I love our church. I love our schools. I love the Reformed faith, our heritage, and everything I’ve learned to cherish and love. I’m grateful for being raised in the Christian faith, for Christian education and for having the freedom to do this. I’m absolutely thrilled that my kids get to go to the same schools I did, and to know the love of Jesus Christ, to be educated in the truths of the Word, to know the Creeds and Confessions as well as the Bible stories both Old and New Testament.
Do you sense a big BUT?
There’s something that has bothered me all my adult life. We are very focused on head knowledge. We try to make sure our children know all the important stories, all about Jesus’ life in the Gospels, Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts, we try to make sure that Church History is taught – that kids know all about the Reformation and the important men and women there, and finally, there is a heavy emphasis on learning the Catechism. And all this is good. Important. There is nothing wrong with this. Not at all.
But are we paying enough attention in our churches and schools to our children’s hearts? Are we showing them what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ looks like? Are we demonstrating what commitment means? What a Christian lifestyle is about?
Now, I know there are aspects of this in both our churches and schools. And I know, it starts in the home. There are many great things being done for our kids – there is Gems and Cadets. There is Youth Light. And I don’t want to give the idea that I believe there is NO heart involved. There are amazing teachers, leaders, elders and pastors.
I am looking at our teenagers though, for the most part. They come into high school having had 7 years (if you count K) in elementary school learning Bible stories as mentioned above, as well as Church History. That then continues in High School …all over again. They start attending Catechism classes in Grade 8 (for most churches) – and it’s basically just another (school) class with tests, homework and memorization. Kids mostly find it drudgery. Most kids do not look forward to this eagerly. It’s seen as another “gotta do it”. They attend Catechism for 6 years – doing all the Lord’s Days over and over, sometimes taking a side trip in to the Belgic Confession or the Canons of Dordt. And then, yes, they “graduate” in year 5 or 6 doing Profession of Faith, and then it’s over.
And I know that kids are the same throughout generations. Their brains haven’t evolved to be smarter, or more focused, or less of those things. Kids are the same. And if what we went through was good enough for us, what’s wrong with it today? Our kids will be fine …they’ll mature, because, hey, we did. Right? Kids will be kids. So, let’s just let everything be status quo.
But why not consider changing things up a bit? Thinking outside the box? Let’s think about this …. most of us are blessed enough to be raised in the the church, and then be blessed enough to raise our kids the same way. Our children are, for the most part, raised on Bible stories, Bible songs ….at home, in VBS, in Story Hour, Little Lambs …and then through Elementary school. As they grow, many of the stories they know from the Bible are further explained in sermons off the pulpit. So, why not change the focus in High School? What about changing the focus to living the Christian faith?
I would love to see our high school kids being taught via the Bible curriculum, what the Christian life looks like. What about studying the book “The Case for Christ”. “The Case for Faith” by Lee Strobel. What about Randy Alcorn’s book “Heaven”? What about looking at books written by RC Sproul? Piper? Delving into teen – life related books – taking our culture and making it make sense?
Church related Catechism classes – maybe we could see Grades 8 and 9 being taken through the Catechism for a good grasp on it — but then spending the remaining years on Apologetics? Teaching our kids perhaps, how to defend the faith? Teaching them what it is to witness to the world? Showing kids what it means to be on fire for Christ? Excited to live their lives day by day “Coram Deo“?
Why all this? Well, what is a common refrain I hear among adults today? “I don’t know how to explain the Gospel” “I can’t witness/evangelize…I’m not good at that“.
Shouldn’t we try to change that with the next generation? The next leaders, shakers and movers?
Shouldn’t we be concerned that some of our kids are doing Profession of Faith because the rest of their peers are, or because it’s expected now? Because they can’t wait to be done Catechism classes and move on? That perhaps when they do Profession of Faith they actually are NOT committed to Christ? Shouldn’t we be concerned that it IS a fact that kids know exactly what we want to hear, know what to say in an interview with Consistory prior to Profession of Faith, just because it’s head knowledge …and knowing their lifestyle choices don’t match up? That, after doing Profession of Faith, these minors are drinking alcohol, sleeping with their boy/girl friends and not caring one bit? I can hear some of you now: “It’s no different than when we were kids. And they’re just kids. They’ll grow out of it. It’s not a big deal”. REALLY? Can you picture saying that to the face of our Father in Heaven? No? I wonder why …..
We NEED to consider a better way to train up our children in the way they should go. I truly believe we can do a better job. It’s a shame when Highschool kids ASKED to be taught apologetics in Grade 12 Bible, but were denied, and instead spent time colouring title pages.
It will mean serious curriculum review. It will mean CHANGE in the way we do Catechism, in the way we look at how we get kids ready for Profession of Faith, it may mean better communication between pastors and elders, school teachers and friends. It may mean re-looking what’s being “taught” in Gems, Cadets, Youth Light …. looking at more mentorship.
The children and youth ARE our future – our church’s future. Isn’t it worth a discussion? With friends? With elders? With pastors? With youth leaders?
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