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10 Vital Things Parents Can Do to Help Children Keep Their Faith
By Berit Kjos
In a world where public schools, television, movies, popular music, the Internet, and more all offer tempting counterfeits of what God promises His people, there is only one safe place for our children: in the loving arms of the Shepherd. So train your children “in the way [they] should go” (Proverbs 22:6) so that when they are grown, they will not depart from the faith. The following ten points offer practical and scriptural advice on how to raise your children to know and love the Lord and to continue walking in the faith.
ONE: Be Alert & Always Keep on Praying
Pray! For as Jesus said, “[W]ithout me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5). The work to help our children keep their faith begins and ends with prayer. Pray for open and trusting communication with your child. Pray for discernment to detect teaching that contradicts God’s truth. Pray for wisdom to know when to speak up and what to say.
Pray for your child. Pray that he learns to discern error on his own and that he will be bold enough to speak truth with courage and to stand alone when all his friends follow after other gods. Pray that pleasing God will be more important than pleasing teachers and peers.
Pray together as a family. Put on the “whole armour of God” daily. Remember that “having your loins girt about with truth” means more than merely declaring it done. It means reading (or hearing) and following the Word, and knowing it well enough to discern error. Read and discuss Ephesians 6:13-17. Memorize the parts of the armor.
Pray that you might meet other Christian families who understand the times in which we live. Pray for faithful Christian friends for your child. Pray for other parents who will stand with you. When you see the need to get involved in your child’s schooling, pray for direction.
Trust God, not yourself. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
TWO: Know What Your Child Is Learning in School
Talk with your child. Listen for clues that help you spot good as well as questionable teaching. Be objective and model appreciation of schools and teachers.
Perhaps you have a child who gladly gives detailed accounts of all events from the time he left for school that morning. My boys preferred to answer all my questions with a brief “Good!” or “Okay.” But I discovered that a tasty snack after school could produce at least five minutes of sharing. When my son was fourteen, a sandwich at a local deli boosted our conversations immensely.
I also found that communication mysteriously wilted when my sons suspected that my motive was cross-examination rather than having fun together or if I kept so busy at home that I couldn’t stop and listen.
If you and your child have been too busy to really listen to each other, it is not too late to begin now. Don’t start by asking a lot of questions about school, especially if you have a teenager. She probably won’t be ready to share openly until she knows she can count on your empathetic response, non-judgmental attitude, and genuine interest in her. If she has found that her sharing produces anxiety, agitation, anger, and an impulsive trip to her teacher resulting in confrontation on any level, she will probably make a point to keep hidden from you most, if not all, questionable information. No child wants to be an accomplice to an emotional or embarrassing confrontation.
Volunteer to assist the teacher in the classroom. You will gain firsthand knowledge as well as easy access to the teacher’s listening ear.
Scan elementary textbooks, take-home papers, and fliers. Check to see if significant facts are deleted or distorted. Consider their effects on your child. Ask yourself the following questions about the above material:
Does it imply that Christianity is unimportant, old-fashioned, or a hindrance to progress? Does it ask your child to discuss his faith in front of the class—thus leaving him open to embarrassment and ridicule? With new proposals for bringing religion back in schools, look carefully at the kinds of religions which are being promoted and ways in which these religions will be taught. It could mean wide open doors to more counterfeits.
Does it present an imbalanced view of Christians? Are pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and other Christians denigrated, maligned, and ridiculed—or never described favorably?
Does it emphasize, promote, or give detailed descriptions of other religions, while ignoring Christianity?
Does it require your child’s participation in spiritual exercises?
Does it give instructions in Yoga, meditation, channeling, or guided imagery?
Does it include a blatant pro-homosexual slant?
Does it ask your child not to share information with his parents?
Discuss your findings with your child. Express your appreciation for the good things you see. Explain any area of concern. Teach discernment by pointing out contradictions to God’s truth.
THREE: Share God’s Values With Your Children
Ask God to show you how to communicate in natural age-appropriate ways. The simplest way is to discuss your own personal experiences from God’s perspective during your ordinary encounters—when you sit, walk (or drive), lie down, and get up.
You may want to use the following topics for meal or bedtime discussion or for special family evenings. Choose items appropriate to your children, adjusting the words to their age-level.
Explore the meaning of values:
What does it mean to value something?
What do you value? Least? Most?
What determines your values?
What costs are you willing to pay for what you value? Rejection, teasing, not seeing certain movies?
