Apologeet.nlHow not to Raise your Kids
I am going to do it again… That one thing that has brought me in trouble several times before. I am going to talk about raising children.
So, why would this topic bring me in trouble? I think it is because it is a very emotional issue. I don’t know of any parents who love to see their kids leave the faith. Well, except those who themselves might have turned their backs on Jesus. I remember that I preached about this topic back in 2007. We had two children back then, and there I was telling about a biblical way of raising your children. People didn’t like that. What did I know? Wait until your children grow up; wait until they go to school; wait until they are teenagers… I had to wait all the time. And now? Do I have to wait until they are married? I’ll place a link to that sermon in the description of this video. Don’t bother watching it if you don’t speak Dutch.i
How I wish that more people dared to preach about this topic. So many children walk away from their faith in the Lord Jesus, and why? I believe because many parents tend to raise their children with an oversimplified faith.
This seems to be different among the people we are being raised in a Muslim environment. In the Netherlands we see a trend where society is gradually secularising and becoming non-religious. However, Dutch Muslims of Moroccan and Turkish origin have become more religious in recent years.ii
So, what is wrong here? Why do we lose our children from the faith and why are doing Muslims better?
Let me quote the first paragraph of an article written by an ex-Christianiii
I learned early that I was not to question my religion. I was to simply have faith. And yet somehow the questions would still come. I would sometimes question the Bible. How did we know it was God’s Word? I would sometimes question Jesus. How did we know he was God? I never dared to ask these questions out loud, but in my own mind, yes, I asked these questions often.
You see, there you have your problem. While Muslims train their children in their religion, Christians seem to think that it will be enough to send their kids to Sunday school. I even wonder whether they send them to Sunday-school with the expectation that they will learn something or because that way mom and dad can enjoy worship without having to watch their kids.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
This doesn’t sound like you can get away with some simple answers right? You cannot simply tell your child that he or she just has to have faith!
By the way, when I make the comparison with Islam, I do not say that children of Muslims know all the details of their religion. But, they have been trained, day and night, in the traditions and the Quran. For many, to stay Muslim, it is also because they wouldn’t dare to step out. That is not what we, as Christians, want. But, it can’t be right that so many Christian teenagers have no clue about their faith. There must be something very wrong when they don’t even dare to ask the hard questions!
Let’s see what you might do wrong in the way you raise your child.
You do not Explain Accurately what Others Believe
Atheists are immoral; scientist try to mislead you; people stop believing because they want to sin; un-believers have no goal in life. Etcetera.
Try to do some homework yourself! Nobody promised you that raising children would be easy. If you dismiss others religions and groups with one single quote, you are probably teaching your kids the wrong stuff. No, you do not have to teach them the nitty-gritty of atheism or Islam. But give them at least an accurate idea of what others believe. Many children, who find out that mom or dad were totally wrong on someone else’s world-view, will have some questions about their own ideas of the world around them… Just imagine that mom and dad where wrong about Christianity as well!
You only Teach them the stories, Nothing more, Nothing less.
Isn’t that sweet! The little children all know the story about David and Goliath. Well, almost the whole story. The part where David chops off the head of the giant is mostly left out, right?
By the time they become teenagers, they mostly know John 3:16 and the Lord’s prayer. They might even know that they need Jesus to be saved…
But then the harder questions come. Who decided that the Bible is God’s inspired book? Why should you believe what the New Testament writers said? And what about all the translations? Which translation is the correct one? Why do I need the Old Testament? What was the purpose of a sacrifice anyway? Can’t God not just forgive without the shedding of blood?
It is shocking when you ask these question to random adult Christians. Many of them have no idea. It is okay to memorise Bible-verses and whole Bible-stories, but we also need to teach our children the why and how of God’s word.
Believing is Something for the Sunday-morning or Youth-club
Do I need to explain this one? No really, do I?
Still, many parents leave it to the youth-workers and Sunday-school workers to train the children. I used to be a youth-leader. My wife and I tried very hard to teach the teenagers everything we knew. We even went out on the streets to teach them how to evangelise. Years later, one of those teenagers, now a father himself, came to me. He complained that the youth-leaders weren’t doing that any more. He treasured his experience with us as his youth-leader. I asked him about his own situation. “When was the last time your daughter saw you talking with a stranger about the Lord? When was it that she could see that her daddy meant business when he said that He loved Jesus?”
He wasn’t very comfortable with my answer.
Telling your Child that He or She Just Has to Have Faith
Children get to see much more of the world than the average 40 plusser did when he or she was teenager. Sure, we, the old folk, have seen both Golf-wars played out on television. We also have seen the war in Yugoslavia, the starvation of Ethiopian children, and who doesn’t remember the terrifying Rwandan Civil War from 1990 till 1994… Or even worst: The killing of those poor baby-seals. Still, we didn’t have the internet, and we only got to see that what the news-channels on television wanted us to see. For all the other stuff we had to go and find something in the library.
Our children have to struggle through so much tragedy, suffering and immorality, that they, rightly so, start questioning their faith in an all loving God. What is your answer when they ask you about the nature of God (that is, if they have to guts to ask you at all)? Is your answer that they “just need to have faith”? Is that your standard responds to all difficult questions?
