Bethel CRC Lacombe

September 17, 2023 Training Our Children Proverbs 22:6

September 18, 2023 Pastor Jake Boer Season 5 Episode 5
Bethel CRC Lacombe
September 17, 2023 Training Our Children Proverbs 22:6
Show Notes Transcript

Today is our commissioning service for all those involved in our various children and youth ministries; a sign that our new church year is here! We will be focusing on Proverbs 22:6 Training Our Children. Beginnings are important. The better the beginning, the stronger the finish; this is true for our children and especially their faith. In Old Testament Israel and throughout Scripture, it is both the parents and the faith community that are responsible for raising children in the faith. It is a reminder that we are part of the family of God together 

Training Our Children

Proverbs 22:6

Proverbs is a fascinating book and can often seem like a mish mash of sayings all stuffed together, but when you slow down and study the book, mostly written by Solomon and other thinkers and leaders in Israel, there are a number of major themes that run through it that all relate to what a wise way of living under the Lord looks like. One of the main themes is to raise and guide children and youth to walk in the way of the Lord. Proverbs is part of the wisdom literature category in the Old Testament. Wisdom literature says that if you do this, normally this is what will happen. It is not a promise or guarantee, but simple practical theology, like most of the teaching in the Bible, dealing with basic like and character issues. Jesus emphasizes the same kind of practical theology in his own teaching.

The theme of raising our children to follow the way of the Lord is the most important role of the parents and community. In Old Testament Israel, and throughout Scripture, the entire community is responsible for raising the children and youth to know and follow the Lord. God shaped Israel to always think in terms of “we” instead of “me,” including the responsibility to raise the children to know the Lord. This is why we are developing a meaningful and deep mentoring culture in our church; older members investing in our younger members; echoing Paul’s charge to Titus to teach the older men and women so they can mentor younger men and women. Peter, in 1 Peter 5 writes, "shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock." This is all about being mentors to their flocks, leading them to follow Jesus in their whole lives. 

The Webster dictionary defines mentoring as teaching or giving advice or guidance to someone, such as a less experienced person or child. Jesus mentored his disciples and in the Great Commission found in Matthew 28, Jesus told His followers to "make disciples of all nations." Making disciples involves much more than giving people a set of rules to follow: it includes living with them and helping them to grow in Jesus. That is at the heart of what Proverbs 22:6 is getting at. 

Solomon tells us to “start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Another translation is to “train the children on their journey or way,” and this echoes Deuteronomy 6, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 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.” This is a picture of walking alongside our children and talking with them, teaching them about the Lord and how following the Lord works out in our day to day lives, and teaching them how to recognize the presence of God and the Holy Spirit all around us.

In Bethel, the teaching of our children normally begins at home, often right after birth. Parents will often sing to their children, while still babies, singing songs about Jesus; at really young ages, they begin reading their children stories about God, often using children’s Bibles. In Sunday School, the children begin learning more about Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit together with other children, and this continues on in different ways in Treasure Seeker, and Children in Worship and now a new level beginning this fall for those in between Sunday School and Treasure Seekers. GEMS, Cadets, and our youth ministry continue engaging our children at their age level in learning about Jesus and how to live as a follower of Jesus today. The prayer is that as the children learn together, they also experience the blessings and joy of being part of the family of Bethel, knowing they belong and are loved and accepted by Jesus. But at the core of all our instruction is the knowledge that as a church we are here to support and encourage the faith instruction that happens in the home. We are all part of the family of God together, working together to raise our children and youth in the faith. It would be really good to hear from parents and families what you may need to raise your children, and how we might walk alongside you as you to train them up in their journey with Jesus. 

Matthew Henry, an older commentator writes on the Deuteronomy passage, Train up a child according as he is capable (as some take it), with a gentle hand, as nurses feed children, little and often…. A good reason for it, taken from the great advantage of this care and pains with children: When they grow up, when they grow old, it is to be hoped, they will not depart from it. Good impressions made upon them then will abide upon them all their days. Ordinarily the vessel retains the savour with which it was first seasoned. Many indeed have departed from the good way in which they were trained up; Solomon himself did so. But early training may be a means of their recovering themselves, as it is supposed Solomon did. At least the parents will have the comfort of having done their duty and used the means.” I appreciate how he recognizes that each child is unique and to help each child or youth to get to know Jesus in ways that help them, in their way, to understand and believe.

Our children and youth often learn more and better through example. How we live and follow Jesus usually has a bigger impact on them than classroom teaching. They watch us more closely than most of us realise, and how we live and react to life is noticed by them, and often then imitated in their own lives. If you have a temper and show it regularly, if you are critical all the time and regularly criticize the church or leaders or governments, if you are proud and talk down to others, if you easily reject those whose opinions or beliefs are different than yours, if your lifestyle is centered on yourself and your wants, if you wrestle with addictions, whether you’re their parent, relative, teacher, church counselor, leader, or family friend, our children and youth watch you and will take their cues on how to live from how you live. Part of why Jesus came was to show us how we are to live; much of his teaching was on what it looks like to be his disciples; culminating with giving his life on the cross for us so that our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled with our heavenly Father. Our response is to repent and believe in Jesus, imitating Jesus as Paul reminds us that this is what he does in his own life, 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

In our secular world today, we help our children and youth to recognize the presence of God in their lives by asking questions like “where have you come from,” and “where are you going.” We help them to tell the stories of their lives in order to see how the Holy Spirit is there with them in all the moments of their lives. We remind our children that the Lord comes looking for us and he always finds us. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts to get us to seek God and Jesus; but it’s always the Good Shepherd who begins our journey to himself by first coming to find us. Helping our children, our young people, and even ourselves to ask good questions is often even more important than giving answers. Questions set us off on journeys and adventures to see what God is doing, to look for where the Holy Spirit is working in the world around us, even in our own lives and hearts. Andrew Root takes this an important step further. As we teach our children and youth to recognize the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in and around them, Root writes, “Sending our people out to recognize events of ministry, to hear God calling them not to something but to someone—at work, in their neighbourhood, and so on—moves them into an open take in the immanent frame. In other words, it helps them see God.” 

Training our children to ask questions, to be curious about the world around us is important to help them learn more about who God is and how he’s present in the world. Inviting them to join us in exploring where we see the Holy Spirit at work, inviting them to join us in serving in the church and on our community, inviting them to try new things in order to discover where the Holy Spirit is leading them are all important parts of training our children to become engaged followers of Jesus. 

It has been an exciting time watching a number of our young adults stretch themselves to go serve in different countries, to study how God is at work in different cultures, learning to share their faith through going deeper into the story of God and his people and into their own stories of how God has been shaping them and growing them. Watching a number of our youth step up and serve in our soccer camp, using their passion for sports and knowledge of Jesus to build relationships with children in our community and share the Gospel story was exciting, especially as I watched adult volunteers investing in and mentoring our youth so they could play an active role in ministry here.