How Can We Help Save Them?
It isn’t enough just to take our kids to church.
By Cecilia Cornejo
My daughter Betty has decided to stop attending church,” Mrs. Pérez told me in deep distress. “Earlier today we had a bad argument. She told me she hates the church. She said that she does not want to be manipulated anymore, and that no one is going to decide for her what to believe or not believe in,” she added.
The story unfolded further. “Since her first years, we got Betty involved in church activities; she was part of Pathfinders and the children’s choir, and participated in plays and various church activities,” said Mrs. Perez. “I do not know what happened to her.”
The Peréz family had arrived in the United States 25 years before, and as they tried to pursue their version of the American dream, they had to work long hours. In the process, they were unable to pay enough attention to what is certainly one of the most important jobs of a Christian parent: to “train up the child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). They thought that attending and taking part in their church activities every Sabbath would be enough for Betty to get to know and love Jesus personally. Commendably, they got their daughter involved in interesting activities, but perhaps they overlooked the most essential part. Now, full of grief, Mrs. Pérez asked a heart-wrenching question: “What can I do to save my daughter?”
Going Beyond Attendance
Participating in church activities and programs and surrounding our kids in a church environment are all worthy and necessary components of Christian parenting. But are they enough to keep our children on God’s path? Undoubtedly those activities and programs help them to make good use of their God-given gifts. But the only safeguard against the enemy who so fiercely attacks our children is that they may experience personal love and faith in Jesus. “It is the privilege of the young, as they grow in Jesus, to grow in spiritual grace and knowledge.”1
Another common misconception among many well-meaning Christian families is a belief that the spiritual growth of children is determined by external conditions. The Rodríguez family moved to a small city where most of the town residents were members of the local church. They thought that surrounding their children with a Christian environment would alone be enough to protect them from temptation. So when the couple noticed a few negative changes in their children’s behavior, they didn’t pay much attention. Unfortunately, one of their children soon became a single father and dropped out of school at age 18.
“I saw it coming,” said Mrs. Rodríguez. She had noticed certain spiritual issues her son seemed to struggle with, but she also found no time to discuss them with him. In the end, she painfully asked the same question: “What can I do to save my son?”
There is a sacred work that many parents may struggle with. “Parents occupy their minds with other things to the exclusion of the work that is all-important—the task of patiently and kindly teaching their children the way of the Lord.”2 In the Bible we find that Solomon used two important terms to refer to a parent’s attitude as they relate to the spiritual life of their sons. He wrote, “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds” (Prov. 27:23). In this case “to know” implies a mandate to carefully think, ponder, and meditate. But the wise king also adds that we be diligent and constantly on guard lest we get sidetracked or distracted. And as we are “diligent to know” the spiritual state of our children, only the Spirit can lead us. Being diligent in knowing the Christian experience of our children should be an ongoing process that seeks to help them love God “with all [their] heart, with all [their] soul, and with all [their] strength” (Deut. 6:5).
The words “to attend” in Proverbs 27 also mean to pay attention to being diligent, thoughtful, and attentive in the tasks we undertake. This approach implies much more than mere thinking; it is a call to action. When something is valuable, we take good care of it. We are careful not to wear it out, spoil, or destroy it. Likewise, as parents we need to take care of the spiritual health of our children with unquestionable love if we want to obtain eternal results.
Back to Basics
Let’s do all we can to take good care of the spiritual experience of our children by utilizing a simple, yet essential, practice: personal and family worship. By teaching our families of the benefits of personal worship, our children will learn to seek and meet God every day and will know Him as Father, Friend, and Savior. Let’s provide them with fine examples through sound and encouraging readings, strong experiences of spiritual growth, and service to others. If they do not learn to experience the love of Jesus in their own lives, any church activity in itself will eventually become meaningless.
Just as Elijah “repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down” (1 Kings 18:30), we must partner with God so that He may turn the hearts of our children back to Him again (verse 37). Let’s transform our family worship time into moments of spiritual growth by praying, praising the Lord, and studying His Word.
Life is harried, complicated, and tough. As parents we can sometimes shift our focus away from God in our personal lives, which leaves little time to turn our children heavenward. But the Lord is always there to give us His forgiving and comforting grace. Remember that Jesus gave His life for anyone who believes in Him (John 3:16). He came to seek and to save our lost children (Luke 19:10), and He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Renew your relationship with God every day and leave the life of your children in God’s hands (Job 1:5). Remember that God is powerful enough to call the prodigal son back home! Hear His tender voice assuring us: “I will save your children” (Isa. 49:25).
Cecilia Cornejo attends the Spanish-American Seventh-day Adventist church in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States.