“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
That’s Proverbs 22:6 and that promise is what multitudes of Christian parents hold to as insurance that their kids won’t walk away from the Christian faith as they grow up and out. Yet today ninety percent of all kids in their early twenties are doing just that.
If Proverbs 22:6 is what scores of parents believe, then what’s happening? We might need to take a second look at that verse. First, if you look at the phrase:
“in the way he should go”
A more accurate meaning is said to be, “according to his own way”. This changes the whole flavor of the verse from a directive to a warning. Listen to it this way:
“Train up a child according to his own way, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Haven’t we seen the result of parents letting their kids have their own way all around us? As good parents, are we not to train our child according to God’s way?
Say we don’t change the traditional wording of this verse. Let’s put it back to how good ol’ King James liked it:
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
If we were truly following that directive then why are our kids departing?
I’ve resisted writing about this for a long time. After all, the jury is still out on my kids. So far, so good- but who’s to say? Still, I decided long ago I would do everything I could to make sure my kids didn’t walk away from the faith. So over the years, I’ve watched families around me- some who got it right and some who got it wrong. I’ve talked to lots of Christian parents and kids, read book after book on the family, and listened to more than my share of speakers on the subject, and I have formed a few theories of my own.
Now there’s this thing about theories. They are just that. But I’m throwing caution to the wind and sharing them anyway. There’s a generation at stake, and we have to do something. So far, simply holding onto Proverbs 22:6 ain’t getting the job done.
First, I believe that parents are the best way for kids to come to Christ.
Most children of elementary age, when asked who has had the most influence on their lives, will still list one or both parents. Yet alas, lots of parents depend on the church to get their kids saved.
I worked in kid’s ministry for over ten years and the fact is, the church has access to kids only about forty hours a year. That’s it. That’s less than one hour a week, and that’s if families attend church on a regular basis. That’s not enough time to qualify as enough. It’s great support for what they should be getting at home, but if it’s the bulk of the training they are getting, it’s not near enough.
The Bible teaches, in Deuteronomy, when parents are supposed to teach their children the ways of God. Chapter 6, Verse 7 says:
“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.”
If as parents we are not teaching them regularly the ways of God, then we are missing the boat.
Second, if we as parents are going to teach our kids the ways of God, then we better know them ourselves.
We can’t teach what we don’t know. Our kids are watching us. What are they seeing? What conversations are we having with them? Do we ever discuss scripture or spiritual things? Do we ever share with our kids what God is doing in our own lives?
Third, we’ve tried to surround our kids with people who say what we are saying, but who say it cooler.
Kid’s leaders and Youth leaders do this really well. We have been so blessed to have youth leaders speak truth into our kid’s lives in just the coolest ways. I mean, I’m cool- at least that’s what I tell my kids- but think of the impact a college aged or mid-twenties aged person who loves Jesus could have on your teen?
Find one or two that are willing to hang out with your kid.
Pay them if you have to.
My oldest son took guitar lessons from a young worship leader who was a great influence. Truth told I didn’t care if he taught my son anything about playing guitar. I would have paid him just to spend the time talking to him, pouring all that good stuff into his heart.
And finally, at some time kids must own their faith.
Kids will fly on the coattails of their parent’s faith, believing what they are told to believe, but at some point it has to become their faith. The best way I’ve found to accomplish this in having them serve God in a meaningful way. It has to be theirs, and it’s more than just attending church.
My oldest son started serving in church in sixth grade. He became a part of a youth worship team that led worship in a children’s church service. Since then, he’s learned to run cameras, and has served in both an adult worship services and a family service. He’s gone to serve in the Pittsburgh Project where kids from all over the US congregate and make repairs to homes in Pittsburgh’s poorest communities, and then love on the homeowners while demonstrating the love of Christ.
My next son also started in sixth grade by serving with me, and taught a group of fourteen little seven and eight year old boys on Sundays about God’s love for them, just by playing with them and helping them learn the stories of the Bible. It made me smile to see the impact he had on those little guys. He could say what I said to them, only cooler!
My daughter started serving in sixth grade as a preschool teacher’s helper. She had a group of kids she served and loved on every week. She was the hands and feet of Jesus to those kids. Her service allowed parents to attend church knowing their kids were in loving hands.
My two oldest kids, along with my husband, traveled to Daytona Beach, Florida this last week to help staff a camp for thousands of teens known as Bigstuf. Bigstuf was birthed with the sole purpose of reaching teenagers with the passion and love of Jesus. My oldest son has been looking forward to this week since last summer when he went, and used his skills as a cameraman, so that the kids in the rear of the huge coliseum could see on jumbo screens what was happening on stage.
Landon doing his thing!
Once kids know what it feels like to be used
by God in a real way, they never want to be without that feeling.
Thats the real hook.
Everything I’ve suggested is important, but it’s that hook that’s central. It’s what keeps them coming back for more. It not only has them running away from those things we hope they run away from, but more importantly it has them running toward the things of God.
My other son,Ryan- fifteen, who also served at Bigstuf this week posted on his Facebook page this morning-
“Sitting in stadium seating at church. Feels weird not to be behind stage helping.”
I call that a slam dunk! Yep! That kid’s hooked!
Will doing these things insure my kids won’t turn from their faith when they are older? Like I said, I don’t know yet. But I’m putting all my eggs into the basket, and praying like mad. I’m at least counting on it shifting the odds in their favor.