Leadership // Leadership - Leading // Parenthood
Parenthood, Years Five to Ten.
Parenthood, Years Five to Ten.

Friends are some of the people with most influence in our lives, and this is especially true when we’re growing up. The Proclaimers, (you will remember these stages are taken from their song ‘Your Childhood’), claim that the stage between five and ten is when children spend their time playing.

Playing is an important part of a child’s development. As they play they develop skills and interests, but they also form tight friendships with others they play with and who have similar skills and interests. Those who are good at sports, form friendships with others who are good at sports. It’s the same for those with similar interests in music, gaming, even reading books (if that’s still a thing).

No matter what interests our children will have, one thing is certain, as they play, they will develop friendships and friendship groups with likeminded children, and it’s those friends who will have a huge influence over our children as they grow, as they play, as they interact with one another, and this is all happening in the vital years, just before they begin to form opinions as teenagers.

I believe these years in a child’s life, from five to ten, are the most important in the development of our young people. As the building work begins on the foundations that have already been laid down, their friends will have a huge influence in our children’s lives, but parents (in most cases) still have the greatest influence, and this time should not be wasted.

One thing we must remember. We can’t choose our children’s friends. We don’t have a vote on who they make friends with and who they don’t. That’s not fair on our children, and it’s not fair on those young people who we are judging either out of prejudice or their family history. What if you and your family were the only Christian influence on that young child. What if you were the only means to bring that young person to church or a youth meeting. How can we veto somebody God has put in our lives?

So what can we do? Well, (and this may be obvious), we pray for our children, and we pray for their friends. We pray for all these young lives that God will protect them from outside influences and that He will carry them and shield them, and in His timing and if it’s His will, He will soften their hearts and be their Saviour. We pray for wisdom as parents to nurture them and to be faithful as we proclaim God to them and live our Christian lives in front of them.

But that’s just the start.

To quote Pastor Alastair Begg “We can’t do anything more than pray, before we pray, but we can do more than pray after we pray”.

 In other words it’s only after we pray are we equipped to act. We would never think of asking the shop keeper for an item and look away or leave the shop before he had a chance to give us what we asked for, so it is when we pray for guidance for example, we look for guidance in God’s word, and we’re steered by that. When we pray for wisdom, we look for wisdom in God’s word, and we impart that wisdom into our children’s lives. Whatever we pray for, we look and listen for the answer, and we move on that answer. It’s there, it will come, maybe right away, or maybe it will take some time, but it will come. God is always faithful.

“And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know we have the requests that we have asked of Him”.

1 John 5:14-15 (ESV)

I said earlier that parents, at this stage in their children’s lives, still have a major influence. This is true around the home but also in their church lives. Even at this young age, children have a church life, they are part of the church family. I don’t agree that children are the church of tomorrow. If our young people don’t feel part of the church today, they won’t hang around long enough to be the church of tomorrow, they will have lost interest, fed up feeling like a spare part waiting to be accepted as part of the church family.

“If our young people don’t feel part of the church today, they won’t hang around long enough to be the church of tomorrow…”

And as with all things, it’s the parents church life that influences the children. But this has to be balanced. It’s ok not to be at every church event, we don’t have to be involved in organising every meeting or gathering. One father said to me once that he had to be careful not to get too busy in church, as he had four young souls at home who also need salvation. This is a good point. When our three kids were young, probably between five and ten, both Dawn and I were very active in the church. Most weeks saw one of us out every evening in the week. This is not good. This can lead to a dryness in faith and at times even resenting God’s work in the church, not a great example to our children.

A balance is also required when we’re bringing our children to church. I’m not saying we offer our five- to ten-year-olds a choice, we are still parents after all, but it’s better to encourage them to want to go to church, rather than them feeling they have to be there. This could also lead to feelings of resentfulness.

So how do we develop this desire to worship in an average eight-year-old? Well one thing we don’t do is ‘big up’ the church. We don’t amaze our young people with the church’s pastor, its praise group or it’s youth leader. Don’t get me wrong all these components are important, but at some stage they will undoubtably be a disappointment, and the whole reason for church attendance is gone.

We amaze and excite our young people with an awesome God, a loving Saviour and a radical gospel message.

 Even at this young age we can excite our children about God. I don’t mean in the trivial way we excite them with, Santa, Superman, Buzz Light Year and Woody, but in such a way that when the influences of the world surrounds them in secondary school, the influences of those ‘friends’ who would lead them astray, that their knowledge of a loving, merciful God who knows them and loves them, who sent His son to save them, who hates sin and loves only what is lovely and pure and kind, that this knowledge would highlight to them “this language is not right…we shouldn’t be doing this….I shouldn’t be part of this”.

We want to be in the position that when we’re worried about our children’s friends or their actions that our words of guidance or warning are not words that they see as stopping their fun, but are actually words of confirmation to them, confirming to them things they were feeling anyway.

You may feel that all of this is something we worry about when our kids become teenagers (the stage we will look at in the next article). But I believe it’s too late then. It’s too late if our children rebel as teenagers and these influences haven’t been instilled. This doesn’t mean those rebel years won’t come, I’m not saying that, but I do believe our young people never forget the truths they are taught as they grow up, and if they do stray, it’s our faithful God we depend on to love them back to Him, either into a saving relationship or back into His arms.

Our young people are growing up in a vastly different world than we did. The norms of society have shifted massively. If we as parents and grandparents are struggling to find that place where we can stand for gospel truths, not shifting or diluting it’s message of love, grace, mercy, wrath, and justice, while still reaching out in love to those who are so opposed to that message, or are happy to turn a blind eye to certain aspects of it, how tough is it then for our children and grandchildren.

How are they going to fight to be accepted in a friend group if they are the only Christian or the only church goer in their class or friend group. We should never forget how hard it was for us to fit in with our peers. But in these days as the evangelical church and the culture around us are growing more and more apart, how difficult is it going to be for our young people to stand firm in their faith.

I believe now more than ever our children need to be anchored to their God and to His Church. As parents we need to take our responsibilities seriously. Not content with praying for our children and leaving it there, but following up on our prayers as we are guided by His word. Not content with just making sure our children attend church and Sunday School, but making sure the church attendance is not a traditional, dry experience, but an exciting, meaningful, thought-provoking experience, that they feel part of God’s ordained church family. That when our children are met with the world as young adults, they feel equipped and supported and not left to be “…tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes”. Ephesians 4:14 (ESV)

Written by Thomas Harpur

Part 02
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