In this chapter, Spurgeon offers three admonitions of particular importance to those who work with kids. These admonitions are based on the following verse which provides the title of the book:
“Come, Ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. [Psalms 34:11 KJV]”
Admonition #1 – Recollect Whom You Are Teaching
Even when working with kids, perhaps especially when we are working with kids, we need to remember to respect our audience. By respect, Spurgeon does not mean that you give people special treatment because of their status or position. Instead, he means that we must remember that we are working with people who have souls, and we should not waste their time filling their heads with things that are not worth hearing.
Spurgeon argues that those who teach kids are in a position of greater responsibility than even those who would teach adults. Those who minister to adults minister to people who are, at least theoretically, capable of making their own judgments and their own decisions about what they are and are not going to do. When you teach children, they have no other option. They cannot choose, on their own, to go find a different teacher or a different church. Accordingly, we must be all the more careful about what we teach them. As Spurgeon explains,
“If you teach the child wrongly, he believes you; if you teach him heresies, he will receive them; what you teach him now, he will never forget. You are not sowing, as some say, on virgin soil, for it has long been occupied by the devil; but you are sowing on a soil more fertile now than it ever will be again,—soil that will produce fruit now, far better than it will do in after days; you are sowing on a young heart, and what you sow will be pretty sure to abide there, especially if you teach evil, for that will never be forgotten.”
Children are much more susceptible to what we teach them, and what they learn is likely to stick with them longer than an adult might retain it. Spurgeon goes on to point out:
“Put poison in the spring, and it will pollute the whole stream. Take care what you are after! You are twisting the sapling, and the old oak will be bent thereby. Have a care, it is a child’s soul you are tampering with, if you are tampering at all; it is a child’s soul you are preparing for eternity, if God is with you. I give you a solemn admonition on every child’s behalf. Surely, if it be murder to administer poison to the dying, it must be far more criminal to give poison to the young life. If it be evil to mislead grey-headed age, it must be far more so to turn aside the feet of the young into the road of error, in which they may for ever walk.”
We should be always mindful of this fact and burden when we prepare to teach children. We must prepare with an appropriate fear of the Lord in mind. Teaching children is not something that should be taken lightly!
Admonition #2 – Recollect That You Are Teaching For God
The first admonition is to remember who you are teaching. This second admonition is that we must remember who we are teaching for. Working with kids is not just an exercise in baby-sitting. Rather, you are there to teach them on behalf of the God of this Universe. What we teach to children about God and eternal matters is immeasurably more important than anything else a child will learn:
“If you, as teachers, were only assembled to reach geography, it might not injure them eternally if you were to tell the children that the North Pole was close to the Equator; or if you were to say that the extremity of South America was hard by the coast of Europe; or if you assured them that England was in the middle of Africa. But you are not teaching geography, or astronomy, nor are you training the children for a business life in this world; but you are, to the best of your ability, teaching them for God… Wound the child’s hand if you will; but, for God’s sake, do not wound his heart. Say what you like about temporal things; but, I beseech you, in spiritual matters, take care how you lead him. Be careful that it is the truth which you inculcate, and only that. With such a responsibility, how solemn your work becomes!”
We must take care to please God in how we teach his kids. We should tremble at the thought of doing God’s work. It is an awesome responsibility and one that we are not capable of fulfilling absent God’s grace!
Admonition #3 – Remember That Your Children Need Teaching
Finally, we must remember that teaching children the things of God is an absolutely necessary endeavor:
“Your child needs teaching. He was born in iniquity; in sin did his mother conceive him. He has an evil heart; he knows not God, and he never will know the Lord unless he is taught.”
Unless someone teaches a child, he cannot come to a saving knowledge of God! We must teach kids the fear of the Lord:
“Be careful, then, how you teach, remembering the urgent necessity of the case. This is not a house on fire, needing your assistance at the engine; nor is it a wreck at sea, demanding your oar in the lifeboat; but it is a deathless spirit calling aloud to you,” Come and help me.” Therefore, I beseech you, teach the fear of the Lord, and that only; be very anxious to say, and to say truly, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”
Finally, we must remember that in order to teach the fear of the Lord to children, we must possess it ourselves.
Many in Children’s Ministry will complain that they are underappreciated or people do not take their ministry seriously. This is likely a valid concern, but I think the bigger travesty is that there are many people in Children’s Ministry who do not take what they do seriously. They decided that, because they are just teaching kids, they can throw something together at the last second or just “wing it” and get by. This attitude ignores the absolute importance of kids to God! For those of us who work with and teach kids on weekly basis, we must invest an adequate amount of time (both in preparation and prayer) to ensure that we convey God’s truths to kids in whatever way possible.
Links to Complete Text
If you’re interested in reading the complete text of “Come Ye Children,” it can be found on at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/cyc.htm
The complete text of Chapter Thirteen can be found at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/cyc13.htm
<<LAST TIME: Chapter 12 – Model Lesson for Teachers
Chapter 14 – “Come, Ye Children”—The Psalmist’s Invitation: NEXT TIME>>