Our nation is in mourning after a number of people on the James Smith Cree Nation in Saskatchewan were stabbed to death this past weekend. The whole matter came to a tragic end with the arrest, and subsequent death, of the alleged perpetrator, Myles Sanderson.
It’s a heartbreaking story with many, many facets. Mr. Sanderson was a young man in his 30s with a long rap sheet. What could have made him a career criminal? Again, there are many facets even to this aspect of the story, and I want us to consider just one of them.
I know nothing of his childhood and nothing of his family, so I won’t speculate. But something we can learn from this tragedy is the value of raising children with intentionality and care.
Parenting is hard; it’s the hardest job known to the human race. It has not been my privilege to parent. I have served parents, though, throughout my many years of ministry, and those who have done well have parented intentionally and carefully.
It’s one of those tasks that never seems to end, at least when one is in the thick of it. It’s especially challenging for Christian parents, because they are constantly fighting against a world (with much media in its arsenal) that seeks to suck children into its vortex. Christian parents are always having to hold their kids by the ankles to keep them from being taken in by the world and its ways.
Some might say the answer is to shelter them completely, but I suspect that does them few favours as they grow up and see what’s going on around them.
Parents must talk to their kids, and equip them for the world they will face. They need to help their kids develop profound discernment skills so they can make decisions well – not just how to cook and clean and buy a car, but how to have a strong sexual ethic, a deep value for life, a profound respect for all people – and countless other skills.
And it’s the church’s job to help parents with this.
Traditional models for Christian education largely assumed that parents had all the tools they needed to raise their kids not only to be good citizens, but to know and follow Jesus. Those traditional models – still employed in some churches today – worked in the Christendom age, when most western nations were still considered Christian countries, but they don’t work today.
That’s why it’s important for churches to stand by parents, and to equip them, so that children are ready to face the world. Most of the work parents need to do cannot be farmed out to others, the way we employ someone to teach our kids how to play the piano. Parents must do this work themselves. And some feel ill-equipped to do it.
The church exists to make disciples of Jesus; that’s our mission. And it’s not just about getting more professions of faith, as important as that is; it’s also about equipping God’s people for life’s most basic and most profound tasks.
Perhaps your church, like ours, invests in family ministry for that purpose. If it doesn’t, why doesn’t it? It’s an investment that pays off not only in the Kingdom of God as we envision it in the future; it’s an investment that affects the world we live in for today and tomorrow.
It’s grunt work. It can be painful. It can be heart-wrenching. But when it is done well, I also understand it is very satisfying, not only for parents, but for everybody else.
“Direct your children onto the right path,
and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22.6, NLT).