If you’re like me, you never gave much thought to children until your first child was born, then all of a sudden issues related to children went from the bottom to the top of your list of priorities almost literally in the blink of an eye.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
I don’t think it’s possible to point to one verse in the Bible and say that it’s “the most important one” but I do think this particular verse is of above average importance. So if you’re a parent (or you think there’s even a remote chance that you someday could be and/or if you think someone else you know and care about could be) I offer the following suggestions.
1. Have daily family devotional time. Family devotions don’t need to be complicated, they just need to include a short reading from the Bible (a children’s story Bible is ideal for this purpose if the children are very young) and then a short prayer and a worship song or two. This can be done in just ten minutes or so as you’re putting your children to bed at night. For families with small children, this is about as long as they even SHOULD take.
But a daily habit of spending time together with God as a family can and should start as soon as a couple gets engaged and it should continue for a lifetime, but it’s ESPECIALLY important for children. Don’t wait until they’re “old enough to understand” but start even when they’re just home from the hospital after being born. They’ll pick up more than you think they will and what they learn will stick with them for their whole lives. There are MANY testimonies of people drifting away from the Lord during their teen and young adult years but holding on to something they learned as a child and eventually having that play a part in them coming back to God later in life.
2. Pray daily for your own children, your children’s future spouse, your children’s friends and their parents and families and their teachers. This can be done as part of the daily family devotions and your children can join in when they’re ready to start praying out loud themselves.
3. Be part of a congregation which makes ministering to the children a priority. If you’re part of a congregation which struggles to find volunteers for the children’s ministry, BE THE PERSON WHO VOLUNTEERS!
4. Be as involved as possible in the school where your children attend. Get involved in helping with after-school activities, sports, clubs, etc. Many of the children your child attends school with are in a home without both parents and/or or with parents who don’t pay much attention to them. These children are growing up without the role models, love, support and attention they need to become successful adults. As followers of Jesus Christ, we MUST care for these children who fit the Biblical definition of “orphans and fatherless” because we’ve been directed to by God but also out of enlightened self-interest. These children will have an influence on our own children, and someday they’ll go from being our children’s classmate to being their co-workers, neighbours, and maybe even spouses. For our own children’s sake, we need to do whatever we can to make sure they’re cared for and given the best possible chance at a successful future.
There’s a cliché that “children don’t raise themselves” and it’s undeniably true. Our children are too important to leave their spiritual instruction to the pastors and teachers at the fellowship we attend, although that part of their instruction is vitally important. We have them in our homes 7 days a week, and every single one of those days should include “instruction” on how to follow the Lord. Needless to say, they won’t receive such instruction at school.
But in addition to that, remember that Psalm 68:5 says “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation”
So to be, as an old saying goes, “the hands and feet and eyes and ears of God” to do the work of His Kingdom on this Earth until Jesus Christ returns to it, should be a priority for EVERYONE who calls themselves a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that God cares a great deal for children, especially orphans and the fatherless, so if He cares about them you and I should too. We must start by taking care of our own children, but that’s just a start. We must make the care and instruction of their friends a priority too.
All of this requires a huge sacrifice of our time, energy and even our money. But there’s nothing more important.