Christian Living Education Evangelism the Church

Bringing up Children in a post-Christian World – CT

This weeks article in Christian Today – you can read the original here

Bringing up children in a post-Christian world

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

“Suffer the little children” is a phrase from the King James Bible (Matthew 19:14) that has entered as a proverb into the English language. Jesus is simply telling us that we are not to hinder the little children from being brought to him. What Christian would disagree with that?

In the previous chapter Jesus issued a stern warning that anyone who caused “one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

Last week I looked at the horrific case of the editor and education ‘expert’ who has been found guilty of being a long term paedophile. Every sane human being, parent and Christian would be horrified at such abuse.

And yet the Bible warns us that there are sins of omission, as well as commission, which can also do a great deal of harm. Neglect can be as harmful as abuse. And spiritual neglect can be the most harmful of all.

George Barna in his latest bookRaising Spiritual Champions: Nurturing Your Child’s Heart, Mind and Soul, which is based on Barna’s own quantitative research, makes a devastating, and to my mind, true series of accusations about spiritual neglect against many Christian parents in the United States.

Barna’s main observation is that millions of Christian parents have themselves not been adequately discipled in their faith, and as a result haven’t a clue how to pass the faith onto their children. Parents either do a bad job or just desert the field all together and leave the education of their children up to others – whether schools, media, youth groups or Sunday schools.

The results are devastating – and in my view are the primary reason why the church in the US is in a steep decline. Just one example of the evidence that Barna offers is that just 36% of 13 and 14 year olds believe that God exists and is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe, while only 1% of preteen children possess a biblical worldview.

It’s not just the US. In other Western cultures there may be differences but as so often, it does tend to be the case that where the American church leads, the rest of the world follows.

In my native Scotland I watched over the past few decades as youth were indoctrinated into a ‘progressive’ cult which completely turns them away from the God of the Bible. But it is not just the active indoctrination by the new Establishment which is the reason. It is the fact that most parents hadn’t a clue how to protect or teach their children – and handed them over to Sunday school teachers who were often just as clueless.

I did some research into one small Highland church and found that there was a reason it was small. Over a period of many years, 40 babies had been baptised. Yet I was only able to identify one who was still attending church – and this in a theologically conservative ‘strict’ denomination.

In Australia, where I currently reside, Sydney Anglicans have been noted for having excellent youth programmes, ministries and schools. A few years ago, the optimum age for people leaving the faith tended to be after university – but in recent years the pendulum has swung towards teenagers. In one church we found that only 25% of teenagers living at home still attended the church of their parents – and only 50% attended any church at all.

Barna identifies the primary cause for this. It is not the hostility of the culture. It is not the education system. It is not social media. It is not peer pressure. The primary factor is the inability of parents to pass on their faith – and the failure of churches to equip parents to do so. The old proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is better expressed in Christian terms as ‘it takes a church to raise a Christian child’.

The importance of this in biblical terms is demonstrated by the amount of teaching in the Bible on this subject – and by the severity of Christ’s warnings in neglecting the children. If we did not feed our children adequately, we would rightly be condemned. But what about if we do not feed our children spiritually and thus cause them to stumble?

Here are just a few of the pertinent biblical injunctions:

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV).

In Psalm 78:4 the Lord’s people promise “we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done”.

What can be done? It’s one thing to analyse the problem, it’s another to know what to do about it. Clearly what we are doing isn’t working. Perhaps we can learn some wisdom from the past? Let me offer the following suggestions.

1. Real spiritual life

In order to tell our children the wonders the Lord has done, we ourselves need to know them. In other words, parents need to have a living and loving faith which their children can see.

2. Family worship

Why don’t we return to the practice of family worship – where each Christian home is seen as a mini church and where prayer, bible reading and praise are as much part of the daily routine as brushing teeth, eating breakfast and doing homework.

3. Catechism

Another forgotten practice is that of catechism. I have recently been going through a modern beautifully illustrated version of the Shorter Catechism which has been really helpful. As we look at it each Sunday it strikes just how much the theology applies to contemporary life. Take for example: how did God create humanity?

The Church needs to radically rethink how it educates children and young people. Half an hour of colouring in Bible stories on a Sunday morning is never going to cut it. In Dundee, Scotland, where I ministered for many years, I was greatly challenged when I was told that Muslim children went home from school every day and did two hours of teaching afterwards in the mosque!

