By: Sue White - Elementary School Principal
One of my favorite activities is visiting preschool, preK, kindergarten and first grade classes during Bible or worship time. The students are so candid and open with expressing their thoughts about Jesus and the Bible lessons they are learning, and they sing with all their hearts in Chapel. The excitement in their eyes and voices is truly a blessing to me.
A few years later, the students still like learning about Jesus and singing praises, but there seems to be a little less excitement and much more concern about what others are doing. It breaks my heart to see their enthusiasm wane as they head toward puberty. At about the same time as I was considering this, I watched an ACSI video called “Sticky Faith” and read the BARNA research about young people and their faith. All of this has confirmed my feeling that it’s never too early for children to build a biblical worldview and a strong faith. I’d like to share what I learned.
The practice that stood out in all the sources was the parental example of trusting Jesus for all their needs, a regular prayer life that goes beyond rote prayers at meal and bed time, and speaking about faith and dependence on God. Your child needs to see that your spiritual life is very important to you, and that in your life, you have relied on it to get through tough times. All of this is paramount to your child’s spiritual formation.
According to one source, this example begins while the child is still in the cradle or crib. Pray that you will be an excellent example for your child(ren). Another way to help your child develop a strong faith is to show your children unconditional love and that their true identity is in Christ. As they see you making family your priority and that they are a gift from God, they will be more likely to view God as caring, trustworthy, and forgiving. They also need to know that both you and God love them for who they are. Seeing that their identity is not tied to getting all A’s, being the athletic star you want them to be, or starring in the school play is important for them to understand their identity in Christ.
In all honesty, the biggest mistake I see as I deal with parents and students is the focus on academic or athletic success over the emphasis of being a spiritual and caring individual. Since I spend a lot of time at sporting events, I can tell you that the unkind words and actions I see from parents over a game are not promising for teaching young people integrity. Still another way to help your child is to help them face their questions and doubts and be able to stand up for what they believe. In a world that splashes everyone’s opinions on every topic, it has become increasingly important for young people to have a biblical worldview and be able to stand against other prominent worldviews.
According to the BARNA research, 42% of students start having questions and doubts in middle school (5th - 8th), so it’s important that we arm them as suggested in Ephesians 6:13-17 at a young age.
"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…" Ephesians 6:13-17
You might be thinking that you don’t have all the answers to questions your child may ask, but it’s actually better that way! Keep it simple, search God’s word together and realize that you are and always will be your child’s primary teacher. It is paramount that young people know that while unbelievers have good questions, believers have better answers. One thing I have heard often and strongly believe to be true is that if we don’t teach our children a biblical perspective by age ten, the world will teach them one contrary to that.
Finally, a child who sees that God has a mission for their life and learns to be mission-minded in life is more likely to have a faith that lasts. Help your child see that serving others strengthens us as well as glorifying God.
Madison Christian School believes strongly in walking alongside families to spiritually educate children. We will be working hard every day to help you with the important task of developing your child’s faith so that it will last a lifetime. Following the above suggestions will help you along the way. More than anything, today’s children need to see authentic Christianity on a daily basis.