How Do We Share the Good News With Our Children?
How do we raise our children in the faith? How do we share the Good News with them?
For years, the church, my own congregation included, has emphasized the importance of the Sunday morning program as a vehicle for sharing the Good News with our children. During my 25 years as the Rector of St. Timothy’s, dedicated parents have brought great energy and commitment to this important task. I couldn’t be more grateful for what they have passed on to my own children and so many others. Over these years our approach to “Church School” has had several new chapters. After much prayerful discernment about where the Spirit is leading us, this coming Sunday yet another new chapter unfolds for our children and youth. As with the beginning of any new chapter, the staff and parent leaders have no idea how this will unfold and are experiencing the usual anxiety of trying something new. As with the beginning of any new faith journey, they are having to trust that God will lead us and provide for us.
I would be the first to say that our Sunday program for children and youth matters for their faith development. However, I think we need to see this programmatic piece as only one piece of a larger approach to sharing the Good News with our kids. What the Bible tells us is that evangelism—sharing the Good News—is an invitation to leave behind a world governed by relentless task masters for a world governed by a generous God who will provide ongoing gifts to sustain us. Evangelism is about an alternative allegiance in this world. It is about inviting people to a way of life that trusts God will provide, a way of life that frees us from the endless demands of the “rat race.”
If what I have just said is true, what is absolutely critical for the faith development of children is this: parents and other adults who have given their allegiance to God and show our children another way of living. In Luke’s Gospel, an angel of the Lord told Zechariah, that John the Baptist would “turn the hearts of parents to their children” (1:16-17). Here and elsewhere in the Bible, we are told that when parents “turn,” the children will believe. Parents and other adults who have given their allegiance to the alternative way of the Gospel are the most important program for our children. Needless to say, nothing about this is formulaic or guaranteed. Many parents have shown their children a better way and the children have opted for a different path.
Never the less, the most important issue for raising kids in the faith is the vitality of the faith of the adult community, especially the parents. Therefore, we need to ask ourselves challenging questions: Have we left the rat race behind? If we haven’t, we can rest assured that we will enter our children in that same race. Have we left behind the idols of this world to follow Jesus? If we haven’t, our kids will worship those same idols regardless of how often they go to church. Have we put our trust primarily in our financial security rather than the God who wants to give us all good things? If we have, our kids will inherit our financial anxiety. Do we take a day to rest and enjoy God’s providential care? If we don’t, our kids will follow suit?
Young people, and people of all ages for that matter, are transformed by a community that lives an alternative way because they have given their obedience to God. The best church school program in the world won’t form our children in the faith unless we show our children what faithful lives look like. You and I are the primary program. Let us pray that our lives will show our children what the Good News is all about.