Part of what I do as a student pastor is figure out ways to motivate kids and teens to grow in their relationship with God. The goal is always forward progress. The idea is that a person’s relationship with God is something that should begin very early in life and never stop.
The struggle is, however, that life offers up a laundry list of things that claim top billing when it comes to priority. That, in turn, impacts the lives of our children; including their faith.
Don’t stop the forward progress of children moving closer to God.
In response to that statement we probably all nod our heads in agreement. However, talk is cheap; and so is head-nodding. So, how do we ensure that forward momentum in the faith of our kids never stops?
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16, NLT)
When this happened, Jesus was in the midst of ministering to people. He was teaching them things they needed to know about God. But, while all this ministry was happening, something else was going on that could have seemed like a very burdensome thing at the time. Parents began bringing their kids to these disciples and asking if Jesus would spend some time with them. And, really all they were looking for was a quick little blessing said over their kids. Maybe a hug or two.
The well-meaning disciples assumed that because Jesus was so important, kids just weren’t very high on His priority list. They assumed wrong. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!” And so, I have to wonder … are we stopping our children from coming to Jesus?
Jesus prioritized children and their faith over other things.
Now, I’m not saying that our kids should dictate every decision we make. After all, we don’t want them growing up with an unhealthy sense of entitlement. However, if the priorities in our lives, homes, and communities make it more difficult for kids to have a growing relationship with Jesus, our priorities are messed up.
If the priorities that you have set for your home make it more difficult for your kids to develop a relationship with Jesus, you need to know that Jesus isn’t happy with your choices. If you are keeping your kids out of church because you have decided that other things are more important right now, you need to know that your choices are out of line with what God says is best.
I realize that this might rub some people the wrong way but Jesus didn’t pretend like it was okay when His disciples brushed the kids off. It would be wrong if I did.
Parents, the spiritual future of your kids is in your hands.
Notice that the parents of these children did not get upset with the disciples when they were blocked from bringing their children to Jesus. Until Jesus spoke up and said something, it seems like the parents just thought, “Okay. We’re sorry to have bothered you.” When really, they should have said, “Um, no! My kids need Jesus!”
We have given culture an inch with our kids and now it is taking a mile. If there are things in our culture and communities that are blocking our kids from coming to Jesus, it’s time for us to say, “No! It’s not okay.” No one is going to stand up for your kids and their faith; but we have to parents. Jesus would be good with that.
Child-like faith is not a type of faith, but rather, the standard … Jesus said so.
As adults, we make faith a whole lot harder than it needs to be. It’s like if something isn’t complicated it’s not worth pursuing. But, Jesus points us to the children and says these kids have it figured out. They believe, very simply, that Jesus is the answer. And, if we adults don’t adopt that same faith in our lives, we’re the ones who will be left out in the end.
Back to our situation with the disciples and the kids …
Had this kind of thing ever happened before? We don’t really know. However, I can guarantee that it didn’t happen again. I can imagine that whenever Jesus and His disciples rolled into any town after that, every child that wanted to see Jesus was personally escorted to the front of the line.
If we started doing that with our kids, we would start raising kids who have child-like faith when they become adults. How about, instead of stopping the progress of faith in our kids, we start escorting them straight to the front of the line so they can genuinely meet with Jesus. After all, someday that’s really all that is going to matter.