Sermons of David Chadwell
(Resource for Parents)

My Child and My Faith

Did you hear about the family with a 5 year old daughter who moved to a new job in a new community? The first Sunday they were in their new home, they worshipped with the church in their new community. They took their 5 year old daughter to her class with this note safety pinned to her sweater. It read: "The opinions expressed by this child concerning God and the Bible may not necessarily represent those of her mother and father."

I imagine every Sunday school teacher can identify with the problems of those parents. While amusing, that story also touches on a sad, often tragic reality. Too often the daughter of 5 grows to a young lady of 18 without being influenced by her parents. Parents often talk about the difficulty of being a parent today. Commonly we parents forget how difficult it is to be a child today. For parents genuinely concerned about the spirituality of their children, our lack of awareness often makes childhood tougher than it should be on our children. Could it be that too often our concern is more about ourselves as parents and not enough about our children?

Do you consider the quantity of anti-spiritual input that goes into our children's lives every week? For example, do you actually know what your child watches on TV? Do you really know the content or the language? In a week's time, how often will your child see a woman seduce a man or a man abuse a woman? How many sexual scenes will he or she see? How many rapes will he or she witness? How often will they see a person get high or drunk? How many times will they see drunkenness or drugs presented as the keys to pleasure and good times? How many night club or stripper scenes will he or she see? How many beer commercials featuring a prominent personality will he or she see? How many times will he or she see prostitution presented as a desirable lifestyle? How many people will they see shot, stabbed, strangled, abused, run over, or drowned? How many creative illegal acts will he or she witness? How tempted will he or she be to consider such occurrences as innocent and normal portrayals of life?

Want an informative experiment? First, ask your child the title of his or her favorite movie. Ask for an honest answer with the assurance there will be no reaction from you. (This is for discovery, not for reprimand.) Second, rent the movie for you and your spouse. Third, in privacy, watch the movie with your spouse. Fourth, have one of you write down all objectionable words. Have the other note all the objectionable scenes. After the movie, ask each other what you thought. (Remember, this is not to censor the child, but to inform the parents.)

In the course of one week, how many curse words do you think your child hears? Would you know what all the words mean? How many sexually explicit terms and words do you think they hear? How many vulgar jokes and tales of sensual exploits do you think they hear?

Does your child voluntarily talk to you about the things they hear? When we returned from 4 years in West Africa, one of our children said, "I did not know any curse words when we came back. I did not know what my friends were saying." When he talked to us, he knew what they were saying.

We cannot end all the anti-spiritual input into our children's lives. Yet, we need to control anti-spiritual input when we can. However, mere control of anti-spiritual input will not solve our children's spiritual problems. The essential question is this: what spiritual input are we giving our children to counter the anti-spiritual influences?

Today, consider perpetuating our faith in our children.

  1. What do you want for your child spiritually? (There are commonly three basic approaches to answering that question.)

    1. First approach: this is what I call the naive approach to spiritual influence.
      1. The characteristic statement of this approach: "I want my children to make up their own minds about religion when they are grown. I do not wish to impose my spiritual values on them."
      2. I know of no greater disadvantage parents can impose on their children than willfully refusing to provide their children with spiritual guidance when they are incapable of guiding themselves.
      3. I call this the naive approach for a number of reasons.
        1. One, it blindly assumes that there is no anti-spiritual influence exerted on the child or children.
        2. Two, it assumes the child or children will make an unprejudiced decision at or after 18 years of age.
          1. The truth is he or she will live for the most important 18 years of his or her life with only anti-spiritual values and perspectives.
          2. By the time the child reaches the point of "adult decision," the decision already has been made (likely long ago).
        3. Three, no matter how much you teach and influence, the child will modify (at least) your guidance after leaving home.
          1. In spite of your teaching and influence, your child will make up his/her own mind about spiritual commitment after he/she leaves your home.
          2. No one can "program" one's child for a spiritual adult existence.
          3. Even with your best efforts, your child will face temptations and disadvantages in an anti-spiritual culture and world.
        4. Four, a refusal to give spiritual guidance is just as much a parental influence as is a decision to provide spiritual guidance--both approaches are guidance that influences one's spiritual values.
      4. I am thankful my parents taught and influenced me!
      5. After spending my life learning from Bible study and experience, I certainly want my children to profit positively from those influences in my life.
      6. If spirituality in Christ is worthy of guiding my life, it is worthy of guiding their lives.
    2. The second approach: it is the "limited emphasis" approach to spiritual influence.
      1. Basically, this approach is voiced in the concept, "I want to introduce my children to religion."
      2. The primary concern becomes, "We do not want to be too religious; we do not wish to overdo a spiritual emphasis."
      3. The child is taught, "You ought to go to church once in a while."
      4. When as an adolescent he/she asks the "why" questions, the answer basically is, "You just ought to."
      5. Often this approach leads to a rejection of spirituality as a meaningless obligation.
    3. The third approach: it is the spiritual foundation approach.
      1. Spirituality is a way of life (not just a religion) that surrounds the child.
      2. He or she is taught to do spiritual things long before he or she understands spiritual ways.
      3. When he or she reaches an age of understanding, he or she is encouraged to ask why and understand why.
      4. The child is taught how to live for God, not merely a religion.
      5. Great emphasis is given to developing relationships, accepting personal responsibility, and understanding values.
      6. The objective is to enable the child to grow into a spiritual person.

