Training the Next Generation

Posted on January 15, 2012 by

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There is a pressing need in the Lord’s church for training (2 Tim. 2.2). The Lord has not provided us a task to meet – namely, the sharing of the Gospel with our neighbors – without providing us with the tools to accomplish this noble goal.

God has created the home to be the primary vehicle by which young souls are raised “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6.1-4). This was expected of physical Israel (Deut. 6.4-10), and is equally expected of spiritual Israel (Gal. 6.16). However, this is an incomplete picture.

As James, the Lord’s brother says in Acts 15 the Jews – in a collective fashion – assembled together to hear “Moses” (Old Testament Law) proclaimed at specified days in the Jewish calendar and regularly on the Sabbaths in the synagogue.

This is equally true in the church. In Ephesians 4, Paul writes the church regarding those endowed by God to “equip” the Christians for ministry. Again, in 1 Timothy 4, Paul reminds his protégé to give heed to the public reading of the Scriptures.

A difference, however, should be acknowledged between Israel and the church. The overarching intent of Israel and their relationship with the Scriptures is to (1) provide a written testimonial regarding the works of God (Rom. 15.4), (2) provide context for the proper understanding of the catastrophic nature of sin (Rom. 7.13), (3) provide the basis for Israel’s geographically and ethnically based covenant with God (cf. Deuteronomy), and finally to (4) provide transitional mentorship and education until the Christian faith arrived (Gal. 3), replacing the Mosaic system (Heb. 8.7-13).

Whereas it may be generally said that the Hebrew covenant was exclusive for the Israelites; this was only an expedient preparatory measure for the Christian gospel which has a global scope (Acts 1.8, 13.46-47).

The scope of each covenant is relevant to the discussion of training, especially for the Christian faith for its global scope requires sufficient training to go into the whole world preaching and teaching the gospel (Mark 16, Matt. 28).

There are though many areas in which the church must give attention, and we will give attention to several of these below.

Raising Children for Worship

One of the most precious sounds which may “compete” with the sermon is the sound of a babe giggling with their parents. The training of children going through those “noisy” stages as they develop and become accustomed to the nature of Christian worship is to be applauded. God loves babies, we love babies.

There may be a genuine need though to annex a room in the back to create quarters where their “sounds” may be minimized; expedient rooms, such as the “cry room”, “nursery”, or “training room” are of valuable use.

However, any “expedient” which removes a parent’s ability to train their children to participate in Lord’s Day worship, and inserts these precious souls into activities which resemble “day care” instead of worship are setting their children up for a rude awakening; and for the parents as well.

Children are being groomed with the notion that worship is suppose to be “fun” and “entertaining”. With a diet of such “entertaining worship” is it any wonder why our young people can no longer sit through a 35 minute sermon from God’s Word? While there may be an aesthetic component to worship, the governing factor is the exaltation of God and proclamation of His Word; entertainment reverses the focus upon ourselves and our own passions instead of a precious submission to God’s presence.

Also, in a day when technology is a part of congregational worship, some bring phones and tablets under the guise of reading their Bibles; but instead, are “buying time” until the sermon is over. Giggling over texts. It seems to go without notice that the best seat in the “house” is the pulpit, and it is obvious there is a technological distraction. Still, there is no substitute for actually knowing how to navigate a hard copy Bible.

It may be even said that in such younglings, the prophetic words of Paul are finding meaning as well, people who “will not endure sound teaching” (2 Tim. 4.3). Yet, who is to blame for the diet which has led them to this spiritual deficit? Surely not the children, but those who are training them. Waiting until the children are older is not the solution, for by then they are mentally gone. Parents, youth workers, and congregations beware.

Are we left with no recourse? No, there are, at least, two influences which can go a great deal with creating the proper spiritual background for growing spiritually minded church youth. Consider the following.

Living as Spiritual Role Models

Parenthood is a huge responsibility, and those who enter into it must realize the awesome task they have assumed upon themselves. Children are a heritage of souls from the Lord (Psa. 127.3; Rom. 7.4).

Parents are called upon to teach their children the Word of God (Deut. 6.5ff). This is to be accomplished through exposure to the Bible at home; and through attendance of the Bible school and worship services with the congregation (Heb. 10.24-25).

Parents teaching their children the word at home and taking children to “church services” is part of the process. The children must also see their parents living out the teaching of the gospel (Phil. 1.27).

Children are not unaware of the hypocrisy of their parents. And while there is no excuse for using the poor example of another to justify one’s own spiritual failures (Prov. 25.19, Psa. 118.8), parents truly leave an indelible mark upon their children’s faith.

Providing “In Worship” Training

Providing “in worship” training begins with one simple step: attendance. How do parents expect their children to grow into spiritually sensitive individuals if they are not in services with their children providing training and guidance?

Still, the problem may not be absentee parents, but parents who provide no structure for their children in worship. Children must be given expectations, and given follow-through on the consequences for not meeting these expectations. It is the parent that instills, on the practical level, character formation; this responsibility must not be thrusted upon the congregation.

There are serious problems among older children which ought to know better. Habitually behaviors such as staying up late so that they cannot stay awake during services, and those so invested in their phones that they cannot stop texting and playing, while distracting others are all correctable. Parents are their children’s leaders, not the other way around. It is “children obey your parents” (Eph. 6.1; Col. 3.20), not “parents give in to your children”.

It is very surprising what little children can do. When age and skill allow, have your children bring notebooks and train them to write down every book of the Bible they hear in the sermon, or every time they hear the word “God”, “Bible”, “Jesus”, “love”, “gospel”, etc. Training the children to take notes can be quite simple and effective for training.

Tote bags of spiritually related materials can be a fantastic resource for training. Bring Bible related children’s books (prayers, Bible stories, etc.), or Bible related coloring books. I know of a congregation which provides tote bags with coloring books and Bible story books with crayons. Another has a children’s bulletin filled with “church related” games and activities, and coloring pages. These can be quite effective in grooming little ones into the atmosphere of worship.

As the children develop, older children can be transitioned to more helpful forms of activities. For example, it may be good to ask them to provide you with an outline of the sermons and Bible classes they heard. This forces them to mentally engage the material. This develops them to listen to the arguments and points from God’s Word in its proclamation.

Conclusion

Parents, where you lead them, they will follow. Don’t give up. You will reap a good harvest soon (Gal. 6.9). Take a “hands on” approach to the spiritual development of your children; do not expect the church, the “youth group”, or the “youth worker” to do it for you. We must train our children in the way they shall go (Prov. 22.6).

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