“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
There is a shift in the ideology of raising children in today’s society. The shift, for example, that a 4-year-old child can understand, determine, and therefore, desire radical changes concerning his or her identity and biological makeup. Can the undeveloped mental state of a 4-year-old determine how he lives? Some parents seek cues from their children, and in the interest of being open and wanting to assimilate into what they deem acceptable in society, they choose radically for their children. The question then should be: Is this about the child, or is it about the parent?
Children have always and will always need to be trained, guided, cautioned, and disciplined, and at the same time, they need to be loved, cared for, and listened to. They should be raised in a constructive mental, psychological, physical, and spiritual environment. When you teach a child to have a conscience, they care. When you teach a child to value the things they are given, they learn responsibility and gratitude. And when you teach a child to love, they are less selfish and more caring. But when you teach a child about God, they know they will never be alone, no matter what life throws at them. This is the most important foundation needed to prepare a child to thrive in this world.
According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, drug use increased by 62% among 8th graders between 2016 and 2020. Among 12th graders, 62% have abused alcohol, and 50% of teenagers have misused a drug at least once. Youth drug abuse is a high-profile public health concern with at least 1 in 8 teenagers abusing an illicit substance in the last year.
Our children must have a firm foundation that can withstand the temptations they will surely face.
Where does the church live in these new and changing times that our children have to navigate? Are we doing enough? We are seeing diminishing numbers and a lack of emphasis (evidenced in the budget allocations of our churches) for our children and teen ministries worldwide. In my journeys throughout the rainforest communities of South America, across the sprawling green savannahs of Africa, to the burgeoning metropolises of the United States, I am mindful of the deep hunger among the younger generation for love, acceptance, and most especially, direction. I am also mindful that the response to these needs is slow to none. How will they know unless someone tells them? How will they grow unless they are discipled?
As I write these words, I am reminded of a Sunday School Convention that I attended some eight years ago. I was privileged to sit under the tutelage of the great Dr. Elmer L. Towns. His teaching focused on techniques of communicating the Gospel message, specifically to children, in small groups and Sunday School classes.
I can still clearly recall his enthusiastic recounting of his personal journey that was responsible for shaping his long and dedicated service to Jesus and His Bride, the Church. Dr. Towns is a well-known expert in the area of children’s ministries; he has authored over eighty books on various aspects of the Christian’s journey, resourced many conventions and seminars, and has served in various capacities in institutions of higher learning.
With great conviction, he recounted his time in his Sunday School class as a young boy. His teacher, after the Sunday School lesson was over, would make all the kids in the class raise their hands and repeat the words:
“I will not drink alcohol.”
“I will not smoke cigarettes.”
“I will not use drugs.”
He credited his relationship with God and his contribution to society to his time in Sunday School and the instructions of his teachers. They took a bold stance in a world that encouraged the opposite, and in doing so, they created bold leaders.
I do believe that meaningful instruction for our children in many of our churches is lacking or missing today. Much-needed Sunday School ministries are being abandoned weekly. Committed and dedicated children’s workers are scarce. There is a great shortage of talented youth pastors and youth workers.
The lives of our children should be held precious, as they paint the future of the next generation and generations to come.
The solution could simply be this:
As the war rages on between the agendas of pro-life and pro-choice groups, we need to be proactive and preventative. Changing a law can help for a season, but sharing Christ, which changes hearts and lives, is eternally effective. We need to advocate for programs focusing on raising genuine Christians from the cradle to the grave.
We, the Church, must focus on making Christlike disciples of all ages.
What if we passionately took that approach in Christian daycare centers, Christian schools, Sunday nurseries, and Christian adoption agencies? How might our culture change if our churches started educating, rather than leaving it up to the government?
Let us stem the tide… go make disciples.