, breathing ambassador of Christ on earth.

As parents, we tend to take quite a structured view of the education of our children. Emphasis is placed on testing and exams because we are led to believe that these processes indicate or lead to success. Here in Australia this culminates with the HSC (Higher School Certificate) in the last year of High School; the mental and psychological equivalent of David facing Goliath for many kids.

So where is the structure for my son’s spiritual development? Where is the passion to see my boy become an expert in his field, a champion in his arena?

This will take more than a ‘one hour a week’ soccer practice. I need to commit fully to this process because although not every child will become an athletic champion, every child can become a spiritual champion.

We may never get up at 5:30am to take our children to swimming practice in the local pool, but what is the equivalent for your child’s spiritual journey? Let that question drive you to your knees in prayer to seek God and ask His help to engage the hearts and minds of your children as you train them in the way that they should go.

Every child is different and every child’s spiritual journey requires us to listen to the Holy Spirit closely as we strive to raise children who love God and love people.

At Hillsong church most of our families do not attend every week, in fact on average they attend once a month. Can you think of any other area in life where 25% was good enough for success? They are missing out on 75% of the training and teaching that we as a church work hard to give the children we have been entrusted with.

Don’t think for one minute I am being religious about this – I am not suggesting attendance to keep up appearances. The reality is that your child will be at Church a maximum of 70 hours this year (if you attend each week), but they will attend school for maybe 1,500 hours and STILL apparently need homework to complete their learning.

Attending church every week will not guarantee your child grows up to be a spiritual champion, but it’s a pretty good start. Deuteronomy 6 places the primary spiritual responsibility for your children on you as a parent. But we as the church occupy a unique position in the life of your family – one that cannot be replaced with clubs and teams. This is the house of God, a gathering of the saints together and an absolute essential in the lifestyle of a Christian family.

So be careful not to prioritise the preparation of your children for a future that may never eventuate. Instead, give your life to establish a legacy for your children and your children’s children.

You cannot outsource your child’s spiritual development.

David Wakerley”



  1. This is great stuff Jeremy.

    Another way to think of this is that someone is forming our kids soul. Someone or something is always forming our kids soul. Be it Lady Gaga, a friend, a coach or the Web. The question for parents is where they find themselves on that list. Personally, I don’t want to be anywhere other than number one on my kids list. In the sports world I see many parents who want to be their kids biggest “fan”. That’s fine. I want to be my kids #1 fan as well. But, our children need far more than our cheers. They need our direction. The impartation of wisdom. The development of empathy and compassion. They need models of what authentic men and women look like. They need guidance. Scripturally, this lies at the essence of what it means to be a parent.

    • I think my worry is that we don’t do the things necessary to “intentionally” assist God in the spiritual formation of our kids. That doesn’t mean that we don’t let life happen most of the time. I think parents/families can take “intentionality” too far. But I definitely think our culture leans more toward the unintentional rather than the intentional… especially when it comes to the most important part of their child’s life. Perhaps that’s it… because it is not a central part of the parent’s lives, maybe it doesn’t gt transferred to their children, thus denigrating it to the basement level instead of the main level.

      You’re right, something or someone is ALWAYS forming us (and our kids). How much we let happen, how much we can control, how much we should infuse, etc. should be what the faith community (the church) talks about regularly… especially when it come to passing on faith to the next generation!

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