When my college sophomore transferred this past fall to a Christian college, I was concerned about the cost and the course load, but mostly, I was concerned that it was a Christian college. I went to Christian schools, lots of them. The label "Christian" really only means that it's not illegal to mention Jesus there. It does not guarantee there are real believers, either on staff or among the student body. So before he left, I reminded him to be vigilant. "I don't care what they say; watch what they do. Apply judgment."
How do we make our kids shrewd as serpents but innocent as doves? How do we prepare them for a post-modern world of tolerance, relativism, and emergents? Although it's disconcerting that 80% of kids raised in Christian homes walk away from their parents' faith, we think we have found some ways to give our kids a leg-up in a world that spells truth with a small "t."
1. Expose them often to good expository preaching. While there isn't anything wrong with topical preaching, it tends to focus more on the wisdom of the preacher than on the wisdom of God's Word. Our kids need the whole counsel of God, and a church that offers expository preaching is making sure its people are getting all the nutrients out of the Word. A good expositional preacher will demonstrate that all portions of scripture point to Jesus Christ and the work of the Cross.
2. Along those same lines, limit their involvement in children's church and youth group. The former tends to be gospel-lite, and our kids are capable of grasping so much more than we give them credit for. The latter tends to generate kids discussing "truth" with their peers and being led by a youth pastor who is often barely out of childhood himself and prefers to read "The Message." Better for the kids to be among diverse levels of spiritual maturity.
3. Teach them doctrine. I cannot emphasize this enough. They should be able to answer the following questions no later than eighth grade:
What is the nature of God?
What is the nature of man?
Where do evil and suffering come from?
And good doctrine also applies to worship music. Watch what you're singing in church. Do the words back up the truth of scripture, or are they a little off?
4. Teach them theology--systematic theology. Biblical theology is studying a verse at a time; systematic theology is studying what all of scripture has to say about a particular topic. And while you're doing that, teach them good hermeneutics. We watched a video that was less than one hour on how to rightly interpret scripture, and it has been priceless in helping us to accurately apply the Word.
5. Talk, eat together, watch movies, listen to music together, talk about the president, the news, their friends, the church. Talk, talk, talk. Growing up, we had a lively dinner table and often loud discussions. But it made me think critically. It was a gift from my parents to me.
6. Above all, PRAY. Pray with them. Pray for them. Teach them how to pray on their own.
It is quite possible to arm our kids with the Truth so they can combat the attacks of the disingenuous and answer the questions of the honest seekers. It is hard work, but my kids are worth it.