Encouragement From The Word

Grunt Work

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).

Encouragement From The Word

Worth the effort

This week, our congregation has hosted Bible Fun Camp, our annual outreach to community children.  It’s been great to be back after a pandemic hiatus.

The amount of work involved, and the number of volunteers needed, to pull off a vacation Bible school is massive.  Even with a solid and user-friendly curriculum, the effort required is still significant.

But when it’s all said and done, we may be weary, but we will always say it was worth the work.  Why?  Because we have had the privilege of influencing children’s lives for Jesus.

I put an ad on Facebook for Bible Fun Camp about a month ago.  The first comment to come on our ad – which circulated to users in a radius of only about 20 kilometres around Nobleton – was from someone who was accusing us of brainwashing children.

While it saddened me to read, I replied to the comment, leaving both the comment and the reply visible for a short time before deleting both.  In my reply, I simply said that yes, we would be ‘brainwashing’ children, in one sense.  Parents, in leaving their children with us for five mornings, were giving us permission to influence their kids for the gospel of Christ.  But in reality, parents have a choice:  they can brainwash their kids with Jesus and his love, or they can leave it to popular culture to influence them instead.

I often say to parents at a baptism that when they take vows to raise their children to follow Jesus, they are making the choice to brainwash their children, instead of letting Beyoncé do it.  (You can name your favourite popular culture figure instead; I wasn’t just picking on Beyoncé.)  It sounds a bit rough, maybe even offensive, but the fact is that parents have a responsibility to shape their children’s values.  If they fail to do so with intent, the world around them will pick up the slack, and the parents may not be happy with the result.

Churches are called to equip parents to ensure their children’s values are shaped according to the gospel.  And sometimes, it starts with a five-morning adventure for the kids in the summer.  That’s often how the relationships start.

It’s worth all the work!

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22.6, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Investing in eternity

Each morning this week at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, we’ve welcomed some 50 children to our vacation Bible camp, ‘Camp WannaKnowGod’.  As we come to our last morning, everybody’s a bit tired out, but we’ve done this work with joy.  Why?

Because we’ve been investing.

In one sense, these five mornings have been like a whole year of Sunday kids’ ministry crammed into 15 hours.  No wonder everybody’s tired!  But we carry on because we are investing…in the spiritual lives of 50 kids.

All the time, money, creativity, and effort that have gone into making this week possible have had but one motive: to help this group of children entrusted to us have a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ.

These kids could be at soccer camp or at the cottage or at Canada’s Wonderland, but they are with us.  And we express our gratitude by investing in them.

Because, after all, in 100 years, it won’t matter how good they are at soccer.  It won’t matter how much time they spent at the cottage.  And it definitely won’t matter how many roller coasters they’ve ridden.  The only thing that will matter in 100 years is what they did with Jesus.

Some of my earliest Christian memories are of a vacation Bible school, which was done in the form of a musical called “A 100% Chance of Rain”, about Noah and the flood. I was probably around 5 or 6 years old. While that was not a “give my heart to Jesus” time, I’m sure the Lord used it to prepare my heart for the time when I would trust Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

This week, our prayer is that these children would know Jesus.  And if not through us this week, then in the future, when someone else’s ministry leads them to faith, and our investment will pay eternal dividends for the children.

We also hope to invest in the parents, equipping them with resources that will help them nurture faith in Jesus.  After all, they have a lot more hours to invest in their kids than the church does!

How are you investing in children – either as a parent, or as a part of the church?  It’s an investment in eternity where others reap the benefits, and God gets the glory.

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22.6, NLT).