Discipling Children (part 1)

Dear Reader,

I have mentioned before that a lot of what’s out there to teach children about God and their faith is unappealing to me. I seems to me that we have two minds about how to approach our children on such things. On the one hand, we as parents are all very naturally concerned that our children should be saved. This is probably as it should be. What could be more important for them than their eternal state? And so we push for that point of decision, the point when they make a choice and the faith they have been raised in becomes their own. Now I attend a church which practices infant baptism. We believe that the children of believers are part of God’s covenant community. And yet there still seems to be this push for that turning point. Certainly it is acknowledged that the turning point may not be dramatic. No one expects a 10 year old raised in the church to have huge sinful patterns he has to be delivered from. But there still seems to be this altar-call mentality which is always saying, “Kids, you need to make a decision.”

On the other hand, a lot of how we teach out children seems to assume they are believers. If an adult of whose salvation we were not sure came to us for instruction, we would begin with the gospel, the message of why we need salvation and how we are saved. But so much of what we teach kids seems to be focused on their behavior. It makes one think what we really want is just well-behaved kids. And maybe we will get that. But personally, if I had to choose I would rather have misbehaving but ultimately saved kids. Put another way, I do not preach to my non-Christian friends about all the virtues they should have because as non-believers I don’t expect them to adhere to the same standards I strive for. Now they should know some of God’s law so that they can see their sin and thereby know their need of God. But I would not confront them with sins I see in their lives in the way I would a brother or sister in Christ.

Yet for our kids, it seems that one the one hand, by constantly urging them to make a decision for Christ we are implying that they are not yet saved. But by presenting a high moral standard for them to adhere to we are asking that they behave as God’s people. So which is it? Should we treat them as members of the body of Christ or not? I am not asking this rhetorically. I really would like to understand the answer. I have my own ideas, but I think I will save them for another post. Not having grown up in a Christian home, it is genuinely confusing to me how we treat children of believers. What I hear of the theory (children of believers are part of God’s covenant family) is not what I am seeing in practice (“Come on, kids, you need to make a decision. We are waiting.”).

So before I give what I think, if anyone wants to enlighten me that would be great.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Very interesting question! I do differ in belief concerning infant baptism, but I really appreciated your honesty. I like Tedd Tripp’s book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.”


  2. […] might be expected, this is a follow-up to my post Discipling Children (part 1). In that post, I talked about a disconnect I see in our church between the official view that […]


  3. […] in part 1 I outlined the problem as I see it. In part 2  I talked about my view of children as members  of […]


  4. […] I have actually blogged a lot on this in the past as I have tried to sort through the issues (see here, here, here, and here). On the one hand, we expect our children to behave like God’s […]


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