What Will Our Children Believe?

What we do in children’s ministries will serve to either foster theological confusion or bring gospel clarity. What we begin teaching about the Bible, God, sin, Christ, salvation, and the Christian life from preschool on informs and shapes our children’s theology both now and into their adult lives.

Last month, Ligonier Ministries published the results of its 2020 The State of Theology survey. I found the following results especially concerning:

Percentage of professing evangelicals who agreed with these statements:

    • 46%Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.
    • 42%God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
    • 30%Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.
    • 17%Modern science disproves the Bible.

Here is Ligonier’s conclusion:

These results reveal an urgent need for clear biblical teaching on the person of Christ, the gospel of grace, and the way that the truth of God informs our ethical decisions in everyday life. There is much work to be done in this age of confusion, but we hope the findings of this survey will serve the church in its calling to reach more people with the faithful proclamation of God’s Word.

Here are a few implications for the church:

  1. Churches need to inspire, equip, and train parents to disciple their children. Does your church provide parents with resources, guidance, and training so they feel well equipped and encouraged in their role as Christian parents? Does the church recommend and/or provide discipleship resources that communicate the essential doctrines of the Christian faith? (This page offers a variety of resources https://www.truth78.org/partnering-with-parents.).

  2. Sunday school and similar programs that offer formal biblical instruction should be a high priority in the church. How many weeks per year does your church offer formal Bible instruction for children? In a typical Sunday school hour, how much time is spent in actual Bible instruction? In recent years, an increasing number of churches are reducing the amount of time designated to formal Bible instruction. Will our children be well served by this? (Read “A Scandal in Our Midst?”.)

  3. Serious and careful thought should be given to the content of biblical instruction. It’s not just the amount of time given to biblical instruction that matters, but also the quality of that instruction. How does your church choose its curricula? What resources are promoted in the home? Is there an overarching plan to present the whole counsel of God as children mature from the nursery into adulthood? What doctrines are taught? How are they taught? Are children simply “talked to,” or are they being taught to actually read, study, and rightly interpret the Scriptures? (Read about the values that undergird Truth78 resources.)

  4. Sunday school teachers and children’s ministry volunteers need to be properly equipped and trained. There are many eager classroom teachers and volunteers who long to be better equipped and trained. Yet, too often, once recruited, they are left on their own. Some thrive, but many struggle. Some teach well and communicate sound biblical doctrine, but some do not ever rise to this. (Truth78 is committed to improving teaching by widely distributing free training resources.)

  5. Pastors and elders should enthusiastically herald a God-centered, Christ-exalting vision for the faith of the next generation and carefully oversee children’s discipleship in the church. Decades ago, I met with our senior pastor to discuss the concerns I had about the curriculum I had been asked to teach in the kindergarten class. It was eye-opening for him. He had no idea that what he was preaching from the pulpit was being undermined in the Sunday school classroom. From that point on, he got involved and got the leadership involved, and everything changed. A vision for the faith of the next generation became a serious endeavor for the whole church.

Implementing these points in our churches may feel like a daunting task. It will require a long-term commitment by the entire church. That is why I would encourage every church leader, every parent, and every children’s and youth ministry volunteer to read Zealous: 7 Commitments for the Discipleship of the Next Generations. It is the best resource I know of to cast and implement a deeply biblical, doctrinally grounded, gospel-focused discipleship program in your church and home.