Discuss what God says about things He loves:
Honoring and obeying parents: Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1
Respecting authority: Romans 13:1
Following God—our highest authority: Acts 5:29; John 10:4
Love: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
Forgiving and caring for others: Luke 6:27-36
Discuss what God says about things He hates.
Lying: Proverbs 12:22
Stealing: Matthew 19:18
Cheating: 1 Corinthians 6:8-9
Greed: Luke 12:15
Rudeness and swearing: Ephesians 5:3-5
Proverbs 6:16 has a list of what God hates.
Talk about what would happen if everyone followed this guideline: Do whatever feels right.
I have never asked my children’s opinion about the truth of this value claim [that torture is wrong] and do not intend to do so, just as I never asked them their opinion about the law of gravity. . . . Rather, I teach them the truth of this value and expect them both to believe it and to base their action on it.1—Richard A. Baer, Jr.
FOUR: Train Your Child To Be “Ambassadors” For God
Tell your own experience of standing up for what you believe. Let your children feel your inner battle to choose God’s way. Assure them that you understand their struggles—and that God’s favor is worth far more than peer approval. No matter how we feel, we who belong to Him are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Take time to read together stories about courageous Christians. Nobody outgrows the richness of family reading.
Practice sharing your convictions with each other (1 Peter 3:15-17).
FIVE: Teach Your child to Know God’s Instructions & Warnings
As a family, read Deuteronomy 6-8. Study a portion each day. Write and discuss what He tells you to do and what He promises to do for you. Agree to help each other to follow His guidelines and receive His promises.
Show your child that while charity and respect should be shown to all human beings, the New Age/New Spirituality quest for a global community is based on the evolutionary presumption that man—not God—controls and can save the world.
Show how commitment to truth has its roots in and stems from biblical values. While loving the world’s people, we cannot trust rulers who oppose God and reject His values. One of the most misunderstood and misquoted Scriptures in the Bible is Luke 6:37: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.” God is not telling us to close our eyes to evil and tolerate beliefs and behavior that deny Him. Rather He reminds us to have “righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Hinduism teaches New Agers to tune out unpleasant realities. But no amount of creative visualization or individual, group, or collective meditation will even begin to create a perfect world. The fact is that mankind, apart from God, still suffers from a deadly urge to conquer and control.
SIX: Encourage Your Child To Choose the Good
Develop a mindset that seeks the best, not just the “OK.” In the case of toys, you may have identified and rejected the worst toys. But the rest are not necessarily good either. Discuss these questions to help your child learn to choose only the best. When discussing toys and games, phrase the questions according to your child’s age level.
Does it present a true picture of life? In a time when even adults base their lives on counterfeit dreams and false illusions, our children need to learn to tell what is flight of fancy and what is real.
How long would the interest last? Fad toys are fun for the moment, but they whet the appetite for every “in” thing, so that decision-making centers on the question, “What will make me feel happy right now?” Determine not to buy that lie. Unfortunately, many quality toy companies have been bought up or squeezed out by giants who can pay the high price for television promotion. The range of major toy lines is narrowing to those that look glamorous on the screen.
Will this toy be used for playing alone or with others? A child needs a healthy balance of solitary and social play. Good toys will help him interact both with his imaginary world and with the real world, harmonizing the two. That may require some interaction with you. Perhaps you could agree together to find toys that will help you, the parent, participate in your young child’s imaginary world.
Does it build godly character? Many toys, hobbies, and games do.
SEVEN: Train Your Child to Follow God, Not Peers
We want our children to feel good about themselves, be liked by their peers, and not miss out on the fun. But as we realize what their friends choose, we wonder how our children will respond to the peer pressure. How can we prepare them to make wise choices?
Counter peer pressure. Children naturally compare us to the parents of peers, challenging us to match their “generosity.” That hurts, since we want them to feel our love for them. We see what they don’t realize: that always getting what they want will not make them feel secure in our love. It’s more likely to increase their craving and stir discontent. Also, it teaches them to equate love with material things. If your child is old enough, explain this process to him.
Look to the Bible for guidelines and authority. God understands our desires to follow the crowd; He feels our struggle to be “in” the world but not “of it” (John 17:16-18). According to age readiness, review Romans 12:1-2 together and then discuss 3 John 11 and Jude 18-20.
Self-denial seems out of place in a nation consumed with self-indulgence and self-fulfillment. But God commanded it, and Jesus demonstrated it. Dare we refuse to acknowledge it? According to the age of your child, discuss Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24 and then allow the Holy Spirit to direct your application.
