Tomorrow morning I plan to preach out of the book of Malachi about parenting and leading children to believe the Gospel. Let me tell you a few things I believe about the church’s involvement with children. First, the Bible is clear that parents are the primary educators and pastors in the lives of their kids. The church is here to support parents, and supplement what they do, not to do the spiritual training of your children for you. Second, the single most important influence in a child’s life will be his parents. For the most part, children will become missionaries of the gods their parents pursue. Parents who live for the weekend, materialism, sports, or other false gods of this culture will end up with kids whose lives are consumed by these things. Religious parents who see church as a necessary evil and God as a distant reality will generally end up with kids who reject organized religion as having relevance. Parents who are passionate about God will develop children who are willing to give their lives for the cause of Jesus. Third, the best way parents can pass their love for God and desire for their kids to know Him is by finding ways to talk about God and the things of God. God said this to His people in the Old Testament,
Hear oh Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall TEACH THEM (emphasis mine) diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Dueteronomy 6:4-7)
First, the command is to love God with all of one’s being. Second to that is the passing on of that love to one’s children. Look at what God said, talk about God and the things of God when you sit in your house, when you take walks (or rides in the car), when you go to bed, when you get up in the morning. This is so much more than a short family devotion once a week, or a quick, “how was church, kids”. God seems to be encouraging a manner of life that finds the conversation about God a natural and consistent reality.
This is a far cry from the mindset of most Christian parents I’ve encountered. After almost twenty years serving in youth ministry, I can say that I only found a handful of parents who made conversations about God a consistent topic of conversation in the home. So many felt they were doing their “Christian duty” by getting the kids to church once a week, yet many of them wondered why their kids did not have a whole lot of interest in God. One of the great things I can say about my heritage is that I had this. My parents spent a lot of time talking about God and the things of God. We did family Bible readings, and my dad loved to discuss theology and the practice of the Christian life. I hope and pray that my love for Jesus is transferable to my children as well.
Later this week, I will write another post with some recommended resources that parents can use to start discussions with their kids. I’ll be sure to share a few for parents whose kids are babies and toddlers, a few for elementary aged kids, and a few for parents whose kids are teens. But I wanted to begin with a challenge. Your kids will become missionaries for the gods you love and pursue the most!