“Train up a child in the way he should go …” (Proverbs 22:6)
Suppose 20 people enroll in medical school to become physicians, but when the first semester for the freshman class convenes there are only four of the 20 who show up for class. Then two more enroll the second week. At the end of the month there are a total of eight students. At the beginning of the second year five more of the 20 enroll. And then finally toward the end of the third year all 20 come to class to become medical doctors. You may be thinking that it is just plain silly to suggest that medical doctors be trained in this manner.
Okay, that may not be the way to train medical doctors, but what I have described with students coming into the classroom at different times is a model of what happens in most church congregations for discipleship training. People come and go in the sanctuary, and they do the same thing in Sunday school classes, mid-week services and other activities. I know attendance at Christian meetings is voluntary, but can we not, at the very least, concentrate on methods that will provide our children with some better approach to education that is to be Christ-centered? Is this the best we can provide for our children?
Just so we understand our dilemma (disaster is a better word) more accurately and clearly, let me outline the current influences that typically train children in Christian families. There are three prongs to this education. The first influence is the family. I will not discuss what most children probably watch via television/movies or listen to (or view) with their electronic gadgets, but such influences have been a staple in the diets of children in America for many years, and it has adversely affected our children’s worldview. It is an important aspect of learning for which parents must be accountable, like it or not. Also, I suspect that the typical church-going parents probably rely too much upon their church congregation with its Sunday school and youth ministry programs to provide Christian training for their children.
The second prong of influence on our children is the church congregation operating in a fashion much like the hypothetical medical school example given above. It is the hit and miss approach, with apparently more miss than hit. I say that because studies have shown that only about 20 percent of young adults who were raised in Christian homes with regular church attendance retain a belief in the Lord Jesus Christ by the time they would normally graduate from college. They don’t have a Christian worldview because they are not sure what they believe or why. It is not even reasonable to think that two to three hours in a church building each week can do much toward acquiring a Christian worldview.
The third prong of influence that educates most children from Christian families is public school. The problem is that public schooling is everything but Christian education. Just mention Jesus in the lunchroom, the classroom, or the on the football field and Big Brother will make somebody pay. The point is that far too many people fail to realize that, at its best, public school serves as a deterrent to proper biblically mandated education. There are two basic problems with public schools, quality of influence and quantity. Quality is obviously terrible since God is excluded. The quantity of about 35 hours weekly exceeds all other instruction time the church and parents might provide. In fact it is more than 10 times the amount of time a child might be in a church related environment.
As a sheep producer I must always keep lambs at the forefront of my thinking. My lambs must get the best of everything for survival and production because they need better care than the adult sheep. (get that, they NEED BETTER care) Would it make sense if I weaned the lambs, turned the adult sheep out into the best pasture I have and then turned the lambs out into the mountain woodlands to eat brush?
What do church congregations normally do? They tend to spend money in the name of “spreading the gospel” on things that will satisfy the adult consumers who come in the front doors of the church. They tend to neglect the young. Where is the support for solid Christ-centered, five-days-a-week training for children? Where is it? Church growth is often an emphasis in church congregations, while the lambs are turned out into the woods to fend for themselves! It is lunacy! We must disciple the young with something besides crayons, Kool-Aid and cookies on Sundays, and then tossing them into the public school indoctrination centers for the rest of the week. How do we justify the massive efforts to grow church congregations by enticing un-churched adults to come in the front door if we are currently loosing 80 percent of our own church-reared children out the back door? Huh? Tell me, how does that square with logic from Christian thinkers?
Since church congregations tend to spend money for nurturing the consumers while basically ignoring the most essential needs of the young, is there any reason to wonder why our Christian discipleship of the young is such a disaster? I firmly believe that homeschooling is the best option for those families who are in a position to do so. Otherwise, what should churches do?
Isn’t it about time church congregations turned their buildings into biblical training centers for children five or six days a week? Or, do we lack the faith to believe God would provide the additional resources needed for such a crazy idea? I will say what I think the first challenge would be for church leaders. Pastors and other leaders would have to figure out what to do with all the people they have already trained to be pew-sitters who consume what the church leadership gives them. Retraining can be tough because adults would have to sacrifice some of the pew-sitting consumption for the cost of educating the children. We can either change our attitudes and priorities about where money should be spent to disciple our youth, or we can continue to occupy our favorite pew (or pulpit) and live in one of three modes:
(1) Biblical ignorance-I don’t know what the Bible says.
(2) Biblical denial- I know what the Bible says, but I don’t think it means what it says.
(3) Biblical disobedience-I know what the Bible says, but I like my idea better.
(take your pick).