There are not a whole lot of things cuter than watching and listening to a child pray. Their honest and unfiltered rambling is filled with young faith and free of self-consciousness that plagues those that are older.
There’s nothing like children singing “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” or “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world”. It’s almost medicinal. It can melt a hard heart.
The Christmas season will find children of all ages telling and retelling the story of the baby Jesus in the manger and singing beautiful angelic choruses of Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful.
And people who have little or even no faith in God at all will enjoy those moments and see nothing wrong with letting them happen again and again as their children grow up.
You see, apparently this Jesus thing is okay for children.
But then children grow up and things like belief and church and the Bible and heaven and a continued life of faith become increasingly irrelevant. Little hearts full of wonder and trusting confidence in a God that is bigger than any problem they will ever face…begin to be replaced with culturally acceptable self-reliance and the pursuit of academic, relationship and financial success.
In short, the Jesus-God-Bible-Church experience is fine for children (as well as the emotionally and intellectually weak)…but it is definitely not okay for reasonable, intelligent, and culturally relevant adults.
One of the greatest joys and most profound disappointments in all of my years of youth ministry was living my life with teenagers whose faith was deeper, more mature and clearly more profound than their own parents’ faith.
I have interacted with parents whose lack of faith and knowledge of the Bible stood in the way of their own kids’ spiritual growth. I have dealt with parents who “punished” their kids by not letting them come to a weekly Bible study. I’ve confronted parents who would willingly pay hundreds of dollars for their kids to receive private music or athletic instruction, but whined like babies when they were asked to spend $75 for their kids to go on a youth retreat.
I’ve wrestled with parents who were totally offended at my suggestion that they consider rearranging a family vacation by a few days, so their child could attend a summer youth group trip.
And I’ve actually had parents get mad and shun me when they became aware that I had encouraged their gifted and talented teenager consider a life of mission work with the poor…instead of pursuing a life in the corporate world. No joke.
So what happens on the road to adulthood? When, exactly, does the wonder of childlike faith get replaced with a life that places God and the pursuit of his kingdom into the closet of irrelevance?
Parents, there are many things to teach our children…like responsibility and a work ethic and personal hygiene and money management and academic determination and manners and dealing with strangers and how to cross the street safely and a host of other important life skills.
Parents, you need to teach your kids about sex and marriage and healthy relationship behavior. And about winning and losing and dealing with pain and death and unexplained tragedy. Parents, you’ve got a tough job.
But your greatest and most important job is to point your children to a life of faith in Jesus. You can’t make them believe. That will be their responsibility when they grow older.
But don’t hinder them. Please.