Raising Children For Christ
We are pleased to have another article by the Secretary of Food for the Flock Inc., John Funk, C.A. The counsel that he gives is a good complement to other articles we have published dealing with the problems of youth.
The most important obligation and privilege Christian parents have is to raise their children for Christ. By all means give them the best education available and try to inculcate some culture and refinement. These are, however, secondary. What advantage in having educated, cultured, refined children whose lives are wasted as far as Christ is concerned and who may be eventually lost?
Raising children is not an exact science, as all parents know. The writer and his wife have five children, ranging in age from 11 to 20. They are all saved and going on for the Lord. Parents who are in this happy situation can say with John the Apostle, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” We are reminded of the man who before he had children had five theories about raising them. Now he has five children and no theories. No two children are alike, nor are any two sets of circumstances exactly the same. There are therefore no “pat” answers for every situation. Good common sense and spiritual discernment are required to cope with the problems of children in this extremely complex age in which we live.
My careful observation of Christian families, during twenty-five years in the assemblies, has confirmed that where both father and mother are enjoying the Lord and are whole-heartedly involved in the assembly, their children almost invariably go on for the Lord. If the entire lives of the parents are centred not only around Christ, but also around the assembly, the children who do not go on for Christ are the exception rather than the rule. Notice that this requires both parents. One of the chief reasons so many full-time servants of the Lord have serious problems with their families is the absence of the father from the home for protracted periods. I submit that it was never God’s intention nor does His Word support our present practice where the majority of full-time workers are continually away from their wives and families. Doubtless some are called to an itinerary ministry, but I question if this is the Lord’s mind for the great majority of His servants. I believe this to be one of the major problems in our assemblies today.
Another observation is that almost invariably parents who are extremely legalistic and severe and those who continually nurse grudges and resentments have children who do not go on for the Lord.
A few random pointers for parents —
Communicate: Sarah Wesley had 19 children. From one o’clock to two o’clock each afternoon she spent in prayer and yet she had time to communicate with her children. I try every day to have at least some brief communication with each of my children. Don’t try to force conversation on your children —but be available when they are ready to talk. Mrs. Wallace Logan encouraged my wife when my wife told her about our twins being saved at an early age and that we sometimes wondered about them being so young. Mrs. Logan said, “Never doubt a child, but encourage him with a little word here and there as opportunity presents itself.”
Take Time: To allocate your time among all your responsibilities is one of the most important matters in your life. Each child should have part of your day. Do things together. I have found that you can love up your daughters, but that you sometimes have to wrestle with your sons to show them affection.
Be an Example: To your children be an example of what you want them to be and do. It is much easier for them to do what you do than it is for them to do what you say.
Dominance of the Father: In every truly happy home the father is dominant (not domineering). In the final analysis the father will be held responsible for the home. He must formulate policy and see that it is carried out. He should not be vacillating, but forthright, yet understanding. The wife, of course, contributes greatly with the love and warmth that only a mother possesses.
Establish Ground Rules: Within this framework let children make their own decisions. One of my children was class representative and felt she should be present at a social dance in one of the homes. She asked my opinion and I told her to make her own decision. She went — and on her return said, “Dad, I felt like a fish out of water.” It cured her. She had learned she was not of this world.
Discipline: Every home must have an order and routine. In this busy day it is sometimes hard to maintain. As indicated earlier, the father should lay the ground rules and the mother should help to implement them. Children feel secure where definite authority is exercised. This authority or discipline should be consistent. My own experience has been that once basic guide lines have been laid down, a rather liberal or easy discipline works best, particularly in our present age.
Take an Interest: In the things your children do. To you they may seem very trivial, but to them they are important. Children love parents who are “with it.” My older son likes hunting. My younger son likes tennis and golf. I don’t particularly care for any of these — but suddenly I am a hunter, golfer and tennis player.
Assembly: It is most important that the children find a good part of their social life in the assembly with others their own age. A happy assembly, free from legalism and strife, together with a joyous Christian home, are wonderful places to bring up children for Christ. The children should attend the assembly meetings. I was recently dismayed with a Christian couple who allowed their children to go to the assembly meetings “when they felt like it and weren’t too tired.”
Family Worship: These periods should be reasonably brief but regular. We found the best time for our family was immediately after the evening meal, the one time when we were all invariably present.
Encourage Private Devotions: As they come to age encourage daily Bible reading, daily prayer, witnessing and living for Christ.
The above is not at all exhaustive. The same principles can be applied to Sunday School children or other children’s and young people’s works.
Finally a word of encouragement to those parents whose children have grown up and are not saved. God is able to do everything (see Job 42:2). He is not willing that any should perish. They can still be saved. Claim them for God every day and live Christ before them. Often grandchildren will be allowed to come to the assembly Sunday School. Claim them for Christ and they could draw their parents to Him.
At the end may we all be able to say, “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me …”