Difficult Raising Children in the Lord…
Every day my first prayer request is the same. It’s that my daughters, Andrea and Addie, would come to place their trust in Jesus as their Savior and would follow Him all the days of their lives. Fellow parents—I’m sure your heart is the same. We have no greater responsibility than to raise our children in the Lord and teach them the things of God. Beyond our biblically mandated calling, there is nothing more we should hope for our children.
But carrying out this task is not easy. For one, we can’t snap our fingers and it’s all done. I wish at the reading of our first Bible story when my girls were babies, I had completed the task of leading them to the Lord. But that was the start of a long process. Along with it not being quick, we can’t just sign our children up for an activity and they become a Christian like how we are able to turn them into baseball players and ballerinas. And maybe what is more difficult is that all of the teachings and actions that it takes to carry out this task—flies in the face of our culture. It seems everything in this world is against us raising our children in the Lord.
Positive Steps Have Been Made This Summer…
But for many of you—this week, earlier this summer, or in the weeks to come progression has been made in your child’s life in their Godward direction through a mission trip, youth conference, youth camp, VBS, or other summer church activity. How wonderful! Have you stopped and realized this blessing! Your number one responsibility, your greatest hope for them, and the most difficult task has succeeded in some way! Amen!
But parent—Do not squander this opportunity. Do not let your child step back from this recent spiritual growth. Fan the flame!
The task of raising our children in the Lord is hard as we have said. Spiritual growth and commitment can’t be forced. I’m told that in the day of the Puritans, if you went for pastoral counseling, the pastor would tell you to “put yourself in the way of the Lord.” This meant pray, open your Bible, go to church, worship, serve, talk about your faith, etc., and as you put yourself in the way of God He would show up. And often as a parent all we can do is put our kids in the way of the Lord and hopefully He runs over them. Like leaving them in the middle of the road hoping the God-dump-trucks runs them down.
This summer you allowed your child to be in the way of the Lord by sending them on this activity and He ran over them. Your prayers have been answered, please don’t take it lightly. Here are some ways to keep the fire from summer youth camp up.
Prayer is not the last resort in our Christian life, it’s our number one weapon. God can do more in the second He shows up than a lifetime of us busting our butts. Never cease praying for child’s salvation and commitment to Jesus. When you hear a spiritual growth catalyst event for your child announced at your church—start praying for God to move in their life. When you sign them up—pray for God to work in a mighty way. When you sacrificial pay that registration fee—pray that the investment pays off. When they are gone pray your guts out that God will work in them. And when they return keep praying that they would keep the progress they have made.
If you pray, God answers! If you prayed for Him to work in your child’s life at that event—He did. Expect God has worked. Maybe you are just reading this and you haven’t prayed for your child’s summer church activity, don’t worry. Still expect God has worked. Even if you have that stoic teenage boy that only grunts and farts, there is no way that God did not penetrate his heart in some way. Approach the days following the trip as if God has worked in the life of your child.
I have girls who never shut-up so I’m sure getting them to talk will not be a problem, but I know not all kids are talkers, especially, regarding spiritual things. Still ask them about the trip. Hear the physical details, but push for the spiritual details. Our decisions in Christ are not personal, they are so important they should be what we share. This may be new for your family, but take the step to talk about what God has done.
Your child may not even be able to put into words what happened and that is ok, but whatever happened spiritually in their life—celebrate it. Make that the lead when you retell what happened in your kid’s life at camp. Let that be your Facebook post or Tweet. If your child was saved find some way to mark this event as special. Have a special dinner. Do a special activity. Get a commemorative gift. Just dance around the house in excitement.
If your child has rededicated their life or made another commitment—celebrate. Make the celebration bigger than that Science Award or the District Basketball Championship.
God has worked in your child’s life, and just them leaving the mountaintop experience of camp or the mission trip will be discouraging. Everything is stacked against them to keep that spiritual fire, so please do not add anything to quench it. Don’t immediately jump into another activity, you need to savor this spiritual event. Even if there is no getting around the next activity, don’t stop talking about this camp or conference experience. If you are going on a family vacation immediately following the event, still go to church and encourage your child to keep up Quiet Time devotionals. If they have to jump to a ball game or some other activity, consider taking the weekend tournament off and savor this spiritual growth.
Even if you do not understand all that your child experienced or do not believe its “real” be careful what you say. Your child also may have made a commitment to leave certain sins. They probably are not going to be straightforward with that information, but if they try to avoid things—let them. They may not go out Saturday night with their old friends—it’s for a reason, don’t encourage them to do so. They may make a change in music or tv—support it.
This sounds stupid, but as a youth pastor and later a senior pastor I repeatedly saw this. A student would go to camp and trust Jesus as their Savior, but their family would be so busy with activities when they got home that they would not be able to schedule a baptism for months. Or a student would rededicate their life and be on fire, but they wouldn’t even show up to church the next Sunday or next youth night. Do not let time go by between a commitment and follow-up.