Don’t get me wrong. Far more than earthly parents, God wants His children to be happy and have a good time. But He doesn’t want cream puffs to satisfy our hunger and turn us away from the meat of truth. Self-discipline produces the kind of maturity that brings genuine happiness forever, not merely a pleasant moment today.
Our Heavenly Father, who models parenting better than any of us, doesn’t major on the superficial. He knows better than to give us all the things we want. For just as most children will choose pop over milk, and chips over carrots, so do we, as adults, often choose that which cannot satisfy. God does not want vain deceits, as He calls them (Colossians 2:8), to mold our appetites, satisfy our hunger, and replace the very best.
It’s hard to teach restraint to children who are begging for gratification. Wanting to please rather than overreact, we flinch at the thought of having to continually censor our children’s wants, preferences, and desires. Parental authority simply doesn’t fit the fast-spreading new views of social equality taught through the media and the schools. Yet, we must obey God. He has told us to raise our children to choose His way, and we must rise to the occasion, fight the good fight, and not shrink back.
After hearing God’s warning and praying for His wisdom, nine-year-old Alan Brannan decided to throw away all his Pokémon cards. “My friend did the same,” said his mother. “Her twelve-year-old son had been having nightmares. But after a discussion with his parents about the game and its symbols, he was convicted to burn his cards and return his Game Boy game. That night, he slept well for the first time in a month.”
“It seemed to us that these cards had some sort of power,” continued DiAnna Brannan. “Another nine-year-boy had stolen money from his mother’s purse ($7.00) to buy more cards.” When questioned, he confessed and said he had heard the devil urging him to do it. The family quickly gathered in prayer, then saw God’s answer. Both the boy and his little sister burned their cards, warned their friends, and discovered the joy and freedom that only comes from following their Shepherd.
EIGHT: Training Children to Love Good and Resist Evil
Don’t play games with the occult! Ouija Boards have always invited oppression, but they are far more likely to invoke unwanted “spirits” today. So it is with the new generation of occult games and DVDs as well.
I became aware of this change back in the nineties when a Canadian psychologist called me. He had read my book Under the Spell of Mother Earth and wanted to share some observations with me. In past years, he said, many women would come to scenic Alberta to do a Native American “Spirit Quest” in search of their personal “animal spirit.” Few succeeded. But times have changed, and the “spirits” that now answer the summons are numerous as well as oppressive. Treating the scary symptoms as “multiple personality disorders” is no help at all.
Popular occultism is spreading fast, and the “spirit world” has become increasingly more accessible. But few families are equipped to resist it. Contemporary churches offer little or no help. Most simply ignore the danger or endorse the “fun.” To avoid offense, the word evil is dropped from their vocabulary.
The primary victims of this blindness end up being our children. Unless we teach them to recognize and resist these dangers, many will come to embrace the darkness.
Those who love and follow God will be repelled by occult myths. And those who love today’s popular occultism will run from God’s unchanging truths and wise and loving boundaries. For if we are filled with His Spirit and follow His way, we will—by His life in us—“abhor that which is evil: and cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9).
The world cringes when it hears these truths because its fiction and fantasies are too enticing. That’s why people find all kinds of arguments to justify their misdirected love.
To prepare your child for daily battles against tempting spiritual counterfeits, consider these three other scriptural portions of vital truths:
The Armor of God—These six truths expose and counter today’s most popular deceptions. Even more important, they show us the way to an intimate relationship with God. (Ephesians 6:13-17)
The Lord’s Prayer—These truths parallel the ones in the armor of God and serve the same purposes. (Matthew 6:9-13)
The Beatitudes—Jesus’ message, recorded in Matthew 5, show us a standard for holiness that is far higher than we can achieve, but it comes with the promise that—by His life in us—He will make us all He intends us to be. It ends with the reminder that those who follow Jesus will also share in His suffering. Therefore, our children need to be prepared for persecution. Uncompromising faith and God’s unchanging truths have become intolerable in today’s postmodern age. (Matthew 5:1-12)
NINE: Prepare Your Child for a Lifetime of Reading with Discernment
Are children being taught to read discerningly, or do they accept whatever is in print simply because it is in print?
Pray as a family for discernment and wisdom. Don’t let fear of offensive literature keep your family from finding and feasting on wonderful books.
Commit yourself to a deeper knowing of the Word of God. Continue a daily Bible study program together. If children know truth, they will more easily spot the lies.
