By Brent Rinehart, Crosswalk.com
Jesus loves the little children. As the song goes, “they are precious in his sight.”
Throughout scripture, we see how much Jesus cares for the young and urges us as adults to have faith like a child. “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18: 2-4).
Jesus says we need a childlike faith, but what does that mean? Childlike faith is not a faith without questions or doubts. Instead, it is a faith that fully trusts the Father even when the answers to those questions or doubts are hard to find or not what we want to hear.
The world is full of traps and snares that have the potential to hurt our relationship with God. Our role as parents is to help shape or shepherd our child’s journey of faith. God has given us His precious children to steward through their early years.
There are many things our children encounter today that can hurt their faith, but here are a few that I believe are front and center.
Before the pandemic, I had to drag my kids out of bed for school. They moaned and complained about having to go.
Then, in-person classes were taken away, and it changed everything.
Back in August, their school district adopted a mixed model of some in-person class and some virtual learning. Recently, on one of their in-person days, classes were cancelled due to inclement weather, and it became a virtual learning day instead.
This news hit my daughter really hard, and she started crying. It was like the build up over the past several months had caught up with her and she couldn’t control her emotions. She was feeling sad and angry all at the same time.
Can’t you relate to that? I know I surely can.
This year has been a struggle for all of us. Just as they can for us, difficult circumstances can cause problems for a young child’s faith. It’s hard to comprehend why things don’t always go according to plan.
We have to use these as opportunities to refocus on God and His goodness.
We need to teach our children to praise like Habakkuk: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3: 17-18).
2. Lack of Communication
The most important thing you can do as a parent to help your child on their faith journey is to maintain open lines of communication. We should never leave faith formation up to Sunday School teachers or youth ministry workers at church.
It’s an around the clock, every single day proposition.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
It’s clear that we have to be deliberate in communicating with our children about matters of faith. If there are no open lines of communication, children will find answers elsewhere, or doubts will grow and become insurmountable.
3. Technology and Media
I’m not a culture warrior type or one who thinks we have to shield our kids from all things secular. However, there’s no denying that we live in a world unfriendly to Christian values.
The world is out to undermine our child’s faith through music, books, social media, online video content and more. It’s more important than ever that we involved and present in our kids’ lives--particularly in their consumption of media and technology.
Just recently, my wife started thumbing through a book my daughter had checked out from the library. She had read other books in the series before, so we didn’t think much of it.
But, this particular book, as my wife came to find out, was full of all kinds of questionable content. We need to know what our children are consuming and how it might affect them.
It’s easy to see the dangers online. What can seem innocent like a YouTube video for children, can be stuffed with questionable ad content or video recommendations after it plays.
We are all bombarded with messages throughout the day. We need to be prepared, with a strong foundation in the Word, to handle what comes at us that is contrary to Scripture.
4. Their Friends
Many of the bad choices I’ve made in my life were the result of influences of friends. Just as we cared about what our friends thought about us as young children, kids today care about what others think.
On a typical school day (before the pandemic), children spend more time with their classmates than they likely do with their parents. Friends can play a critical role in your child’s faith.
It’s important for us to know who our children are associating with and what they are talking about. This is not to determine who they should or shouldn’t hang out with--as I believe strongly that our children should be kind to everyone and they can have a positive influence on someone who needs it.
But, by knowing your child’s friends and their backgrounds, we can be better equipped as parents to respond to any conversations or controversies that may arise.
Our friends have the ability to build us up or tear us down. If the latter is happening to our children and it’s impacting their faith, it’s our role as parents to help them navigate it.
5. Their Parents
Parents are in position to have the most influence on their children. In the formative years, most of what children know about the world around them they learn from their parents.
The same is true about matters of faith.
Our children are like little sponges, soaking up and observing how we respond to every situation in our lives. The best thing we can do to influence our children in their walk with the Lord is to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
As Paul writes, we should “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). If we are doing this, our children will be impacted.
The contrary is also true. If we say one thing, but yet don’t live it out in our actions, our children will notice.
Parents can either help children grow in their faith, or hinder them. The biggest way we as parents can hurt our children’s faith is through our actions.
If what we do doesn’t line up with what we say, how can we expect our kids to have a deep-rooted faith?
Our mission as parents is to help our kids to understand their purpose in this life and give them a strong foundation of faith. We have to be watchful and discerning to recognize the things that fight against these goals--and protect our kids against anything that can steal their childlike faith!
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages
Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @brentrinehart