I recently wrote an article about the scripture “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (See here.) We discussed what the Old Testament people interpreted it to mean compared to modern day western Christians. If you have not read it, I encourage you to do it now.
But I was thinking about this verse again this morning, when suddenly I heard it with a fresh perspective. In looking at the phrase “Train up a child,” it seems to be a common interpretation to say, well, we’re Christians and we’re raising our children in a Christian home. We take them to church at least a couple times a month, and make sure they get to VBS and kids camp in the summer. We pray over all our meals. So therefore we are “training” our children in the way they should go.
Define the Word ‘Train’
Are those activities alone actually training them to be disciples of Christ and to be a part of the family/army of God? Is that the sum total of our walk with the Lord—going to church and praying over our meals?
The definition of the word “train” is: The action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior.
We need to ask ourselves if taking our children to church once a week the equivalent of actual “training” them in their Christian faith. Think of the sports training camps for football or soccer some families take their kids to. Is simply taking them to the training camp the same as actually training them in the sport? If all your child did at that camp was sit in a chair, listen to someone talk about soccer, sing a couple songs about soccer, have a craft project having to do with soccer, and go home, did they get trained for soccer?
A Coach Has to Actually Train
The obvious answer is no. When you take your child to a soccer training camp your expectation is they are actually going to have a coach to teach them how to play the game. Your assumption is your child will actually play soccer, and develop the necessary skills to be an asset to their team. The coach has to train them.
As I observe thousands of families in my twenty years of children’s ministry, there is a stark contrast between the parents who feel they have done their job by just showing up for church and consider that training, and the families where the parents are diligently teaching their kids in the home how to pray, how to read and study the Bible in a disciplined manner, how to hear God’s voice, how to make wise decisions based on biblically values, how to be led by the spirit of God, having daily discussions about their faith and how it applies to everyday life, and so on.
No Further Interest in God
The first category of families is frequently shocked when their children reach high school and have little to no interest in God. Those children statistically are leaving the church in droves considering it irrelevant to their lives. Parents are heartbroken when the lifestyles their “Christian” children choose do not glorify God.
While there are no guarantees in parenting, the second category of family has an infinitely higher chance of having children who grow up and remain active in church, have strong devotional and prayer lives, and are engaged with their relationship with God. Because they were trained diligently as children to know and love the word of God and make their relationship with Jesus an integral part of their daily lives, it is now a part of their everyday life. They become active members in the family of God.
Church Volunteers Are Not Trained to Train
The operative word is “train.” If you train a child in the way he should go, according to biblical standards, it means you have actually done some training. It does not mean you just took him somewhere and set him in a class. One of the big problems with the second method is that parents have had the expectation the “coaches,” aka children’s ministry volunteers, in their churches will actually do some hard core Christian training on their behalf.
The problem is they have not been trained to train. All they have been trained to do is keep order, and tell Bible stories. In 95% of the world’s Christian churches there is no training and equipping of children going on at all. Most pastors do not even have the concept of discipling and equipping children. So that mindset is not passed on to his volunteer team.
Consider this question. If after going to our children’s and youth ministries in our churches for the first eighteen years of their lives, our children are still not born again, are not filled with the Holy Spirit, cannot hear God’s voice, don’t have a clue how to be led by the spirit of God, have no idea how to heal the sick, are not able to pray a prayer that does not end in “and thank you for this food, amen,” if our children who have spent their entire lives in our churches do not have a love for and a healthy knowledge of God’s word, then what in the world have we as parents and children’s ministry volunteers been doing with our time?
For Further Research
Creating a Biblical Worldview in our Children by Becky Fischer
True Mentoring & Discipling of Our Children by Becky Fischer
Redefining Children’s Ministry in the 21st Century by Becky Fischer
School of Supernatural Children’s Ministry from Kids in Ministry International
Kids in Ministry International
PO Box 549 * 111 Collins Avenue
Mandan, ND 58554