“Why do you attend a Family Integrated Church (FIC)?” I asked a lady from Everett I met at a birthday party recently. Her answer surprised me. “Because we wanted our boys (ages 13 & 15) to be around young men, not teenagers.”
Most churchgoers would be puzzled by her answer. Many would ask “Doesn’t she want a church with teens in it?” “What about a good youth group?” “How does she keep her boys interested in church and spiritual things?” Obviously, in our day and age, when the evangelical church in America is losing approximately 75 percent of our children to the world, these are good and appropriate questions.
That 75 percent number (confirmed by most surveys and common sense) is a troubling number. How can we be losing so many kids when our churches are bigger, with better music, more interesting materials and programs, and a legion of committed, spiritually gifted youth workers? If anything, we should be seeing more of our children following Christ, not less. What’s going on? Are we missing something? What can we do to turn this trend around?
If we want answers to these troubling questions, we need to turn to the Bible, God’s inspired, definitive Word to mankind, instead of to man centered ideas. Too often, we look to the world, adopting its methods and adapting its programs to fit the needs of the church. We end up like Moses, who struck the rock twice with his staff instead of speaking to it as God commanded him. Because God is gracious Moses still got water, but he missed entering the Promised Land as a result of his disobedience. Just because our programs seem to be working doesn’t mean they’ll get us to where we need to go, training our children to follow Jesus Christ with “all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your might.”
So what does the Bible say about training children to be followers of Jesus Christ? God’s program can be summed up with one word - fathers. That’s it, we ask? Yes, that seems to be it in both the Old and New Testaments. Fathers are commanded to be the primary teachers and trainers of their children in the home and on the road, from morning to evening (Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Ephesians 6:4). Anything that encroaches on or diminishes the father as spiritual leaders in their homes and churches ultimately undermines the work that God wants to do in their families. This doesn’t mean that the father can’t delegate others to help him with this task, but it does mean he has primary responsibility.
What about the lady from Everett’s comment on “young men, not teenagers”? Essentially, she was saying that she and her husband were training their boys to become men, not boys. If you want boys to become men, then they have to be influenced and trained by men, not other boys (same is true with girls becoming women). Unfortunately, when we throw our children into age segregated groups, they are often more concerned with being accepted by their peers than they are about being trained by the leader. So, the very programs we employ for our children’s spiritual training and safety often contain dangerous elements that counteract and undermine our desires for them. Fathers, this requires wisdom!
This truth was illustrated to me the other day by a young father who takes his responsibility to train his children seriously. He works and lives at a fish hatchery and he’s passed on to his boys a love for fishing. A year ago, when they were 6 and 8, they found some spinners in the river and tried selling them to local fisherman, with little success.
Last Christmas they found a spinner making kit under the tree and made 29 spinners with the goal of selling them this year. Unsuccessful last year, they asked their dad what they should do this year. He advised them to set up a stand near the river, make a sign advertising their product and, then, to interact with the fishermen as they came to the banks of the river.
Later that afternoon, he looked across the fish hatchery to the river and saw that his two boys had set up a table with their spinners on it. They made a sign, “SPINERS FOR SAIL” and were greeting the fishermen as they came to the river. An hour later, they came home excited because they had sold all 29 of their spinners, turning a nice little profit and, more importantly, having learned a good business lesson from their dad that is sure to benefit them the rest of their lives. Dad, of course, was excited to see his boys successful in their endeavor.
Many men might protest, “I’m not equipped to train my children!” In response to this, Copalis Community Church is hosting a free training session by Norm Wakefield called “Equipping Men” on the 3rd Saturday of each month at 9 a.m., the first being Oct. 19. There will be breakfast, different man activities each month and training by Norm Wakefield, one of the premier teachers of men in America. We’ll be done by 1 p.m. If interested in attending or getting directions, call Pastor Jim Richards at 360-593-1409.