The Effort is Worth It…
I hope your child had a mountaintop spiritual experience this summer! What a blessing! Parents, lets help keep them in the way of the Lord.
So I have spent the past 15 years supporting and championing youth and children’s ministries. I have devoted my life to it; whether it was volunteering as an AWANA leader while in High School, youth pastoring, leading children’s ministries, serving as a youth evangelist, working in youth and children’s summer camp ministry, or now pastoring a church that is devoted to the ministry of youth and children. I have felt that every ounce of energy and effort of mine and those who have worked alongside me has been worth it. I believe every resource I have begged for has been worth it as well.
I share that only to show how much I believe reaching the younger generation is a vital task. It is so important because statistics show that a very high majority of all who trust Christ as their Savior do so before 18, if not earlier. Statistics also tell us that a person’s values are set as low as age 10. I have argued and shared to churches I have served and others that it was absolutely essential to minister to our youth and children number based on the statistics showed earlier, but also the number one reason being that they would simply be saved and decided to follow the Lord for their whole life ahead. I have been motivated also because they are the future of the church. Really they aren’t just the future, they are the present of the church.
I have preached and preached, and wholeheartedly believed in the great value of reaching the younger generation. I can not stress to you how much I believed it was vital for a church and individual to devote themselves to such work. Yet, all of that passion and effort was before having children of my own. Even though I didn’t have children I saw the need. I preached on the need and argued for the need, but at that point I still I had no idea how vital it was.
About five years ago, although I never gave up on youth and children’s church ministries, I became convinced that it was ultimately up to a child’s family to make a transformative impact on their child’s life. I had become discouraged by the national statistics on the impact and influence churches were having on the younger generation. I also became discouraged from my own results. Also Scripture is very, very clear that it is the responsibility of the parents to actively raise their child in the Lord. So with that, I began to push family ministry within our church and encourage others to do the same. Then after a couple years of that push in my life, we found out we were to have a child. We prepared for our first child 3 years ago, and due to my heart for reaching children and heavy- hearted belief that the greatest impact came from the home, I went into crazy preparation mode on how I could raise my daughter (now daughters) in the Lord.
Again I never gave up on a church’s role in ministering to that younger generation, but I did become skeptical. I was very discouraging to our church’s youth pastor as I told him often he was fighting a losing battle.
So our daughter was born and the mission was on for me to “train up my child in the way she should go”. Not only was the mission on, but so was reality. The reality is that I have probably only carried out 20% of what I hoped to do with my girls. That is because life is busy, I can be lazy, there are lots of options on TV, it takes work, and they are just kids not seasoned theologians I picture in my head. Now I have been utterly shocked at how little that has to be done to make an impact, but that is a story for another blog.
Although we do regularly keep steady Biblical and spiritual training ongoing in the house with our girls (thanks so much to my wife), our girls respond very little to what we say. We struggle to see the fruits on our own labor, but Sunday afternoons, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights are a total different story.
There is not a Wednesday night following our children’s ministry program, Vernkids, that our oldest is not repeating a whole Bible story or stating a virtue she learned that night. This week she wanted to start learning her “Berse”. On Sundays at lunch it is the same thing. She repeats an entire story, maybe even the same story we have read 10 times together. Then on Sunday nights in the Fall both my girls come home singing a song about Jesus from their children’s choir. My eyes have been opened to a whole new level to the essentialness of ministry to youth and children.
If I believed it was vital before, now as a parent I believe it tenfold — probably even more. It is not just the lessons from the church programs though, it is that volunteers and teachers from our church that have caused my children to love going to church. At least at this point members of our church have caused them to love and value church, therefore caused them to love and value Jesus.
It is the responsibility of my wife and I to disciple our girls, but we could not do it without our community of faith, our church as a whole solidifies and puts wings on what we try to instill at home.
I don’t mean to discount Biblical training and faith talk in the home. Even though I don’t hear or see the fruit from our direct work I do believe that the home and church are to go hand in hand.
As a pastor I am thankful and greatly appreciate our youth and children’s ministries, but as a parent I am forever indebted to our youth and children’s programs, their leaders, and volunteers.
I have only been doing this parenting thing in church a short while, but there are so many already who have made life-long impacts on my girls.
Again, I am forever indebted to:
I just did a really dumb thing as a pastor and as a parent by actually listing names. I know I left off someone or someones who have been essential in my child’s faith.
I took such a risk because I wanted to show how that it takes a “village” err — a “church” to raise a child up in the Lord. Now it doesn’t work in that a church is to be held completely responsible for all your child’s spiritual training, but the church can tremendously enhance whatever you are doing at home.
I also took the risk so that if you are an adult who is serving in your church, you would know you are making a tremendous impact.
Also I took this risk because I believe it is essential not only that parents see the need in having a church help in the raising of their child in the Lord, but it is also essential that you have your child participating regularly.