Summary: Children need to know God's Truth; they can't simply take on their parent's beliefs, but need to understand and receive the truth of God on their own. Parents have a responsibility to guide children in the way they're to go.
Being a parent is an enormous responsibility. I can’t think of anything in life that’s more challenging. I’ve been to war, and I’ve had kids; war was easier.
Proverbs 22:6 tells parents to “Train up children in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” This is a principle, a probability, not a promise. There is no guarantee our children will become believers. They may, in fact, reject our faith and values altogether.
It is vital that we impart our beliefs to our children, that we urge them to love God and desire to grow spiritually. Otherwise they will be like ships without a rudder. A son who rejected his parent’s values later complained that his life was meaningless. His mother said, “If you reject God and His word, life does indeed lack purpose. But you can get back on track.”
A Jewish father complained to the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism, that his son had forgotten God. “What, Rabbi, shall I do?” The Baal Shem Tov replied, “Love him more than ever.”
If we want our kids to know God we need to start early. Our homes should be filled with religious music, age-appropriate books of Bible stories, videos and games designed to communicate our faith. And I can’t stress enough having daily family devotions; right after dinner is often a good time for this. You can read from a devotional book and have a brief prayer. And Sunday School is a non-negotiable. Parents tell me their kids don’t feel like going; yet that excuse doesn’t work Monday morning. Train up children in the way they should go…and go there yourself.
When it comes to matters of eternal importance, parents are a child’s principle teachers. However, they also need to listen to their kids, to find out what it is they understand about God. Children who can’t explain the Gospel message and how it applies to them may not be Christian. Children don’t absorb faith by osmosis. Children who grow into the faith usually have been nurtured by parents who teach and live it. Children form impressions of what God is like from parents--God’s representatives--who’ve been given to them.
I get baptism requests from parents who don’t attend church and don’t intend to. I wonder if they regard baptism as “fire insurance”, a rite-of-passage, or an excuse for a party. If that’s all it is, only 2 things are being accomplished: they’re wasting their time, and their child gets wet. If parents have no intention of nurturing that child’s faith and utilizing the resources of the church, the ritual is meaningless. If you are not instructing your children in the faith, you are, in truth, harming them—morally and spiritually. You’re leaving them open to all the negative influences of the world.
When I was stationed in Germany with the 3rd Armored Division, my Brigade asked to use my chapel for an awards ceremony. A soldier came early and asked me, “Chaplain, what exactly goes on in here? I’ve never been in a church before.” I could only wonder why his parents didn’t bring him to God’s house.