  2. While there are numerous variations of these approaches, I urge you to evaluate your own approach.

    1. Evaluation one: what priority does spiritual development have in your system of values you teach your child?
      1. If the choice is between school work and worship or Bible study, which is the priority?
      2. Is it understood that we will assemble with like-minded people to worship or study, or is it a weekly decision?
      3. Does your child get as much encouragement to be a dependable part of the spiritual education program as he or she gets to excel in extracurricular activities?
      4. If the choice is between fun and spirituality, what choice is made?
      5. My point is not an "either-or" decision.
        1. My point is what are the values and priorities you are teaching them?
        2. Is there a difference in what you tell them and what you show them?
    2. Evaluation two: what spiritual environment do your children live in?
      1. Do you show them the joy of worship or the duty of assembly?
      2. Do you prepare to worship, or do you "get it out of the way"?
      3. Do you speak of Christian involvement as an opportunity and privilege or as an irritating drudgery?
      4. Do you show them Christian work is a part of our nature, or do you teach them to do just enough to avoid criticism?
      5. Are you challenging them by your example to view spiritual things as negative and critical or positive and encouraging?
      6. Do you encourage them to get Bible lessons?
      7. Do you see them read the Bible? pray?
      8. Do they see you read the Bible? pray?
      9. Do you discuss your spiritual hopes for them?
      10. How would you react if he or she seriously told you, "I want to be a missionary!"
    3. Evaluation three: is spirituality seen in your family relationships?
      1. Dads, have your daughters ever said, "I want to marry a man like you?"
      2. Moms, have sons ever said, "I want a wife like you?"
      3. Have you heard them speak of things happening in other families they are glad do not happen in your family?
      4. Do they see the joy Mom and Dad find in each other?
      5. Do they hear Mom and Dad tell each other they love each other?
      6. Do they see the affection expressed?
      7. Do they ever hug you?
      8. When is the last time you told your child you loved them?
      9. Is your spirituality all external store front with emptiness inside, or does it bless the whole family?

  3. Scripture bears certain testimony that the spiritual guidance of children primarily rest in the hand of parents.

    1. Moses stated these words to Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

    2. Paul wrote of the unpretended faith in Timothy that first existed in his mother and grandmother in 2 Timothy 1:5.
      "For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well."

    3. Later, in the same writing he reminded Timothy of his spiritual teaching in 2 Timothy 3:15, "... From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

    4. I value God's thoughts about Abraham in Genesis 18:19, "For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.

  4. How can I help my child toward a spiritual life?

    1. We can begin by facing facts.
      1. Fact 1: if our children are to be spiritual adults, they must learn to live in an ungodly society with confidence in God.
        1. We cannot hide them from all ungodliness in our society (no matter what approach we take).
        2. We must teach them to cope in ungodly situations.
      2. Fact 2: we must have enough faith in God to teach faith to our children with confidence.
      3. Fact 3: we must approach our task as parents knowing Christian parents have the ability and strength in Christ to train children to be Christians.
    2. We must use a positive approach in spiritually training our children.
      1. Pray for guidance in specific situations daily.
      2. Be extremely cautious about discussing weakness in the church or other Christians in the presence of your children.
        1. Do not teach your children a negative view of spirituality.
        2. Teach them to be compassionate with grace and mercy (as is God), not to be distrustful--all humans have flaws and make mistakes!
      3. When they are capable of understanding, teach them spiritual reasons, standards, and responsibility.
      4. Always be honest with them.
      5. Reassure them that they can talk to you without fear.
      6. Create circumstances that promote spiritual involvement.
      7. Compliment honestly and encourage sincerely.
      8. Help them discover the joy of being spiritual rather than just a necessity to be spiritual.
      9. Help them value godly living in Christ by noting the joys and benefits of godly living.
    3. Take advantage of spiritual opportunities designed to assist parents.
      1. Usually, a congregation's education program for its children is among its major investments.
      2. Make Bible study a priority, not a convenience item.
      3. Make preparation for Bible study a family commitment.
      4. Talk to your children about what they are learning and reinforce insights.
      5. Expect to learn and do not be content merely to go to classes and worship.

I am not an authority on rearing children, and I know the challenge is enormous. Success is not guaranteed even with our best efforts. Ultimately, as adults, our children will decide the role God serves in their lives--just like you did! The most important thing you provide your child is your example, in every life situation from moments of frustration and failure to moments of joy. Let them see Christ's influence in your life in every situation!

Challenge your children to be committed, involved people who love the Lord!
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