Summary: to encourage the church to make children’s ministry a priority and to encourage parents
Train Up a Child
Primary Purpose: To talk about the responsibility of parents and the church to raise up their children to a mature faith in Christ.
When I first met many of you, I talked to you for a little bit about what some of my goals are for the church. I mentioned prayer, outreach and children. I believe my very words that night were “I want the church to be filled with children”. The Bible also places an importance on children and our ministry towards them. It’s an awesome thing to have the responsibility as a parent. It’s our duty as a church to stand besides the parents in our church and community and support them in every way we can.
A study once disclosed that if Mom and Dad attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful to church attendance. If only dad, 55% remain faithful. If only Mom, then 15%. If neither attend regularly, only 6% remain faithful. This to me shows the real importance of parents modeling for their children their faith.
A British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge had a discussion with a man who firmly believed that children should not be given formal religious instruction, but should be free to choose their own religious faith when they reached maturity. Coleridge did not disagree, but later invited the man into a somewhat neglected garden. “Do you call this a garden?” the visitor exclaimed. “There are nothing but weeds here!”
“Well, you see,” Coleridge replied, “I did not wish to infringe upon the liberty of the garden in any way. I was just giving the garden a chance to express itself.” (Daily Walk, March 28, 1992)
Scripture tells us that we are to be intentional about the way that we raise up children in the faith. It tells us that we are to be about this task diligently and daily. Much of this teaching happens during the natural part of living out our lives with them, not just sitting in a pew somewhere. Children are like little sponges. They soak up everything they hear. If the T.V. is the one raising up your children, forming their opinion and thoughts then you’ll lose them. Likewise, if we wait till they are teenagers to begin planting seeds of faith in their lives we will lose them. It’s important to plant those seeds early and often.
So, just what are we to teach children:
1. To love the Lord completely- v.5. We should seek to teach kids that our faith means more to us that coming to a specific church on Sundays. It means a vital relationship with Jesus. Look at Mark 10:14. Jesus told his disciples not to hinder the children. We can still hinder children from the faith if all we talk to them about is a list of do’s and don’t. Sometimes as believers we are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
When I was in seminary, I lived in a small one bedroom apartment. I was single at the time and didn’t have much. I was turning off the lights to go to bed one night. As I tried to make my way to the bed with the lights off, I misjudged the width of the door frame and slammed my toes up against the wall. I am pretty sure I broke a bone in my right foot that night. It was terrible. For days afterward my toes was black and blue. A lot of kids in our community are also walking in the dark. They don’t have much spiritual guidance or support. The parents are too busy to pay any attention to their kids. Of course, these parents will have to answer to God for that. We are to do everything we can to express to them the importance of loving God with their whole heart. And to express that God loves them.
In practical terms this means that we budget and focus our attention on the children’s ministry. It means that parents and adults take their turn in the nursery and work with the children. It means I don’t think of that time as a waste of time. It means we make it a priority.
Most people are saved before they turn 18. This is another reason to work with children, because children respond to the gospel. We need to teach kids that the faith isn’t just about what you don’t do. It isn’t just a list of do’s and don’t. The faith is about a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. It is primarily positive and not negative in nature.
2. To love others- Jesus said that this was the second most important commandment in the Bible. He linked these two commands together even though they are not together in Scripture. He is quoting Leviticus 19:18.