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
8 thoughts on “You Have to Actually Train a Child to Train Them”
Astrid Weijenberg Withrow wrote on Facebook: This exactly part of what we teach at the PowerClub trainings here in Burundi. the difference between training and teaching. Did you research the word “old” in Hebrew it means “growing hair” or what we would say as teenage years… so we have a promise! If we TRAIN (doing by example) our kids in the ways of God; modeled by Jesus, then when they become teenagers they do not walk away from it!
Great post Kimberly. I am blessed to be a Domestic Diva a.k.a stay-at-home mom and it has been that way since beorfe the kiddos arrived. It can be a struggle to spend quality time with my children beyond homeschool, errands and every day life. In order to help with this my husband and I date our children, yes we even date our two year old. It doesn’t have to involve going outside the home if you don’t have the cash to do so. Many times it is just snuggling together and talking or reading a book, maybe playing a board game just the two of us or watching a special movie. During the times where we have a little bit of extra cash then we will maybe take a child out for a special dessert or dinner just Mom and son or Dad and son. It has been such a great way to get to know our little men better and help them to know just how valued and loved they are.When I read Monique’s request for toddler ideas I thought I would share what has worked well for us. I use a book called Toddler Theme-A-Saurus by: Jean Warren(try to find it at your library or Amazon also has it). It is a book filled with toddler ideas for crafts, games, songs, and rhymes. In the morning I have circle time with my kids (my oldest son is eight but he still enjoys spending this time with his little brother). I set up a blanket on the floor, start by opening in prayer, sing some songs and then we do a few activities (painting, playdough, dancing, or special themes from the book above). It is a wonderful time filled with fun and exploration and it gives my two year old the focused attention he needs in the morning to feel special. After our activities are finished we end with a story to two, a goodbye song and a snack. Once circle is over, Uriah is ready to play by himself for a while so I can start school with my eight year old. So, that is what we do in our little neck of the woods Monique have fun with your little one.  Reply:February 23rd, 2010 at 7:25 amI love the idea of dating your children. We’ve incorporated a similar thing with our schedule. I have time scheduled each day (or every couple of days) to spend with each child. I also have some rules for myself to help me be more available to the kids. i.e. if one of my kids comes and asks me to read them a book I try, if possible, to stop what I’m doing and sit down right on the floor where we are and read it to them. I also try to always have a child in my lap when I’m sitting down (this includes my 12 and 13 year olds). They love that special time to spend time with mom.
Some of the best moments with my chlerdin are when we are engaged in a simple task together. I get to spend precious time with my chlerdin over a hot soapy sink of dishes and it’s priceless.I recently implemented a new laundry system in my house where each child has a basket. I was able to teach my 8 year old how to fold his own clothes, put them away in the proper drawers and where to place the basket when he was through. While doing this, I told him of the time when my mom taught me how to help with laundry and how I was responsible for certain things around the home. He and I were able to share that time together and it was sweet. Not only did he learn a new task that would help me out around the house, but he was also learning how to serve someone.Now that we have a new baby, he is all the more eager to help with other things such as clearning the dinner table and doing dishes.Thank you for sharing your heart in these series, Becky. I enjoy getting to read them!
Jody Druff Gafford wrote on Facebook: Thanks Astrid for adding that. That makes it pretty clear doesn’t it. We came to KIMI when my son was already 16… We took him to church and did all the right stuff, even involved in the supernatural, but as far as effectively, intentionally training him, that didn’t happen as it should have when he waas young. I didn’t even think of doing anything different than all those that I was in relationship with. So now he is going through a tough time. I am so blessed that these issues are being addressed at KIMI
If you don’t make time for your children when they are young, you can’t excpet them to make time for you when they are grown. When a baby is born he is going to bond with the person that feeds him and takes care of his needs. As children grow they need more than food. My husband was basically raised by his grandparents, because his parents were always busy working. Now the relationship with his parents is strained to say the least because there wasn’t a relationship built.In response to services in the school system. My son has Spina Bifida and requires physical therapy. When he turned 3, public school physical therapy was offered to us. After much prayer, we opted for private therapy instead of going with the free public therapy. Difficult decision but you must be the advocate for your child, get them the help they need in a way that doesn’t compromise your convictions. Reply:February 23rd, 2010 at 7:32 amThank you so much for your comments Wendy. You made a much tougher decision than we have in regard to the physical therapy offered by the government, but our was similar.When our son Nicholas was born he was injured and his left arm was left paralyzed. The free government therapist would come to our house 3 days a week to help Nicholas regain as much use as he could. However, for the same reasons that I outlined in this post about the , we opted to drive to therapy that we paid for ourselves 3 times a week.You said that beautifully Wendy.
Linsette Hawkins wrote: Yes! Yes! Yes! So well said! I am one who was guilt of that old way of thinking and relying on Sunday school, and children’s church to do the training and thinking that was enough to bring my son in when he, as an adult, drifted away from the Faith!
Hi Becky,To me the key is really availability . We must be available in order to claim those moments. We cannot schedule talking to Mama time. What I mean is, in reality, the time that my children most want to spend time with me, share their hearts with me, or just talk is when it is usually the least convenient for ME. That’s where I have to die to self. Many nights as I am tucking in a child, ready to escape to the quietness of my dark house ..ready for some alone time in the minutes before I collapse into bed, that child will want to talk . Maybe not about something important, maybe about something really important .but they just want my undivided attention. They are relaxed they are chatty. And I must take advantage of this time. I must show them how much I love them by listening when it is not convenient to me. I am not talking about a child stalling his bedtime, I mean a child who really wants to share his heart. This also happens at other times during the day ..not always at the time I have mentally scheduled time with child.Spending large quantities of time leads to moments of quality time.Have a joyful day!
I am so thankful I homhoceosl and have had hours and hours talking with my children. Sometimes our morning Bible studies get long and interesting as the kids ask questions. At night I let them talk at length. My teenage daughter started coming into my room to pray together at night and share what was on her heart. These times are so precious. They grow up in a blink. Reply:March 5th, 2010 at 1:22 pmWhat a blessing to you as you begin to reap some of the rewards of pouring your life into your children.I too am thankful that we’ve chosen to homhoceosl. Even so, I still feel that I haven’t had enough time with them. It does go very quickly.