Several years ago I read an article about students who left the church after they went to college. The article suggested that the majority of these children left the church because their faith had never become their own: they were still piggy-backing on their parent’s faith. And once they left their parent’s nest, they did not have a personal relationship, the foundation to maintain their faith.
Picture it this way: Jesus is the Great Shepherd and He has leant us some lambs to take care of our children for a season. That season is only a fourth of these little lambs’ lifetimes. Ultimately the most important thing we can do is to lead these lambs to the Great Shepherd, so that when they grow-up to be sheep, they know His voice, trust His care, and want to follow Him of their own accord.
So the question is, how do we lead our children to the Great Shepherd and teach them to know His voice, trust His care, and want to follow Him?
One proposition this article made was that our simplified, child-ish telling of the Gospel story kept our children drinking spiritual milk, that parents, and children’s ministries, were not helping children graduate to solid spiritual food. When our children are young, we talk about Jesus like we would a friend, a buddy, a special blanket, or stuffed animal: He is there to keep us safe, help us, and love us. And while all those things are absolutely true about our gracious and loving Savior and Lord, we do our children a great disservice if we leave Jesus there.
- What about the God who is completely sovereign in the face of trials?
- What about the God who omnipotent when challenges come?
- What about the God who is jealous of other gods and idols we try to serve?
- What about the God who is holy and asks us to be holy?
So as our children grow up, we need to be continuing to give them a bigger picture of God: a full, Biblical picture. We must go beyond the cute Bible storybooks (which have a place, don’t get me wrong!), beyond the cute songs at Vacation Bible School (I love VBS!) beyond the entertaining games and pranks at youth group (why else will high schoolers come?). We are feeding our childrens’ bodies with food appropriate for their development but are we feeding our growing children solid, biblical theology? Or are we keeping God too simple and too human-like that they out-grow their need for God.
Children are meant to out-grow their parent’s support. By two years old, they can help pick up their toys. By five years old, they can cut their own food. By eight years old, they can set the table for a meal. By ten years old, they can bike down the street to a friend’s house. By thirteen, they can…(take your pick!) And we know, in these circumstances it is normal and right for children to out-grow their parents. Most responsible parents even want their children to learn to drive, learn to cook a meal, learn to do their own laundry, etc. before they move out! Yet, when it comes to talking about God and Jesus, few parents get beyond the theology of “helper” and “friend.”
As a parent, I want my children to be able to stand up for their faith before they leave my home. That means intentionally teaching them Christian apologetics and about other religions (gasp! I know!). That means practicing to defend their faith to their peers and even their teachers in a respectful and loving way. That means talking about the hard questions that the world is going to ask them. That means talking to them about the cost: what persecution they may face so that they have already decided before that time what they will do. That means reading the real Bible, cover to cover and discussing hard and uncomfortable topics with them (even Song of Solomon!).
As a parent, I want my children to see that God isn’t just theirs. That people, great people of history have done some amazing things through God. I want them to hear of people from different cultures and countries worshipping the same God that we do. And I want them to be inspired to join God in whatever He has called them to do. That means reading biographies and histories of Christians throughout history. That means reading current literature by theologians and Christian leaders of today. That means seeing that the God of history is still alive and working today, all around the globe! That means reading the whole Bible and discussing how it tells that God is on mission to save the world through His son, Jesus Christ.
As a parent, I want my children to see a God worth joining. I want them to know He is bigger than history. Today so many people are talking about “legacy” and “self-care” and “self-worth” – what if we stuck to what the Bible says: God made history and joining Him would leave an eternal legacy, loving Him is the most truthful way of understanding yourself, and that knowing what your Creator says about you and made you to be is the only Truth worth knowing! That means reading the Bible, cover to cover, and daily helping them apply it to their lives and current situation.
So, parents, are you taking your children to the Great Shepherd? Are you showing them all of His attributes and qualities? Are you pointing them to a God that is eternal and unchanging? Do you want to set them up to leave a legacy that “neither dust nor moth can destroy?” Join my Facebook community, because in there, you will find other families who desire to do just that. Together, we can learn how to better set our children up to serve and love the God that made them on purpose for a purpose “for such a time as this.”