Our church’s vocational bible classes came to an end after the volunteers, pastors and Sunday school teachers did a good job of educating the little ones about the bible in a language understandable to them. The theme this year was ‘go light the world’ and this was the message the children were given to initiate them into ministry-young as they were. This culminated in a dedication service that Sunday for toddlers and the pastor giving the congregation a much needed sermon on why they needed to be good examples to their children if anything was to come out of the week long children’s bible study.
Those who have the priviledge of bringing up children also have the obligation of ensuring that they bring them up in the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 22:6 asks that we may train a child in the way that he should go so that when he is older he will not depart from this. Everything begins with the parents or guardians and for these exist five avenues on how to train children; dedication, love, teaching, example and discipline.
We dedicate the children unto the Lord. The word ‘train’ in Hebrew actually translates into ‘dedicate’ and in the Jewish culture it was done through a service that involved a sacrifice. When children are dedicated in church therefore, nothing magical really happens except that the parents give their word to henceforth guide the children into a godly life and also that they will be the ones from whom this children will learn. This therefore means that the parent must himself be right with God and be a born again Christian if this child is to learn godliness from him. The question that should be answered by the parent before he brings the child for dedication is, is he himself dedicated to God?
Children watch, observe and listen from an early age but almost always learn mostly from what they see than what they hear. You therefore cannot dedicate a child to the Lord and make the promise to bring him up in the right way when you yourself live contrary to what you profess. God has made you a custodian of this child’s upbringing and you must do your part in order for Him to do His. Baby dedication is biblical, even Jesus was presented to the Lord and a sacrifice offered in keeping with the Law of the Lord-Mark 2:22. As a twelve year old boy, Jesus was once left behind by his parents in the temple when they had gone to celebrate the Feast of Passover in Jerusalem. They only found him later in the temple after realizing that he was not with them as they returned home. This indicates to us that Joseph and Mary raised him with a godly foundation.
Children must be nurtured in an atmosphere of love. This also means that we care enough for them to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 says that ‘he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him’. This does not however mean physically harming the child and placing the blame on discipline. When it comes to love, Christ’s love should be our guide. Love knows when it is using the rod for disciplining. Some people however live in homes that have no love, homes that are full of abuse, violence and disrespect. In such an atmosphere, you cannot convince a child that you love him. You cannot abuse your spouse yet expect the child to understand the concept of love. A child should run to you as a parent for a hug, not scamper away in fear when he sees you. Bring up a child in an atmosphere of love and he will feel safe, protected and cared for.
Children should be diligently and deliberately taught, this should be done at every opportunity. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says that the commandments should be impressed upon the children when you sit at home, walk on the road, lie down and when you get up. Parents should labour in the Word and teach their children the same in the hope that it will bring forth good harvest. The primary teaching role for a child is not for Sunday school teachers, it is for parents. When a child behaves badly in public, it is not the Sunday school teacher who is sought for disapproval or blame but rather the parents or the guardians of this child. It is left to the parent to find out what is being taught to the child at Sunday school and reinforce that by helping the child understand and apply it at home. However, the primary responsibility of upbringing and educating the child is the parent’s.
Children learn by example or imitation. The parent is the child’s hero. If you want your children to be prayerful, then it is best to show them a lot of your prayerfulness in the home. If television is the most important thing in your house, then that soon becomes their god too.
Discipline is paramount. A child should be well disciplined so that he does not become a disgrace to his parents later on in life. Proverbs 29:15 says ‘the rod of correction imparts wisdom, but the child left to himself disgraces his mother’. Proverbs 22:15 resonates with this –‘folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him’. Proverbs 23:13-14 further advises ‘do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death’. Some children have grown up to be delinquent because there was no direction and discipline in their lives. Some have ended up in prisons, in immorality or in addictions with drugs or pornography because no one cared enough to guide and discipline them in the right way of godliness. We can save generations if we only cared enough for those that God has put under our custody. Children are gifts from God. Psalms 127:3 puts it well, that ‘sons are a heritage from the Lord, children are a reward from Him’.
Teach the little ones about God then let them go and light the world with their own little lamps.
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