One of the privileges that I’ve had over the last few years is seeing children and youth ministry within the contexts of different churches, in different countries and with different leading styles. In the most recent few years I have enjoyed leading the youth ministry in two different churches.
The question that I find myself asking, generally about children and youth ministry is, are we setting them up to fail? But this branches out into all ages, are our people taught well or are we setting them up to fail?
I ask this question because often we teach our children and youth the ‘easiest parts’ of the Bible; we teach about Jesus and how he met with people in the gospels and we might teach the logical argument of the epistles. But do we stop there?
The staff team in the church that I serve have been making our way through the book of Ecclesiastes in our staff devotions together. Ecclesiastes is a difficult book and takes a lot of time invested before you get the message of it. Similarly, we recently preached through the book of Joel and at the same time taught the teenagers the book.
The reason I recommend people not to shy away from the more ‘difficult’ part of Scripture when it comes to children and teenagers is because if we don’t teach them now, we are in danger of setting them up to fail.
How can we expect believers to feel comfortable in the Old Testament, to have a basic understanding of the whole of Scripture and to feel able to pick up the Bible and glean applications from these difficult parts, unless we teach them well and teach them when they’re young?
One of the benefits of teaching the whole of Scripture to people of all ages is that you create opportunities for the whole church, young and old, to learn the same things together. This leads to deep and meaningful conversations about what people don’t understand or what they struggle with and these conversations should happen across all age barriers. If we don’t do this then we are robbing people of the opportunity for such discussions.
Furthermore, simply teaching children and teenagers to say ‘no’ to something, or just teaching them that something is wrong without explaining the why is definitely setting them up to fail!
If we want to have a generation of believers who are truly “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:9-11), then we need to teach them well!
If we only tell children that something is wrong, or that they need to say no to certain things; the truth is that the ‘no’ will only take them so far. We need to teach them the reasons why Christians say no to certain things so that they are equipped and prepared to stand on and to stand up for the truth.
If we want our children to grow up to be strong believers who share the gospel at work, who stand up for sound and Biblical doctrine and who desire to be shaped by God’s Word and not the world, then we need to start preparing them in Sunday School. Because the world is constantly changing, more and more people are becoming intolerant and quite hateful of Christian Biblical teaching and our children are on the front line in schools.
People need to know why they believe what they do because is our convictions do not have firm foundations at the first sign of opposition or at their first encounter with something else, they might fall and their convictions are gone.
Whether you’re 105, 55 or 5, it is never too late or too early to start learning and trying to understanding the logic and reasoning behind Biblical convictions so that you may be a stronger believer and a faithful witness of Jesus Christ.
If we don’t teach our children, the world will.
If we don’t encourage people to ask questions about Christianity and the Bible, then we aren’t leading or teaching well.
If we don’t encourage people to be influenced and transformed by Scripture and not the world, then we aren’t doing our best to disciple spiritually mature followers of Jesus.