by Joanie Greer
It’s Ten O’Clock—Do You Know Where Your Children Are?
We’re all familiar with this public service announcement heard on various local television stations. And while it’s an excellent reminder to parents of their responsibility for their child’s physical well-being, it also has a spiritual application. Spiritually speaking, it’s ten o’clock. It’s getting late. It’s not too late, but it is late in the sense that one can never begin too soon.
A study was done of the children who attended services regularly at a particular congregation. These were children of faithful parents who saw to it that these children attended consistently. Out of 85 children, only 34 remained faithful. About 60% left the church, Unfortunately, this is the rule rather than the exception.
Why are we losing so many of our children when they get to be 18, 19, and 20? I believe that we’re not losing them at 18, 19, or 20, but rather, we’re losing them at the ages of 5, 6, and 7 and it only manifests itself at 18, 19, or 20. I propose that a major cause of this exodus is lack of conviction, Our children have no conviction because as parents and teachers, we only begin the training process; we don’t complete it. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Notice that it does not say, “tell” a child the way he should go, nor does it say to help a child accumulate a large number of Bible facts, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Too often ”telling” or an “accumulation of facts” is viewed as the final step in the training process. Telling isn’t teaching. It would certainly simplify things if it were. Telling is certainly a part of teaching, but it isn’t the sum total. Christians are not in the business of just establishing a mental collection of Bible facts. Christians are in the business of doing, and the objective of our training should be preparation for doing (Matthew 7:21). God did not give us His word so that we could become skilled at filling in the blanks of a lesson book.
If faithfulness is dependent on having conviction about Gods word, and if we want our children to have it, then we need to know what it is, When one has conviction, he is able to act without having to think about it, and regarding God’s word, this is where we want our children to be. For instance, if one has conviction regarding partaking of alcoholic beverages, when invited to do so, he will immediately refuse. If conviction is our final objective, then where do we begin’? Earlier it was mentioned that “telling” is the beginning of the training process. One might illustrate this by picturing an individual perched on the edge of a cliff needing to cross to the other side called Conviction. As parents and teachers it is our job to help our children bridge this gap and build this spiritual structure. The first “plank” then is listening. When you have a student listening to you, this is a very fragile time in communication, and the teacher needs to be aware that things can easily break down at this stage.
The next “plank” is talking. This is where the student has listened to the teacher, thought about what was said, and is now ready to make a comment. While not as delicate as the first “plank,” this too is a very fragile time in communication. And the wise teacher will sharpen his skills in ”active listening.” Active listening involves reinforcing or encouraging the one speaking with comments such as “good,” “okay,” “m-mm hm,” “tell me more,” and nodding approval.
The next “plank” is sensing the value. At this point, the student has listened to some information, thought about it, and is now realizing that this information is valuable to him and is relative to his life. When one is first hearing the gospel, this is where conversion takes place.
The last “plank” before forming conviction is establishing a system of values. This is where the student takes the information he has come to value and uses it to establish the rules by which he will live. This does not mean that he always lives by these rules. As we all know, we may be aware of what’s right and wrong, but we don’t always act accordingly. Consistent action regarding our system of values is conviction, and a lot of time takes place between establishing a system of values and being able to act with conviction.
Knowing these steps in forming conviction is helpful, but what is needed now is how to help our children get through these steps. This will be covered in the next article.
CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 1984