Enjoy books together that demonstrate God’s values. Read-aloud times build in most children a deep love for reading, while they also enable you to direct your children’s taste for enriching books. “While the average first-grade student reads from a primer with only 350 words, his listening vocabulary approaches 10,000 words, according to the Council for Basic Education.”2
When you read aloud to your children, they learn to associate wholesome books with good times.
A crossless version of Christianity fits the New Age lie that all can be one—with or without Jesus. It denies man’s need for redemption and, in effect, makes man his own savior. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Examine gift books for children. Some of Audrey and Don Wood’s attractive books are filled with enticing New Age magic. Other picture books, like The Witches Handbook by Malcolm Bird, treat witchcraft as a game for all to enjoy.
Check contemporary children’s poetry. While some poems are superb, others are grotesque and macabre.
Check fantasy game books. They make you the hero—but what beliefs do you follow? What mental pictures will your imagination create? As you make decisions appropriate to the story, will occult forces become part of your thinking? Some titles will tip you off—like Seas of Blood and Castle Death—but many others sound deceptively innocuous.
Be alert to what your child’s peers read. Discuss their influence on your child with him. During the winter of 1989, our son’s eighth-grade peers read Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King, master of occult horror.
New kinds of joke books are captivating today’s readers. The object of the humor may be sex, marriage, parents, or God. Some of the illustrations may be pornographic. While we are in dire need of healthy humor, we don’t need to laugh at corruption and delight in immorality. God wants us to love, accept, and forgive each other. But He also tells us to discipline and control our own human nature. Discuss these Scriptures with your child: Leviticus 11:44, 20:26; and Matthew 5:6, 8. Review Romans 12:1-2, 9, and Romans 13:14.
TEN : Leading Your Child to Receive Jesus as Savior and Lord
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:5-7)
How do we lead our children into a lasting and true relationship with Jesus Christ?
Pray that God will prepare their hearts. Spiritual rebirth is God’s work, not ours (John 6:44). We merely cooperate with God’s process, for we are co-laborers with God.
Lay a foundation. Include Jesus in your conversations. Let your children hear you talk to Him. Pray with them. Talk about how He helps you each day. Make comments like, “Jesus understands. He is sad when you are sad. Let’s ask Jesus what He wants us to do.”
Wait for God’s timing. While you watch for signs of openness, be ready for an opportune moment. Perhaps it will come at a time of special need for comfort and strength or when a child shows you by his questions that he genuinely wants to know and follow God.
Explain the basic saving truths. Lead your child through the following steps, and then ask if he wants to pray to receive Jesus. If he says no, tell him he can pray that prayer anytime on his own with the same wonderful results. If your child wants to pray alone, suggest that he come and tell you afterward. Don’t forget the date. Keep it as a most special birthday. Here are some key points to share with your child:
God loves you. He wants you to be part of His special family. He wants you to live with Him in His wonderful heavenly kingdom. “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).
By yourself, you can’t come to God. God is holy and perfect and can’t let any sin into His kingdom. Sin separates us from Him (Isaiah 59:2). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Think about the different kinds of sin like selfishness, envy, lying, wanting your own way. Can you be completely free from them? No, you can’t, despite how hard you try.
Jesus made a way for you. He said, “I am the way. . . . no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He died on the Cross, taking the punishment for your sins. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
You must invite Jesus to come and live in you. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). With His perfect life inside, you may live and walk with God forever. Tell your child that his prayer must include confession (understanding and admitting he or she is a sinner), repentance (turn from the direction one is heading, and follow Jesus), faith (trust that Jesus Christ died and rose again to give man eternal life in Him), and the invitation.
Pray something like this: “Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I have sinned against You. I don’t deserve to be Your child. But I believe You died for me to pay for my sins, and you have forgiven me. Please come into my heart. I want you to be Lord and Savior of my life. Thank you.”
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1. Richard A. Baer, Jr., “Teaching Values in the Schools: Clarification or Indoctrination?” (American Education, January 1982, https://confluence.cornell.edu/download/attachments/11542/Teaching_Values_in_the_Schools.pdf?version=1&modificationDate=1338225531000), p. 18.
2. Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook (New York, NY: Penguin, 1987 edition), p. 40.
The Booklet you have read above is an extract from Berit Kjos’ cutting-edge book, How to Protect Your Child from the New Age & Spiritual Deception. Packed with information and documentation identifying the specific and often subtle elements in today’s society that are impacting our children’s faith and filled with practical and scriptural advice on how we can help our children love and honor the Lord and His Word all the days of their lives.
To order copies of 10 Vital Things Parents Can Do to Help Children Keep Their Faith, click here.