By Seth A. Ampadu-Superintendent Minister Methodist Church in St. Lucia
It appears that children and young people are walking out on God. They have no interest or time for church or religious matters. Why is this? Can we blame the children for this indifference? Definitely not.
Parents must take the blame and before it is too late they must learn the simple lesson that the dog wags the tail. The tail does not wag by itself and it certainly does not wag the dog.
Children have to be seen as a gift from God and the Bible tells us very clearly that parents should bring up a child in the way they should go. That means to guide them. And when they grow up, the good parental teaching would be so embedded in them – so much a part of them – that they would not go astray.
It is very unfortunate that people who should know better fall for the argument that things have changed and that the world is now a different place and we have got to change with the times.
Of course there are wonderful changes and exciting developments and discoveries all around us but it should not be forgotten that the God who made the heavens and the earth and gives us life has not changed. The sun still rises in the east and sinks in the west. And Solomon reminds us that really and truly there is nothing new under the sun.
God’s fundamentals for love, peace and harmony are still in place and must be observed and respected if we are to have a happy, orderly life – one that is identified by victories over the temptations, distractions and the pressures designed to lead us astray and create confusion.
If children are walking out on God, it may very well because parents, instead of guiding children are allowing the children to guide them. Instead of insisting that the children go to Sunday School, attend church and get instruction for the building of good character, the parents are asking, “Do you want to go to church? Do you want to go to Sunday School?”
Let’s be honest. Many of us who are now adults cannot say that Sunday School and Church were our priorities on our list of things to do as children but today we can say “Thank God, my parents insisted.”
They were able to point out the good and the bad and direct us accordingly. There was indiscipline, crime and other related social vices when we were growing up, but the parental hand of care and love was there to give guidance.
Parents must understand that they are primarily responsible for the total development of their children. That means providing food that strengthens the physical body and helps it to grow and providing food that nurtures the spirit and helps it to grow,
It is unfortunate few parents spend time interacting with their children on spiritual matters. When parents fail to nurture a child’s spirit a vacuum is created and something fills that vacuum. The something could be rudeness, pleasure seeking (including the smoking of marijuana for instance), stubbornness, indiscipline and even criminal activity.
In my ministry, I have come to know that children who are spiritually underdeveloped struggle to live in community with others. I normally go to some primary schools to conduct devotions for pupils and it is always surprising to find children who have no knowledge about God.
It is not surprising that some of these children are the ones who give their teachers “headache” with their rude behaviour.
In our society today, it has become clear that insufficient attention is being paid to character development based on Christian principles of mutual love and respect for our loving Creator, God. Yet there are parents in this country who will attest that religion and faith in God helped to shape and influence their lives. I think they need to take courage and speak up because there are also some parents who are fearful of rebuke for disciplining their children.
There is a lot of controversy about spanking but the Good Book says “spare the rod and spoil the child”.
Let me make it clear that spanking is spanking and does not mean to brutalise. It certainly does not mean that a parent should allow his or her own frustrations determine the punishment or severity of punishment.
Again, I feel sure that many grownups know in their hearts that it took a little spanking at times to bring them in line.
If a parent refuses to discipline an unruly child, that child can grow into becoming a spoiled brat. Proverbs 13:24 puts it this way: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”
The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. When a child does not feel the consequence of his sin, he will not understand that sin requires punishment.
The Lord provides a way to salvation and forgiveness through Jesus, but that means little to those who do not see their sin. Parents must make sure that the word of God becomes the foundation on which the home is run with God’s truth reigning as supreme.
Child Psychologists reveal that if a child lives with criticism, he or she learns to condemn. If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight. If a child lives with fear, he or she learns to be apprehensive. A child who lives with pity learns to be sorry for himself or herself.
On the contrary, if we train children to live with encouragement, they learn to be confident. We must teach them to be tolerant and patient. When we bring them up in love, they will grow to love. When we bring them up in honesty, they grow to become honest and truthful to people. Also when we bring them up with strong spiritual foundation they will learn to have faith in God.
There is no doubt that parenting is difficult work. The truth is, if we consult God’s Word first, then He will lead and guide us in being the best parents possible.
One of the most important decisions parents should make is to dedicate their children to the Lord at an early age. It is not too early for a child to be used by God. In the book of 1 Samuel, God called Samuel at the tender age. Throughout the Bible we find evidence that shows God intends for the children to serve Him from early childhood, through their teen years, to adulthood and for life.
God, the source and giver of all life, expects the torch of godly values and service to Him to be passed from generation to generation.
As parents we all want the best for our children, and the best we can ever give them is the torch of love and care, honesty and integrity.
We have generations of young people that continually move further from God. We have ignored the importance of family life. Broken marriages result in children being deprived of experiencing love and security in a home environment.
I want to encourage all parents to do their best to send the children to church to be trained in God’s way. You can also be the best possible role model for your children. Teach your children what it means to be like Jesus.
Children who feel secure and accepted are more inclined to accept the spiritual truths taught by parents. When parents respect the things of God, children do the same. Children live what they learn.
It’s important for parents to pray with their children at a young age. Pray with them at meal times, when they go to bed, when they set out for school. Read the Bible to them and with them and also share stories of your journey of faith. Not about how good you are but about how good God has been to you.
It is my prayer that as parents you will know the importance of sending your child to Sunday School and worshipping God who made the heavens and the earth and everything.