4. Education

John Knox argued that where there was a church there should be a school. That may not be practical today, but as some Christian parents are being compelled to send their children to state schools which are increasingly becoming anti-Christian, the Church needs to get back to the priority of education.

5. Resources

There are many excellent resources to help young people and parents – podcasts, sermons and books such as Rebecca McLaughlin’s “10 Questions (and answers) every teen should ask about Christianity”. I received so many questions from teens that I have published two books answering them – A.S.K. and S.E.E.K. No prizes for guessing what the third one will be!

6. Prayer

Finally – and surely most importantly there is prayer. It is not without significance that in a chapter which begins with Paul talking about the relationships between children and parents, he ends by encouraging us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this is mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18).

The Paedophile Editor and the Sound of Silence – CT

Quantum 247 – Suffer the Children….

Another Brick in the Wall – The Threat to Children



  1. Importation of business programmes (and growth strategies) into the Church has been unhelpful. Do Protestant Churches, at least in the English language zones, often have worldly and business flavoured mission statements? I am retired and spot minutiae on bus journeys. The number of brand symbols and statements on Church notice boards can be entertaining. Catholic Churches often have fewer sign boards or spiels of self-advertising. A non-biased observer might reasonably ask if there is much difference in appearance between the average evangelical congregation or the JW’s and Mormons?

  2. It is a matter of personal regret that the Kirk is in decline . It served Scotland well in terms of Education and general social utility .

    After all, if a potential malefactor hesitated to commit a heinous crime due to a residual fear of post – mortem punishment , then that was all to the general social good.

    Now everyone is his own deity and can alter physiology and psychology to suit himself.

    There is an apposite, satirical word in German , which I have forgotten from my schoolboy studies , but it translates as ” an improvement that makes things worse,,”

    So here we are.

  3. Hi David, great article and we are pursuing home education, along with some from St Peters. Just a point from the article though. You noticed after years of research that only 1 of 40 people who had been “baptised” as babies were still going to church? How does that fit with infant baptism Theology? Are the 39 “saved” anyway as they are part of the Covenant and circumcised according to that Theology?? The very fact that only 1 of 40 is as far as we can see “Christians” should bring about a questioning of the infant baptism doctrine. This statement is not aimed at you David but at all who hold to this teaching.

    1. It was not a general statistic but one that applied to one particular church. That has certainly not been my experience. It could just as equally apply to infant dedication. My experience is that those who hold to covenant theology (not baptismal regeneration) often experience their children continuing to follow the Lord

      1. Sorry David but even saying those who hold to Covenant Theology “often” find their children following the Lord is not acceptable? The “Theology” says that they are part of the Covenant and circumcised, so often is not enough. It would have to be that ALL who hold to Covenant Theology find their children following the Lord otherwise the Theology again falls down which is the point being made! As far as I am aware there is no Theology that believes infants dedicated are guaranteed to go on following the Lord-that is precisely the point being made? Covenant Theology or to give it its proper name, Replacement Theology may need to be looked at again?? Sorry, don’t want to make your article a debate on infant baptism but couldn’t resist replying!!

      2. Not acceptable to who? We don’t believe in baptismal regeneration just as the Jews did not believe in circumsional regeneration….it was the circumcised of heart. You need to understand Covenant theology – the point is that people can backslide and leave the Covenant…just as the Israelites did – and many Baptists!

  4. So are you saying that babies who do not go on to believe and never get born again are backsliders and left the Covenant? Am I missing something, I though Covenant Theology and Calvinism teaches once you are part of the Covenant there is no such thing as backsliding and leaving the Covenant! This is my point, because these things happen it shows the Theology is flawed. I understand no-one is saying they get saved or born again at infant baptism but they are saying that’s them circumcised and part of the Covenant so how can they backslide and leave if its eternal, secured and not according to us?? Have I got the interpretation of Covenant baptism wrong? I certainly have never heard yes get your baby baptised and we “hope” they will become part of the Covenant, I always heard we do this in faith and certainty and because we are commanded by scripture(their version of it) so it’s not a sure thing then and if not it’s precisely why it’s wrong! To suggest a person who was baptised as a baby but then never went on to faith is a backslider and left the Covenant is suspect in my opinion. Although all mankind could be said to have done that I suppose? Am flirting with contradiction myself as I believe we were known and called before the foundation of the world but let’s not get into that..

    1. You need to understand covenant theology…You are critiquing something that no one believes – so your whole post is irrelevant! Of course people can be Covenant breakers!

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