There is a tendency to underestimate the ability of children to understand the things of God. However, the minds of children have not yet been muddled with the skepticism of adults. This creates an ideal time to instruct a child in the way that he should go, if that way is indeed true. While a child’s mind is like a sponge of receptivity of knowledge, if the wrong knowledge is given to the child the results can be destructive instead of life-giving.
Does teaching children to believe in God an Abuse?
The new atheists propose that it is tantamount to child abuse to teach children to believe in God and to have faith in Him. In all fairness, their concerns with regard to teaching children to mindlessly follow a system of religion are well warranted. No one should teach children to be shallow-minded or follow blind obedience to unsupported truth claims. Fortunately, Christianity has very well supported truth claims, albeit, they are often taken for granted.
If children are expected to blindly adhere to their parent’s teachings when they encounter the academic world of the inquest and enter the search for truth on their own they will blindly follow whatever is presented them without critical analysis. Moreover, they are less likely to grow in understanding if they always accept being taught what to believe instead of learning how to identify the truth for themselves.
However, training children how to think so that they are not told what to think does not mean that you abandon teaching them in accordance with the truth. The right way of thinking is found on the road of truth which is found in Christ. If we dispense with the foundations for all truth, we dispense with critical thinking as well. Thus, children should be taught the reasons for belief in God and specifically the Christian God.
There is objective historical, philosophical, archeological, and scientific evidence supporting Christianity. These pieces of evidence need to be introduced into a child’s training in age-appropriate increments. They need to be able to stand on a firm foundation of knowledge supporting what they believe. Moreover, they need to be taught logic to be able to identify reasonable arguments supporting truth claims.
Parents can also have discussions with their children about what other people believe and how they need to treat all people well regardless of differences of belief. Teach children how to communicate with others respectfully and kindly despite differences.
Children need to be taught the Bible.
Children are quite easily able to memorize Scripture and should be given passages to commit to memory. Parents can discuss these passages with their children to ensure they understand the meaning of the words they memorize. Internalizing the Scriptures help to build truth into a child, truth they will never forget.
It is a good idea to talk to the children’s ministry worker or youth pastor at church to find out what is being taught to reinforce it at home. Also, let children ask any questions they want so that they know it is okay to ask tough questions and seek out answers and knowledge.
Of equal importance in a child’s upbringing are the experiential aspects of Christianity.
Children of a young age can learn to hear from God. They are very sensitive to the spiritual world and if that is cultivated and not squelched they will do well in life. They can experience His presence and know the reality of the truth they are being taught.
Toddlers have been seen to pray for the sick and they receive healing.
Elementary school children have prophesied over adults giving them great encouragement. Teenagers set out in the local mall to pray for the sick and injured. Children don’t have to wait to become adults to minister and utilize the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus delighted in the little children coming unto Him for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Parents, teachers, and pastors have a great responsibility to raise up a generation that loves the Lord and knows who they are in Christ. This can be done both through training of the mind and in giving them opportunities to spread their wings and operate in their spiritual giftings. Children trained in the way that they should go will not depart from it.