Parents and church leaders often wrestle with a couple questions: How can we keep kids in church after they graduate? Why do so many kids walk away from the faith when they grow up?
Many churches have adopted bigger and better programs for youth. When my husband was a youth director, we were always coming up with some tactic to keep kids happy and involved. Our church would give extravagant prizes for memorizing Scripture. We went to camps, Christian college trips, organized prayer meetings, and had some kind of crazy activity every month. And there was more pizza involved than I want to admit.
Many of those kids, who aren’t kids anymore (even if I will always remember them that way) grew up to love Jesus and follow Him. Sadly, many others just didn’t. Sometimes, you could see it coming a mile away, and other times, kids who seemed to be doing well would seem to suddenly begin making a series of bad decisions.
All of this became even more concerning to me when I became a parent. Is it just a matter of trial and error? There’s so many distractions, temptations, and dangers for children. It can be a little overwhelming for parents to think about sometimes! Thankfully, we are not left without any instructions. Maybe you have heard John 4:4:
“greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world”
God is with us in life - and that includes our endeavors in raising our children. We don’t need to be afraid of raising children in uncertain times. But we also need to take action. Parenting is not a passive activity. It’s a battlefield. We need to be armed with truth, and that truth comes from God’s Word. We need to learn it and make it into a lifestyle.
If you want a parenting mantra, there is nothing better than this:
You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
These are the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 6:6-7. When Moses finished giving the children of Israel God’s commandments, he wanted them to know how important they were. The Words of God were to be primary in their life - and our lives, too.
So why are these commandments so important? Because of Who they came from --- God. The One who gave us life in the first place. The One who poured our His life for us. The One who loves us more than anyone else ever could. He’s the reason we have breath in our lungs, the very reason we exist. He is worthy of all of our love - a love from our entire being.
It’s so important that we remember that God’s Word isn’t just a set of rules and regulations for us to follow. God absolutely knows what is best for us since He created us. Not only that, He wants us to have a relationship with Him. If we just try to follow all of God’s rules and commandments without loving Him, we will miss the point, and our kids will get the wrong idea of God and the Christian faith.
Being a parent that loves God and shows that through what we say and do is paramount. When we love Him, He will be first - and that’s evident to kids! Did you ever notice how kids notice everything? I mean, everything. They pick up on our attitudes. They know what we care about. And they are perfect imitators. Children pick up on the passions of their parents, and they are listening when no one thinks they are. And that’s why we must be diligent in our lives to teach them by the way we live. That lifestyle must flow from our love of God.
But it is also a pitfall if we think we can teach our children enough about God by simply loving Him. Yes, I did just say that we lead by example. But that is only half of the equation. We must be constantly devoted to teaching our children God’s Word.
Teaching the Bible can be fun, creative, and build lasting memories. While you teach, you will also learn. Kids have questions, and as you find simple ways to explain ideas, it will be a rewarding experience of growth.
Here are a few things I am learning along the way.
1. Truly teach your child the Bible, not just Bible story books.
This is huge. Tons of devotionals and story books are out there as resources. They are fun, engaging, and helpful. But they can also take the place of the Bible. One day, my husband was reading to our daughter out of the Bible. All of a sudden, she perked up and was excited that she recognized the story. “That’s exactly what happened in my movie!” She exclaimed. She knew the story as a plot in one of her Bible movies, and thought the movie was the origin. I’m glad she knows the story, but I realized that day that I was heavily relying on many sources of media instead of helping her understand it was actually true, and in the Bible.
I do realize that this is a process especially with young children. But I have also come to the conclusion that I needed to be proactive to teach that the Bible is the source of these stories. It is difficult for many children to grasp the concept of reality versus fiction. I know tons of kids who love Spiderman, but these superpowers can be hard to distinguish as pretend if they are not told that it is just pretend.
2. Don’t expect someone else to do it.
You don’t need a degree in Biblical studies to teach your child. You know your kid better than anyone else, and you will learn even more about them as they ask questions, discuss their fears, and learn about God.
Children’s workers at church want to help, but rarely can give individual attention. They also do not have the same influence that you have on your own children. Having support in your church is fabulous, so take advantage of other godly people who want to walk beside you. But make sure you are not depending on them to teach your kids about God. They are there to back you up, not to do the job God gave to you.
3. Let your kids see your passion for the Bible.
This is just a reiteration of showing our love for God. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes — and yet when we choose to genuinely and humbly love God and His Word, our family will be stronger because we have chosen to build it on a strong foundation.
As you read to your children, memorize Scripture with them, and talk about concepts, your kids will grow excited to learn more.
How I love your law! It is my meditation all day. Psalm 119:97
Do you feel like you are equipped to teach your children about God?