Our world is big on parenting advice. Books fill the shelves in bookstores, offering advice on everything from potty-training to dealing with adolescent angst. We agonize over choosing the best technique to get an infant to sleep through the night. We debate whether we should set strong limits or no limits and let the child “find their own way”. We question whether or not they are being properly educated and whether they are being given enough opportunities to develop their talents through music lessons, sports teams, dance classes or acting auditions. Lately, however, I’ve noticed a gaping hole in what parenting books have to offer. While we seem to spend an incredible amount of time (and money) on all of these ephemeral things, what are we doing about the spiritual training of our children?
While most parenting books are silent on spiritual training issues, there is one book that speaks most emphatically on this subject, and it never offers faulty advice. The Bible makes it glaringly obvious how important it is for us as parents to pass on spiritual truths to our children. Deuteronomy 4:9 says: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” God cautions us to be careful, to not forget what He has done for us. He implores us to pass these truths on to our children, and to our children’s children. Psalm 78:4-7 says, “We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.” Scripture is very clear that our primary role as parents is to teach our children to know and worship their Creator, and yet when I look around at our culture today, I see very little of this happening, even within the church.
One of the most frightening statistics I have ever heard was presented by Voddie Baucham at the Christian Home Educators of Colorado conference this summer. Recent studies show that 70-88% of publicly-schooled children raised in evangelical Christian homes will walk away from their faith by the end of their freshman year in college. 70-88%...Wow! That should absolutely strike terror in the hearts of Christian parents. There should be nothing more important to us than ensuring the continuation of our families serving the Lord, and yet we are failing miserably at this task. Think of the outcry there would be if that percentage of kids in Christian homes were failing to graduate from high school! And yet we are silent about this epidemic that is stealing our children…how can this be? Do we not realize that raising our children is actually a spiritual battle of epic proportions? Satan is on the prowl, hungering after our children’s souls, and he is using our apathy as his greatest tool. How does he do this? First and foremost, I believe he does this by convincing us that our children’s spiritual education is the purview of the church. “But I take them to Sunday school every week,” we think, “and we go on Wednesday nights, too!” And then when they reach the teen years, “Well, my kids are really involved in the youth group.” Those can all be beneficial things, but they don’t take the place of discipleship in the home. God gives us a very clear picture of what He expects from us as parents in Deuteronomy 6:5-9: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Let’s look for a minute at the word “impress” in this passage. What does that mean? According to dictionary.com, “impress” means “to affect deeply or strongly in mind and feelings; influence in opinion; to fix deeply and firmly on the mind or memory.” Does that sound like something done casually or occasionally, or something done with great purpose and forethought? It seems apparent to me that spiritual training of our children takes very purposeful planning; it doesn’t “just happen”. We must rise up as parents and reclaim the role God intended for us to fulfill and deliberately and faithfully bring our children up in the instruction of the Lord. If we don’t, Satan is waiting and he will find the time and the energy to do what we are unwilling to do…and the cost will be higher than we can imagine.
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