I can still remember my wife and I taking our daughter and son to the doctor when they were babies to see where they ranked in size and weight and being so proud that they were above average in their development. We marveled over ﬁrst teeth, baby steps, and the sounds of their ﬁrst words. They have played baseball and softball in the past, and it is satisfying to see them growing stronger and more competitive. They have become successful in 4-H and have excelled in school and in academic competitions. My children will soon both be in the second half of K-12 education.
My wife and I have often thought about what future course they will chart beyond high school, and I know that every caring parent wonders the same about their children. At a young age, we started savings accounts, college funds, and began planning for the inevitable braces and the dreaded teenage car insurance bills. We have been explaining the need for them to be ﬁnancially responsible and teaching them to invest in their futures. We want them to be successful and be able to have a better life than ours.
But is this everything? Is it enough? It is easy to prepare children physically, and neglect spiritual preparation. We should want our children to be like Jesus who “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). In order to do that, attention has to be paid to spiritual development.
One point that parents have to seriously accept is that the church and Bible-based schools cannot be the primary means of training children in the scriptures. That is your responsibility. Psalm 78:5-8 says, “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.”
“Training up a child in the way he should go” does not simply mean taking them to worship assemblies and Bible class (Proverbs 22:6). Children need to develop their own faith, and parents can see to that by reading the Bible and discussing it with their children, praying with them and showing them how God and faith play an integral role in their life and inﬂuence every decision they make
Parents also need to prepare their children for Paul’s words: “Yea and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suﬀer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12) and “For our light aﬄiction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). They need to know that peer pressure, persecution, hypocrites, and disappointment will be a part of life. Hearing it from you will be far better than having to experience it all alone.
We go to the doctor to learn about growth milestones for our children. We know, at any given time, where our children should be with height and weight. What about spiritual milestones? Every child needs to know both positive and negative subjects as far as
Bible knowledge is concerned. While diﬃcult to be precise, the following is a useful guide for you to determine where your children should be as they develop.
- When they are young, parents can begin by teaching children the books of the Bible, and the contents of those books. It is at this point that they can also be taught about the important narratives and people in the scriptures. However, parents need to be careful that we do not portray the narratives in the Bible as “stories.” “Stories” imply fables, myths, and legends; in short, something made up. Children need to have it emphasized to them that the Bible contains legitimate, historical events with legitimate, historical characters.
- As children get older, more complex issues such as the existence of God and Christ, the reliability of the Bible, and the shortcomings of evolution and humanism can be taught. This middle stage is usually where children reach what we’ve termed the “age of accountability” (Romans 7:9). This means preparing them to obey the gospel by making sure they understand the concepts of forgiveness and redemption and the salvation requirements God places on them.
- The ﬁnal stages of their adolescence can be used to instruct them about prevalent false doctrines such as Calvinism, Premillennialism, and institutionalism. Although it is regrettable that our brethren stray from the truth, children also need to know about current, troubling issues and trends among brethren. Matters such as A. D. 70 doctrine, newer divorce and remarriage controversies such as the second putting away and divorce for a cause other than fornication, the house church movement, the doctrine that hell is an annihilation, compromising the days of creation, changing the nature (humanity/deity) of Christ, etc., all need to be explored, and our children taught to stand against these doctrines. It can be immeasurably helpful to test your children by staging debates over these points with them, even if it is only over dinner!
Young people who have been adequately trained in these areas are outstanding assets to a congregation. Young men who have been raised to be knowledgeable and formidable can perhaps one day serve as deacons or elders. Young women who have been raised to be compassionate yet strong can serve a congregation by teaching and benevolence. Every congregation needs members who will help “grow up into him in all things” by being “… no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive …” (Ephesians 4:14-15).
By being thoroughly equipped, our children can see that “the whole body ﬁtly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the eﬀectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).