Many of you may know me from my weekly God’s Kid Korner articles, but before I did that, I was a teacher for many years and also the children’s minister for a local church. I think it’s fair to say that children have been my passion for as long as I can remember. It was part of that love for kids that led me to be a mother, teacher, pastor, and certainly led me to write children’s sermons. I think the fact that I ended up publishing them weekly in a newspaper was probably God’s idea and doing because I never imagine that part!
If the children of today are indeed our future (which they certainly are), how do we prepare them for the world they will have to live in? As a pastor, I wonder then, how do we prepare our children to walk with God in faith and trust, living the life He would have them live and keeping them from the pitfalls of sin all around us as they grow and mature? It’s a hard question, and I am sure I do not have all the answers, but I have some ideas and suggestions to possibly consider for not only parents but us all. Teaching children about God, Jesus, the Bible, faith, sin, forgiveness, grace isn’t for the faint hearted, but neither is it impossible to do. It takes a lot of prayer, faith, forgiveness, grace, and some work on our parts as well. The sentence it takes a village to raise a child is so true, but much of the responsibility does fall primarily on parents and family.
Beginning Christian teaching starts from the time a child is born. It’s never too early to pray for and with a child and take them to the church of your choice. Everyone in the family gets it the habit of church attendance on Sundays: why it is important, what it means, and even how to behave in church. In every church nursery, Bible songs are sung, and Bible stories read. If your church has Sunday School, it is a wonderful opportunity for you and your children to attend and learn about God and His salvation. As the child grows and matures, so does his/her understanding of the examples of Christian faith in the Bible and the witness of other adults like those in their church family. Sports and entertainment are excellent for kids, and I’m all for both. Children need activities for physical fitness, enjoyment, and just getting away from that IPad screen, but none should be an excuse for not attending church to worship come Sunday morning.
Positively, I believe the home must be the ultimate place to see the true example and witness of what it means to believe and have faith in God. It is the first and most influential place a child spends his/her time and should be the place that he/she feels the most loved, safe, and secure. We as parents are the best example and best influence on our children. Children learn by example, and like it not, good or bad, we are it! They are watching our every move and hearing our words all the time. What children see, hear, and are exposed to is what they learn life is. As we raise our children, we need to take this responsibility seriously and pray above all to have God help us be good witnesses of His love to our kids. (And yes, that love sometimes includes discipline too remember, but done in love.) As I write this article, I am all too aware that a good home and home life is not always possible for many children. Work, stress, finances, illness, drugs, alcohol, and many other things can interfere with what God meant for our homes to be. If that is the case, we need to pray for God’s blessing over them and be a mentor to them as much as possible. A caring adult, coach, teacher, etc. can make all the difference to such a child, believe me.
Also, if we just become aware, there are so many teachable moments to incorporate these things. Bedtime is a wonderful time to read Bible stories, talk about the characters – what they did right – and wrong, how God loved them still, and how that can apply to our lives even today. Then saying bedtime prayers can assure the child Jesus is with them always – even in their sleep. It can also be a time of praying for others who need help in some way and thanking Him for the day. Praying before meals sets the stage for thankfulness and gives a feeling of family togetherness. Mealtimes are often hard to get everyone together at the same time, but there is surely sometime (maybe even breakfast) where we can pray together, thanking God for our blessings, and asking Him to guide us through our day. (I believe this is just as important for us adults as it is for our children too.) Then don’t forget about those times we least think about – driving in the car, playing a game, cooking dinner together – all maybe mundane times, but ones that can become a learning moment of discussion about some aspect of Christianity and what that means.
May we adults realize our role in influencing the leaders of tomorrow – our kids. Pray and ask God to give you the witness, knowledge, awareness, and opportunity to love all children with the love of God, giving them the faith to walk in His ways their whole lives. Let’s fight for our kids through prayer, faith, example, and time. If we don’t fight for them, someone else will. God knows we won’t be perfect, but He will always bless us for trying. Amen.
Ann Moody is pastor of Wilkesville First Presbyterian Church.