Considering I am a principal of a Christian school and a pastor of a church filled with children, one would expect that ministry to children is important to me. Actually, I believe it is one of the most privileged ministries to be involved in and is increasingly challenging in the age we find ourselves. The challenge is overcoming the growing distraction of the world and helping children understand the great relevance of Jesus in a world of increasingly distractive technology. Regardless of the challenges, Jesus spoke of the validity of this ministry when people were trying to keep the children away from him:
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. (Matthew 19:13-15)
Some parents rely solely on the one hour Sunday School each week to instill in their children the importance of faith. As important as this vital ministry is, one hour is not going to be enough to compete against 105 hours of other influences. Some parents elect to send their children to a Christian school which is a help but not the complete solution. Christian schools are great but are also limited to 35 hours of influence. With Sunday School and Christian school there is a total of 36 hours compared to 69 hours of other influences. The other problem is that much of what is taught is taught by people with limited contact with the children and so there are the issues of trust and openness. There must be a better way to minister to these children so that they are able to see Jesus Christ revealed through modeling.
I apologize if I am being too obvious but the solution is found in the family. Until they are teenagers it is the family that has the greatest influence on children where Jesus should be taught and modeled. Even with teenagers, if parents have been able to cultivate a good relationship along the way, they are able to have a good influence on them throughout the exploration years, even though the influence of friends takes on a more important place in their life. The fact is, parents are the greatest ministers in their children's lives. What is taught at home, through Bible teaching, devotions, small talks, prayer and even through correction will last a lifetime.
Parents have their challenges though. They are trying to balance their budgets, do well in their jobs, manage the house, help with homework, put out the daily fires, be involved at church, minister to others, volunteer, keep their marriage alive, and all the other things that make up being a parent. Sometimes in there the children take a second priority and as long as they are happy, doing well in school and coming home every night we are content. But this isn't enough. We have the responsibility to disciple our children, to train them in God's ways and the only way that is going to happen is when we make them a top priority.
I could give you lots of statistics about the importance of teaching a child early. I could also give you all the familiar commandments from the old testament about training up a child. But let's face it, if you are still reading this it is either because you are one of my students and have to or because you are a parent who already understands the importance of this matter. The problem is probably the application of it; how do you find the time? Like anything else that is a priority in your life, you have to take the time. It means changing your routine, getting rid of some activities, turning off the TV, maybe even dropping the soccer practice. Whatever it takes you need to make discipling your children a priority. It can happen in the car on the way to the hardware store, while you are grocery shopping, even while you are doing dishes together. You need to make it habit forming, getting them to talk about their problems and guiding them in Biblical solutions. You need to demonstrate in your own life that Jesus is your greatest priority.
You can and should enlist others to assist you in the discipling of your children but you have to remain the prime influence in their lives. There is no better day to start than today. Take some time in prayer and ask for guidance. Those of you who are young and without children, you can start making it part of your prayers for when you do start a family. And those who are my students, who are still under the influence of your parents, ask your parents to disciple you. If they don't know how they can always seek advice from your pastor or youth pastor. Our eternity is not something to take lightly and Jesus Christ is too important for us to ignore or even give a second place in our life. Give him priority in your life, in your family, in your children and watch how quickly things will change. He told us to make disciples and that must start at home before we start turning to the world.