Obviously, you will not be able to answer all their difficult questions, but to send them away with the almighty answer “you just need to have faith” is dumb and dangerous. What does it even mean to have faith? I guess that, if we give this standardised answer to our children, they will grow up thinking that the Christian world-view simply cannot answer their life-questions. No, apparently they just have to have some kind of blind faith. Nice if blind faith works for you, but let me tell you this: Most children are smart enough to find their answers somewhere else. And these answers might not be the answers they need to keep them close to Jesus.
Being Satisfied with the Standard Answers
You are having supper together as a family (how many families are even doing this?). You pick up your bible and read a bit. The children are restless because they still have homework to do, or they want to see what’s happening on TikTok. So, as quickly as possible, you ask them about the passage you’ve just read:
You: “Who wrote this?” Your child: “Paul!”
You: “To whom did he write?” Your child: “The Corinthians.”
You: “What did he say?” Your child: “They need to love each-other more.”
You: “Well done!” Your child: “Can I go now?”
There you go! You’ve done your job, and you’ve properly educated your child… Right? Wrong! Your child has done well in the sense that it knows that giving the quick and satisfactory answers will deliver him or her from having to sit at the dining-table too long.
You have just taught your child that Christianity is just another topic they have to be acquainted with, just like science, maths, geography etc. And, like these other topics, they can drop it later when they don’t want to study it any further. Your child is just borrowing your religion and isn’t challenged to think any deeper than strictly necessary.
I think it was the Dutch Corrie ten Boom who coined the expression: God has no grandchildren. You cannot assume that, because you bring up your children in the same tradition as you’ve been brought up, they will become real followers of Jesus. They have to choose themselves! It was for this reason Jesus answered Nicodemus in John 3:5-6:
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.
Stop being satisfied with the standard answers. Question your child, explore the answers into depth. Don’t wait until everybody finished his or her plate. Try to start and read the Bible while they are still eating. It will help them not to be in a hurry, and it gives you more time to expound on that what you’ve just read. I mean, do you really need to rush diner-time like that?
Teaching your Child to Become a Moralist
This is my final point. You can try this yourself. Go, and ask some teenagers about what Christianity is all about. I think many will tell you that it is all about living a good life. Don’t steal, fight, curse, have sex before marriage, listen to bad music. You should respect your parents, listen to the teachers and get good marks in school.
Is this the answer your child gives? Congratulations! You’ve taught them to be good moral persons. But that is not the whole story, is it? I have met un-believers with a very high moral standard. It doesn’t help them to get into heaven! Having good values is not what being a Christian is all about.
It isn’t difficult to teach children good morals. In fact, it is very awarding when people compliment you about the spotless behaviour of your kids! It takes much more effort to teach your children about the proper theology of our faith. It means you need to invest much more time in reading the Bible yourself as well. How else will you be able to answer their hard questions, and how else will you teach them exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross?
God is not looking for moralists, He wants to see people who earnestly seek Him.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
I’ve got five children… And whatta you know? So now and then, they nag, tease, fight and use foul language. But would it save them if they didn’t do that? Would it save them if they told others to be nice as well, when they know exactly how to behave and what to say? It will not! All you achieve, by raising them like that, is that they become haughty. Like the Pharisees, they end up thinking that they will go to heaven because they have done all the right things.
Good morals are important, but they have to go hand in hand with real life-giving faith! Because […] faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. James 2:17
In the End
We all want to raise our children to become strong followers of Christ. You did not receive children to see them do well in the world but become lost for eternity! My wife once said that she wasn’t planning on raising our children to become ready for hell.
Kent hovind used to make a joke. I think it was in his first seminar from before 1998, where he said:
everybody is good for something. Even the worst of you could serve as bad examples if nothing else.
And although he was joking, it seems that many do not understand the implications of really being a bad example. Don’t fall in that trap of thinking to lightly about the importance of raising your children! Show them both how to live and how to think as a Christian.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments of the video below. Remember! I am mostly active on my Odysee channel. You’ll find a link to that channel in the description of this video.
I very much appreciate your prayers and support! Please take a look in the description of this video to find out how you can help me. Also, I’ll place a link there to both the Dutch and English transcripts of this video.
God bless you, thank you for watching and we see each other in the next video!
i Jurgen Hofmann, Geloof en Opvoeding, [internet] https://www.apologeet.nl/multimedia/preken/#geloof_en_opvoeding, 19-08-2007, accessed 25-06-2022.
Jurgen Hofmann, Tradities in Opvoeding, [internet] https://www.apologeet.nl/multimedia/preken/#tradities_in_opvoeding, 09-09-2007, accessed 25-06-2022.
ii Degrotevragen.nl, Geloof in Nederland: wat zeggen de cijfers? [internet] https://degrotevragen.nl/geloof-in-nederland-cijfers/,14-06-2018, accessed 21-06-2022.
Degrotevragen.nl, Nederlandse moslims zijn religieuzer geworden, [internet] https://degrotevragen.nl/nederlandse-moslims-religieuzer-geworden/, 08-06-2018, accessed 21-06-2022.
iii Merle Hertzler, How My Mind Was Set Free, [internet] https://new.exchristian.net/2022/06/how-my-mind-was-set-free.html, 18-06-2022, accessed 21-06-2022.
Natasha Crain, 6 Ways You May Be Raising Your Kids with an Oversimplified Faith, [internet] https://www.namb.net/apologetics/resource/6-ways-you-may-be-raising-your-kids-with-an-oversimplified-faith/, 18-04-2018, accessed 23-06-2022.