How in the world are we going to raise godly kids in a sin-centered culture?
For well over a decade, social media has evolved and exploded from days of primitive “My Space” accounts that had teens glued to the family computer (under some sort of supervision?), to the now ever-present Snapchat videos and pornography in the palm of their hand. They can gain access to nearly anything they want in seconds! At any given moment they can watch Giancarlo Stanton hit towering home-runs, see what Taylor Swift’s wearing in her latest music video, or watch Justin Bieber act like fool on TMZ. Tack on the latest pressure to conform to sexuality trends in the LGBTQ community, and we’ve really got to ask the question: Will the watered down, entertainment driven children’s programming at your local mega-church help you raise godly children in this age?
Christians need to start asking the hard questions of their churches because it’s going to take more than a fancy building and feel good programming to raise a godly generation who is truly salt and light.
I talk to numerous parents on a weekly basis and even though they’re all different, their love for their children and desire to see them grow into strong Christians is unanimously the same. But just like anything in life, you can want the big time results, but if you don’t practice, and practice the right way, you won’t achieve your goal. Imagine two athletes training for the Olympics coming up in Rio. Now, let’s say they both train for an equal 1000 hours to compete in the 1500 meter run. However, one of them trains for this long distance run by doing sprints and power lifting, while the other trains by running longer distances over time, pushing the pace farther and faster, until running 1500 meters is clock work. Which one practiced for the right event, the right way, and makes the Olympic team? You get the picture.
Christian parents have always had the same task and the stakes have always been high, but the game has changed. In today’s fast paced world, we need to ensure that our strategy for raising godly children isn’t viewed as a sprint, but rather, as a long distance haul that is going to need progressive training. Thankfully, our Coach, and His inerrant training manual hasn’t changed for 2000 years.
If you’ll turn to Scripture to train your children, you’ll find it is loaded with transformational truth that can take your kid from being obsessed with their image on Instagram, to being shaped into the image of Christ. What’s the catch? There are no guarantees, no days off, you’ll wear out your knees, have to put down the phone, turn off ESPN, and have to read more than just Facebook statuses and tweets. Then, after at least 18 years of hard work, you’ll be out even more money when they ask you to pay for college! Ask any athlete who’s won gold, and any parent who’s raised godly kids by the grace of God and they’ll tell you – it’s worth every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears.
If you’re new to Christian parenting or have been choosing a home church based on how many Xbox stations they have or how trendy the design scheme is, you may need change your approach. Choose a church because it has a track record of solid pastors and leaders who support families and make disciples down the home stretch. Also, before you think church relocation, pray for a renovation – the spiritual kind – at your church. Talk to your children’s pastor, ask them what their discipleship strategy is for your kids, ask them for resources to help you become a better Christian parent, and ask them what the long-term vision is for ensuring your kids know their Bible and know Christ. Finally, make sure you’re taking responsibility by putting into practice these 5 Christian parenting strategies every chance you get:
- Teach them how to read their Bible.
This starts with you parent, so ask yourself, “Do I know how to read my Bible and do I actually do it?” If so, make sure you model this for them. It’s mostly caught not taught so ensure that they see you do it before commanding that they do it.
- Pray with them daily.
This one isn’t easy, but it’s one of the most rewarding things to watch progress. Lots of parents pray, but make sure you’re praying together. I remember my wife insisting that we begin to kneel around the bedside and pray with our newborn son when he was barely 3 months old. I scoffed, “He doesn’t have a clue what’s going on at this age, why can’t we just put him to bed and go relax?” My wife persisted, and remembering the advice of older men I replied, “Yes dear.” Now almost 2 years later when I see my son fold his hands, join us in prayer, and shout “AMEN!” at the end, I’ve realized that we didn’t start this when he was 3 months old to train him, we started early to begin training ourselves.
- Teach them about sin and how it separates from God.
Just the other day I overheard a parent tell their child at church, “You need to be obedient and stop lying. That’s sin that needs to be confessed to God.” The pre-teen replied arrogantly, “God loves me anyways, so it’s ok.” The parent proceeded to explain that God does love them, but sin is what separated man from God in the beginning and still does today. It needs to be confessed and Christ’s work on the cross enables us to be reconciled to God the Father. I didn’t interfere but I wanted to shout “Yes!” as this parent used the Gospel to correct their child.
- Teach them about God’s loving mercy through His Son Jesus Christ.
Love and mercy isn’t just giving to the poor, helping a friend, or giving someone a hug. Love and mercy is the cross of Christ redeeming dead sinners. Your kid’s need to be taught that good deeds without Christ are useless in the long run. Can you kids articulate the Gospel in their own way based on their age? It could be as simple as them learning to sing “Jesus Loves Me”, or helping them understand John 3:16 by explaining that God sent His Son so we could be with Him one day, or as complex as having them study what the hypostatic union is and why it’s significant. Kids don’t need to be theologians by the age of 12 but they do need good theology. Before you picture the word “theology” as an old recluse monk reading by candlelight, or a 75-year-old preacher saying “thee, thou, thy” while the kids fall asleep in the pews, keep in mind it can be defined as simply as, “getting to know your God” or “God-logic.”
- Teach them to examine their own salvation.
The American church has got into some troubling times because for decades we told people they’re saved if they “prayed the sinner’s prayer.” What followed for many people was the same old lifestyle, but with a little church on Easter sprinkled here, and a little Christian radio on the way to work there. We need to teach our children that true salvation bears lasting fruit, and true followers of Christ are known by the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in their life, and their obedience to Christ (John 14:21; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20)
Looking for a jump-start for your efforts that your kids will love? Find a local Vacation Bible School (VBS) and get them signed up. Here’s a quick look at Mission Bible Church’s VBS that wrapped up last weekend. There is plenty of time left this summer.