I felt like I was looking at myself 12 years in the future. It’s graduation time, a time of celebrations and parties and cake…lots and lots of cake. Among all the celebrations, pushed to the side and the back of the mind are fears, worries and frustrations. I was at such a party recently as one of the boys that has been in our youth group since he was old enough to go was graduating high school. I’ve known this guy since he was in fifth grade and had watched him grow up almost every week at church, youth group and various church functions…he’s always been there, and now he won’t be. His big plans for the future include moving to Bloomington (IN) and going to college, maybe looking at a career in finance-maybe law enforcement—who knows. What has struck me, and stayed with me since that party is the palpable concern this kids father had for him…for his physical well-being sure…but he was much more deeply concerned about his spiritual well-being. This father has been through this before…in fact the physical make-up of his family is much like mine…Two girls and the youngest, a boy…all about two-ish years apart. Now the youngest was moving out…the boy has been open enough with his father—they talk—and at a much deeper level of communication than saying “your shirts on fire,” you know, the essential-bare minimum that most guys use to communicate, and he knows his son has been having some real doubts about faith and Christianity and he’s afraid that his son will, like so many others, walk away from the faith. I certainly don’t want to be in his shoes in twelve years…with those kinds of fears…but if I’m really honest, I have those fears now. The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that we also know that we can do everything right as parents (prayer, catechism, Bible study) and a kid may still walk away from the faith. (Romans 9:18)
What can we, as parents do then to keep this from happening? In short, nothing—we are helpless to keep it from happening if it’s going to happen. What we can do while our children are under our care is to do everything we can to set them on the right path.
Prayer—Of course all parents pray for their children—and maybe even pray specifically for their children and their needs…but how many take the time to pray WITH our children regularly and consistently…and not just before meals. How many of us take the time to teach our children about the true nature of prayer and how to pray? If a child sees prayer as something that’s important to you they are much more likely to model that in their own lives.
Furthermore, we know that everything is in God’s hands…He hardens and softens hearts, away from or towards Him, we know that he desires all to be saved, and we know that these children are merely entrusted to our care for a short while (in the scope of eternity) God is in control, and our worry over the things we cannot control doesn’t help the situation…”And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Trust in God and commit your children spiritual condition to Him and the results will be what He allows them to be, whether we understand or not. I once heard the story of a woman that prayed for her son every day for 45 years before he came to Christ. Prayer always works. Pray…Trust God.
Catechesis—There is much to be said for catechesis and it’s something we, in Baptist circles, have lost. I really believe it helps further ones understand of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit and helps give one a better idea of the narrative of the Bible. I like-and am using-the Westminster Shorter Catechism, I like its question & answer format, and the questions and answers are short and to the point…it’s easy for a child, even a young one, to catch on. For a more through catechesis and for older children I would recommend the London Baptist Confession of 1689. Catechesis can do a better job of helping one understand the overarching theme of Scripture than dragging a kid to Sunday School week-in and week-out.
Bible Study—Helping your child understand the Bible, that it is God’s truth from the very first word to the very last, is the job of every Christian parent. Helping your child get more than just a story or two here or there but a firm understanding of the overarching theme of redemption and justice, law and grace—and a Saviors divine love. I think what sets a lot of children on the wrong path is the teaching the Bible is not truth from the very first word but to say that only parts of it are true accounts and other parts or stories and myths or that the Bible was only inspired but is not infallible, that kind of thinking has permeated the church and is a primary reason, I think, of why so many children wander from the faith after leaving home. If we don’t believe the first eleven chapters of the Book…then how can we believe the rest?
As I said earlier, we can do all these things and a child may still wander from the faith, it is all in God’s hands…but doing these three things can help either set the path more straight or make it a long and winding road. I don’t look forward to the day my youngest graduates and leaves home, would that I could I’d probably choose to keep them all the same age they are now forever, but I know that won’t happen. I do trust God and I know He is always faithful, I’ll do what I can to help my children learn and grow in the knowledge of the truth, but I have to leave the results in His hands…and He is much more capable than I am.