It often perplexes my mind when I hear people discuss their decision to “not” teach spiritual things to their children. For the staunch atheist or pagan I could understand, but this mind I hear from many professing believers. Some of their excuses include, “I want my children to make their own choices,” or “I just don’t think it is right to force Christian teaching on my kids.”  If this logic was equivocal on the plain I would accept it, but it isn’t. People make their children learn certain academic subjects that are truly just for the sake of being “well-rounded.” They encourage and reward their children to exercise discipline to learn mathematics, history, sociology etc. with the idea that these things are to be known for their good but yet they feel that spiritual teaching of God’s word is less than important.

Another reason that some believers don’t teach their children scripture is that they feel inadequate to do so but feel as though the “local” program for children can fill the gap in their ignorance. The truth is that children are more influenced by parental teaching than any other. SO, someone else can instruct children in spiritual things but if parents do not reinforce and at the minimum, show an interest in this learning, the child will soon depart from the heart of it. Keep in mind that I am not speaking of salvation, the new birth, justification, or anything else that comes by the work of God alone, but speaking of the foundations of such things: hearing the word of God.

Here are a few things in my mind, and in my experience, that should be considered regarding the teaching of children:

  1. Children must be TAUGHT EVERYTHING they are to learn. If we think they’ll get their “own” way soon enough, they most certainly will. Whatever we teach them they will learn. Learning is not belief or obedience, but learning brings the power of LIFE as the Spirit brings life through hearing by giving hearing. (Rom 10:17)
  2. Parental figures are the PRIMARY TEACHERS. Nothing will ever replace the direct and indirect teaching of parental influence. As an adult, I have many habits and practices that I realize I mimic from my father. These are learned behaviors and ideas that were not directly taught. Parents that do not love the word of God will have children that will NOT LOVE the word of God.
  3. Entertainment is the opposite of learning. So often people think that kids need to incorporate FUN FUN FUN with the learning of God’s word. When is the last time you ever saw a 1st grade teacher play dodgeball while teaching addition? How about a high school calculus class using drama to enforce a mathematical truth? All learning can be enjoyable, but it is a lie that it has to be a certain “level” of attraction for children: They learn more than adults anyway these days.
  4. Churches are often ill-prepared: Some well-meaning people pull kids out of worship and preaching to accommodate  their little weak minds while the scripture teaches that more children flocked around Jesus to listen than did adults at times. Jesus even said, “do not hinder…”.  When we separate the children from the teaching of the word, we hinder them against the command of Christ.  While children’s programming can be useful, in the long-haul, it divides the body of Christ and destroys the essence of future generations who feel like the church should “give me what I want…”
  5. Teaching and Living go hand-in-hand. The word of God is replete with examples of teaching and then exhortation to live out a teaching. Surely, as believers, we know that all good works are fulfilled by God, but we know the warning that if God is not transforming His people, then they are not His people because HE DOES and never leaves a child to rot. So, children need to hear and see the word lived out in adults. They need to see forgiveness and repentance. They need to see worship and affection for God’s people.
  6. Zeal and Love are different beasts. Loving the teaching of God without doing the teaching of God in loving His people at the cost of us is a lie according to John. We lie when we say we love orthodoxy but don’t LIVE according to orthodoxy. My hyper-grace friends can just click off of this now, as some of them may have cut much of the NT from their bibles. Having zeal for teaching our kids the right theology will never save them; living without love is condemnation, because Christ alone through Faith alone by Grace alone produces zealous love for God and His people.
  7. Love vs. Obey.  “If you love me you will obey my commands.” This is a very difficult pill to swallow from the mouth of Jesus. When we teach children we need to teach them that love is obedience.  Jesus loves the Father so He went to the cross in obedience. We love Jesus (because we have been born of God), so we follow after Him. Teaching children that one can love with a “feeling” while hating with “actions” is deplorable. Do children see US loving in this way?
  8. Teaching TRUTH is not revealing ERROR. So many polemics think they are making disciples by showing all the bad stuff. NEWS FLASH: you will never find time for truth and worship if your life is lived for the pointing out of the world’s error.  We know error because WE KNOW THE TRUTH; not the other way around. I know so many people who were taught by their parents of all the “bad”  things out there.  They know everything wrong in the world and yet they still know nothing right – ergo, they do not know Jesus Christ because they have been denied discipleship: teaching them to obey all I have commanded you!!!!!!!

Much more could be said and may well be said in the future. Add your voice and add to these points. My mind leaves me this moment so as for my children I want to show them, teach them, pray for them and trust in the Lord even when I royally destroy everything I employ!  So point 9 – The Lord is faithful, even when we are NOT!

Trust in the Lord and His word. Even when we as parents do it all wrong, if we invest in prayer and scripture with our kids, we can trust the Lord to bring the fruit!  Glad aren’t you!  Because otherwise, we are all miserable failures…. but alas, Jesus Christ came to save sinners.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Pastor James

Over a decade ago we painfully transitioned to integrated family worship. This means that all people who are part of the family of faith, all ages, sit together under the preaching of the word of God. The first year or two it was difficult for many reasons: we couldn’t handle our children, other people didn’t know what to do about a kid who may make a noise, it was different, visitors were caught off guard…. the list could go on. But ten years later, while there are always matters to deal with along with 30 children sitting in the services at any given time and three infants on the way in the fall, we have seen so much more blessings from this decision than any of these pains would discourage us. And every now and then we see a little light and encouragement on how God teaches children in the midst of the church.

This past Lord’s day one such example was given and in my experience, it was the youngest example of “listening” I have ever seen.  My two year old daughter was doing her usual: sitting with grandparents and back and two between folks in the church trying to “talk quietly” and “listen.” Usually this is cemented with a well-placed snack. (meh).  The text for the day was 1 Thessalonians 4:15 – “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” For the introduction and then as a reminder halfway through the message (63 minutes this day), I was making the case that our natural instinct when hurt is to hurt back. I used the illustration of how our children, even at a young age reveal depravity and sinfulness even though they do not know or recognize it as rebellion. I was discussing how we are patient with them as they progress and grow and in the same manner God has been patient with us and even patient with “vessels of destruction.”  Either way, God is patient and we are patient.

I alluded to a basic expression of rebellion that most children do, the crying for no reason, the testing, looking, whining etc. and in the midst of this example my two year old looks at those around her and says, “My daddy’s talking about me.”  A low chuckle birthed from that area of the congregation and an epiphany was born. We know that God is sovereign to teach through the word and no matter what “educators” teach, God is greater than our ability to teach. The New Testament shows us that children flocked to Jesus as He taught ALL PEOPLE; and they understood Him. We learned by statements like this that children hear, listen and by the grace of God, understand. Not only was Abby listening (even though it appeared she wasn’t), she resonated with the experience of her sinful actions as they were illustrated, without the use of her name.

Remember beloved, our God is gracious and can pierce the hearts and minds of the infantile, the ignorant, the young, the old, the stubborn and the incapable. He is mighty to save and reveal even those things that are impossible to see. Scripture teaches through the mouth of Jesus that unless our faith be like the little children we cannot inherit the kingdom of Heaven. This shows us that ALL OF THE WORK of salvation is God’s doing, not man’s. Glory be to God for His faithfulness. I have hundreds of examples like this of children hearing and understanding deep things, but this is by far the youngest and I thought I would share.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor James