Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Parents often ponder what it looks like to train up their children in the way that they need to go. There are times that we wonder if the things we are doing really matter. We wonder if we are engaging our children in ways that will make an impact in their lives. I am the father to three beautiful daughters. My youngest is 5, my oldest is 7, and the middle one is sandwiched in between. My wife and I have often thought about the world in which we are tasked with raising them and what we can do to give them the tools they need to successfully defend their faith in a world that is increasingly hostile toward the ideas and beliefs of Christianity. William Lane Craig, a giant in the apologetics movement, shares, “It is no longer enough to teach our children Bible stories; they need doctrine and apologetics.” In many instances, it seems that the biblical teaching geared toward our children is often surface level material that does not engage them in significant discussions surrounding the doctrines of Christianity and their defense. We share Bible stories with our children. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if we intend for them to defend their faith in a meaningful way, it will require taking them beyond the average Sunday school class or children’s church service. Our children need engagement beyond the surface. They need to see that there is substance to the faith that we have as Christians. The question, then, is how do we train our children to be warriors for Christ who can defend their beliefs in a world that is filled with unbelievers?
That training starts at home. We take our children to church. We send them to Sunday school and children’s church. We may even send them to a Christian school, but is that enough to ensure that they have the tools that they need to be well grounded in their faith? In most cases I don’t believe that it is. Our children may get two or three hours of engagement through church weekly. If they are enrolled in a Christian school, they likely have a bible class for forty-five minutes to an hour each day. That may be accompanied with a chapel service once a week. That’s not to say that the other materials used to teach aren’t from Christian sources, however, they still don’t likely address some of the most pressing questions of life and faith. Then there’s the public school system. It’s no secret that the ideas and beliefs of Christianity are woefully absent in public education. While there may be individual educators who are followers of Christ, there is little to no hint of Christian belief in the pages of most if not all educational materials that are used in the realms of public education. Our children who are students of the public educational system are often taught elements of Critical Theory which takes its cues from Marxist ideologies. As a result, those who have entrusted the education of their children to the school systems will often report that the faith of their children has suffered. They are taught to be activists. They are taught what to think but not how to think.
Apologist Natasha Crain, in her book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith, when writing about why young adults are turning from the faith shares, “I think it is fair to summarize the collective problem in one sentence: A lack of robust spiritual training has resulted in a featherweight faith for many of today’s young adults, and that faith is being blown away by attacks from our secular culture.” She further writes, “Young people are turning away from the faith because they have accepted the popular claims that Christianity is irrational, anti-science, intolerant, and based on an irrelevant ancient book. These claims have compelling answers from a Christian worldview, but young people are not leaving home equipped with those answers.” When we turn to the statistics, we see that studies have shown fewer than 1 in 10 Christian families read the Bible together during a typical week. Another study of 11,000 teenagers showed that only 12 percent of youth have regular conversations with a parent. This tells us that most kids growing up in Christian homes are not receiving anything remotely close to what is needed for them to have a faith that lasts. Statistics show that 70% of young adults will leave their faith in the years following high school graduation. It is also of interest that individuals who identify as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular” have grown by 4%, and a total of 38% of those individuals are between the ages of 18 and 29. What does all this mean? It means that we are not doing well at equipping our children to withstand the continued barrage of contradicting information that the world shares in opposition of the Christian worldview.
We see that there is a significant problem that has presented itself regarding the sustained faith of our children. Now what do we need to do about it? Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, sums it up well when he says, “If our culture is to be transformed, it will happen from the bottom up—from ordinary believers practicing apologetics over the backyard fence or around the barbecue grill.” What that means is the solution to the problem we are facing begins at home. It starts with everyday conversations and the integration of our faith in our daily lives. It involves having meaningful conversations with our children and equipping them with the knowledge and tools they need to take their faith beyond the surface and defend it in a meaningful way. It means that we need to teach our children the doctrines of the faith. It means we teach them what we believe and why we believe it. It means that we approach our faith and how we convey it to our children with logic and reason. The future of Christianity depends on the sustained faith of our children. While statistics show that many are falling away from the faith in droves in their teens and twenties, it’s not too late to right the ship. It’s not too late to start having meaningful conversations about the Christian faith with your children. Now is the time to start the journey of taking back the ground that the enemy has claimed. That may mean standing up to a society that is working to indoctrinate your children. It may mean standing in defense of the faith. It may mean standing alone. Remember the words we find in Nehemiah 4:14 (NIV), “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” Train your children in the way they should go. Give them the tools they need to defend their faith. Don’t shy away from conversations of eternal significance. Teach your children to be critical thinkers. Stand up and fight. Fight for the faith. Fight for your children, your families, and your homes.