Connecting Kids To Christ
By Kim Butts
According to George Barna, in his book called Real Teens, the majority of thirteen year olds in our nation who attend church regularly, do not know what worship is, have never felt the presence of God, or heard His voice. Somehow, God has never become real or relevant to them in their growing up years of living in a Christian home and attending church. They are bored and ready to disengage from the church, which the majority of them choose to do as they grow older. Recent statistics show that over 80% of youth raised in the church walk away from their faith after graduating from high school. This appears to hold true even for kids who have already made a confession of faith, proclaiming Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. If this alarms you, it should!
The Lord has placed a deep-seated longing in children to be spiritually connected to Him. Yet, the enemy has seemingly blinded the hearts and minds of many parents, pastors, youth workers, etc. to this basic fact. Kids are not finding truth in their own homes, or in churches that seek to entertain them rather than empower them. In the great majority of cases, our children are experiencing lackluster, powerless, status quo spirituality that is perpetuated by parents who are satisfied to have their families function at a level of subnormal Christianity on a day to day basis because the enemy has blinded them to this fact. Many parents have handed over the spiritual education of children to the church.
Parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers or pastors may tell children about God’s power; however, children seldom or never see real evidence of that power. When reality doesn’t mesh with what teenagers have been taught throughout their childhood, they cannot actively engage the faith they are supposed to have developed. All the Bible School programs, videos, fun-filled curriculums and exciting bells and whistles in Children’s Church, Sunday school and youth group are briefly engaging to them until they realize that there is no lingering after-effect of a real connection to the Spirit of the Living God. Kids are looking for the truth of Jesus, but we are giving them entertainment and vague references to an awesome power that for their generation, appears not to exist in any significant, life-changing way.
The way of the world is seductive – Satan makes sure of it! He knows that grabbing children early and involving them in activity that is not spiritually relevant in any way is the key to his success. Our children spend hours upon hours in useless activity because they have not been introduced to the power of Christ working in and through their lives. How can they know that God wants to use them unless they are taught to listen to His voice, and to learn to pray. The enemy would have children follow the path of parents who are often not truly being obedient to Christ. "Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did" (2 Kings 17:41). We, as parents, can lead our children away from serving God without realizing the impact that the lives we live have upon them. If we are not wholeheartedly worshiping God and being obedient to His commands, how can we expect our children to do any differently? Parents, repentance is needed and demanded of us. We must cry out to the Lord for forgiveness with a new, solid resolve to live consistently Christ-like lives before the next generations.
We have done a great disservice to the cause of Christ by allowing generation after generation of children and youth to slip through the cracks of relevant Christianity into the abyss of empty lives. They long for truth and relevance in their lives, and yet, many parents fail to connect them to the One who has the power to transform their lives. Generally this is because most parents have also failed to connect with the Living God in any significant way. Even pastors who have been trained in Bible colleges and seminaries do not seem to have the tools to actively engage their own families or the families in their churches.
One major reason why this is the case, is because many parents have abdicated the responsibility for the spiritual nurturing of their children to the church. These parents seem content to support and reinforce what children learn in Sunday school or Children’s Church or youth group, rather than viewing the home as the primary source for the spiritual training of children.
What is the answer to this current state? Parents must repent of relinquishing spiritual responsibility for raising up their children. Church leaders must acknowledge the primary role of parents and begin to come alongside of parents in partnership. They must train or retrain parents, fathers in particular, to become the spiritual leaders of their homes. It is crucial that pastors and leaders begin with their own families so that their encouragement and training of others will be more readily accepted. This solution is difficult because in many cases we have effectively separated families in the church so that bringing them together again to worship, study, pray, and experience the power of God is a foreign concept to most. The families who have maintained the integrity of the family altar should be looked to as examples for others to follow. These are the families who truly understand what God has had in mind all along.
Our children have no hope of lifelong intimacy with Jesus without being trained how to stay attached to Him. If they never see God at work, experience answers to their prayers, or hear Him whispering into their hearts His directions, plans and purposes for their lives, we will most certainly lose them to boredom or the belief that what they have been taught has no significance or relevance to them as they face the future. It is essential in the context of everyday family life that children see the working of God.
Direct Instruction from the Lord
It is not enough to read in an article what needs to be done. What is needed is a return to the truth of God’s Word, and our commitment to be obedient to it. The Lord has much to say about families and how parents must take responsibility for their spiritual development and growth.
• Our children must hear what our fathers have told us so that they may be faithful to the Lord (Psalm 78:1-7). They must learn of the Lord’s saving acts and His commands because together they are central to our faith and obedience from generation to generation.
• The father’s godliness will result in blessing and refuge for himself and for his children. "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge" (Proverbs 14:26).
• Fathers must tell their children about the Lord’s faithfulness (Isaiah 38:19). "‘My Spirit, who is on you, and My words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,’ says the Lord" (Isaiah 59:21).
• Fathers are to encourage, train and instruct their children in the ways of the Lord: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). "Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged" (Colossians 3:21).
• The hearts of fathers need to be turned to their children, and the hearts of children turned to their fathers: "And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). "He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse" (Malachi 4:6).
God put an order in place. Parents are to instruct their children spiritually. The role of the Church is to support and encourage parents in this responsibility.
Beginning Guidelines for Parents and Pastors
SEEK the Lord’s forgiveness for our apathy, laziness and disinterest in raising our children to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. Seek Him to raise the standard in our own spiritual lives so that we might be living examples for the generations after us to follow.
SET APART the Lord as holy…and point our children toward the power in the life of the One who will never leave nor forsake us.
SEE the Lord’s heart for our children and our families by re-examining Scripture and being obedient to it. See the power of prayer that God has placed in our youth so that we can encourage them to be God’s world-changers.
SATISFY the Lord’s desire for our families by obediently following His plans and purposes as He leads us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Things for Parents, Pastors and Church Leadership to Consider:
• Passionate, praying parents must be willing to do whatever it takes to be sure that they are consistently demonstrating Christ-likeness to their children. These parents will not abdicate the primary responsibility for the spiritual nurturing of their children to anyone else – not even the church. The church must develop partnerships with parents through prayer, mentoring, teaching, and discipling.
• Churches must begin to develop a new mindset – that of partnering with the believing parents in their congregations to accept the responsibility to train up their own children. Determine how to provide resources and training for parents on a consistent basis.
There will, however, be children from unchurched backgrounds coming through the doors, and the church must provide teaching and training to these families also. They may have no other means to connect to the Living God outside of their experiences with the church once or twice a week. It is amazing how many parents are won to the Lord by the saving faith of their children. This is a critical ministry.
• Begin to pray that the Lord will show how to work together to restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Pray that He will give the wisdom and discernment to know what steps to take next.
Our children need to become enthralled and in love with the Living God. If not, they will determine that He has no power or relevance to their lives. If we do not seek His power in our lives or if the Holy Spirit is not actively working in our churches, our kids will go looking elsewhere. Connecting children and youth to Christ must happen now. God has instructed us…and we must obey Him. David charged Solomon with building a temple for the Lord. He said, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished" (1 Chron. 28:20). Likewise, we are charged with building a generation and those after it as temples for the Lord. Are we strong enough to do the work?