The Role of Parents and the Church
The need for the modern day Children’s Ministry has grown, in part, because of the lack of godly role models at home. Fewer and fewer kids are receiving adequate spiritual training in the home. The primary role for instructing children in spiritual matters is given to parents, but the church naturally steps in to fill the void where that is not happening. Those people who work in Children’s Ministry spend a lot of time and effort in that pursuit, and the kids we teach and shepherd often become as precious to us as our own children.
That said, Spurgeon warns against parents abdicating their own personal responsibility for bringing their kids up in the admonition of the Lord:
“Let no Christian parents fall into the delusion that the Sunday-school is intended to ease them of their personal duties. The first and most natural condition of things is for Christian parents to train up their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Despite such a warning, there are parents who do abdicate this responsibility, and where there are no parents available or capable of teaching children the things of God, it is both proper and necessary for godly people to step in and fill that role.
Spurgeon reminds us:
“The Lord Jesus looks with pleasure upon those who feed His lambs, and nurse His babes; for it is not His will that any of these little ones should perish.”
Teaching Kids A Reverence for Scripture
This chapter is based upon the instruction Timothy received as a child. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes:
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” [2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV]
Spurgeon notes that one of the first things instilled in Timothy from youth was an acquaintance “with the sacred scriptures.” Timothy was taught a reverence for scripture that we should be teaching to the children in our churches each Sunday. If our children do not hold a proper view of scripture, or an indifference to scripture, the results can be eternally devastating. Spurgeon explains:
“This indifference to Scripture is the great curse of the church at this hour. We can be tolerant of divergent opinions, so long as we perceive an honest intent to follow the Statute-book. But if it comes to this, that the Book itself is of small authority to you, then we have no need of further parley: we are in different camps, and the sooner we recognize this, the better for all parties concerned. If we are to have a church of God at all in the land, Scripture must be regarded as holy, and to be had in reverence.”
Spurgeon’s high view of scripture is obvious and well-founded. Once the authority and inerrancy of scripture is sacrificed, “Christianity” becomes a pick-and-choose religion where its followers put themselves in the position of God and choose those portions of Scripture which they would like to follow and ignore those parts that they don’t care for. We cannot allow our children to start down this slippery slope! Spurgeon emphasizes this point:
“Lay much stress upon this; tell your children that the Word of the Lord is a pure Word, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Let their esteem for the Book of God be carried to the highest point… Suppose we get the children together on Sabbath-days, and then amuse them and make the hours to pass away pleasantly; or instruct them, as we do in the week-days, in the elements of a moral education, what have we done? We have done nothing worthy of the day, or of the church of God. Suppose that we are particularly careful to teach the children the rules and regulations of our own church, and do not take them to the Scriptures; suppose that we bring before them a book which is set up as the standard of our church, but do not dwell upon the Bible—what have we done? The aforesaid standard may or may not be correct, and we may, therefore, have taught our children truth or have taught them error; but if we keep to holy Scripture we cannot go aside. With such a standard we know that we are right. This Book is the Word of God, and if we teach it, we teach that which the Lord will accept and bless. O dear teachers—and I speak here to myself also—let our teaching be more and more Scriptural! Fret not if our classes forget what we say, but pray them to remember what the Lord says. May Divine truths about sin, and righteousness, and judgment to come, be written on their hearts! May revealed truths concerning the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the work of the Holy Ghost, never be forgotten by them! May they know the virtue and necessity of the atoning blood of our Lord, the power of His resurrection, and the glory of His second coming! May the doctrines of grace be graven as with a pen of iron upon their minds, and written as with the point of a diamond upon their hearts, never to be erased! If we can secure this, we have not lived in vain. The generation now ruling seems bent on departing from the eternal truth of God: but we shall not despair if the gospel be impressed upon the memory of the rising race.”
Giving Kids an Effectual Knowledge of the Scriptures
Spurgeon also points out that our teaching of children must be effectual. He notes that the scriptures cited above indicate that Timothy thoroughly knows the scriptures. It is not enough just to teach the scriptures, we must help kids to make the Scriptures their own. We must show children how the scripture is relevant to their daily lives and their relationships with God.
“Children can get that: it is by no means an impossible attainment. God blessing your efforts, dear friends, your children may know all of Scripture that is necessary to their salvation.”
In terms of the role of the teacher in that process, Spurgeon explains:
“Do lay a good groundwork for the children. Let not Sunday-school work be slurred, nor done in a slovenly manner. Let the children know the holy Scriptures. Let the Scriptures be consulted rather than any human book.”
In teaching kids, we must emphasize the Bible for what it is – the inerrant Word of God. God forbid that kids would walk out of our classes with the notion that the Bible is simply of collection of stories that teach them how to act!
The Bible and Salvation of Children
Just because we teach a child the Bible does not make them children of God. Likewise, a child need not know all the doctrines of the Bible to be saved. Salvation, of course, comes in knowing and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Spurgeon offers the following encouragement:
“May we not hope that even earlier in life than Timothy, our dear children may catch the thought that Christ Jesus is the sum and substance of holy Scripture, and so by faith in Him may receive power to become the sons of God? I mention this, simple as it is, because I want all teachers to feel that if their children do not as yet know all the doctrines of the Bible, and if there be certain higher or deeper truths which their minds have not yet grasped, still children are saved as soon as they are wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
I find two warnings in this quote. First, children must be taught the Scriptures because that is where they must go to learn about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Secondly, it is easy to fill a child’s head up with biblical knowledge and miss the meaning of Scripture – the good news of Jesus Christ.
A Final Word From Spurgeon on Teaching Kids The Bible
Spurgeon offers the following summary:
“So let us pray for our children, that constantly they may know and believe more and more; for the Scripture is able to make them wise unto salvation, but only through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Faith is the result to aim at; faith in the appointed, anointed, and exalted Saviour. This is the anchorage to which we would bring these little ships, for here they will abide in perfect safety.
Sound instruction in holy Scripture, when quickened by a living faith, creates a solid character. The man who from a child has known the holy Scriptures, when he obtains faith in Christ will be grounded and settled upon the abiding principles of the unchanging Word of God.
O teachers, see what you may do! In your schools sit our future Evangelists. In that infant class sits; an apostle to some distant land. There may come under your training hand, my sister, a future father in Israel. There shall come under your teaching, my brother, those who are to bear the banners of the Lord in the thick of the fray. The ages look to you each time your class assembles. Oh, that God may help you to do your part well! We pray with one heart and one soul that the Lord Jesus Christ may be with our Sunday schools from this day and till He cometh.”
In our culture today, the Bible is equated about the same level authority as one of those Fill-In-The-Blank For Dummies books you find in the local book store. Many people view it as one place to consult for guidance amongst many others. If I have a problem, I check what Oprah has to say about it, I read my self-help book or magazine, and I might have a look to see what the Bible says about it. While I don’t believe that this is the way the Bible is intentionally taught in many Children’s Ministries, I do fear that we may fail to stress the high view that scripture deserves to our kids. In doing so, I think we leave the children we are teaching ill-equipped to combat the popular low view of scripture in our culture. It is essential that our kids understand that the stories we tell them out of the Bible are more than just stories. They are part of God’s bigger plan and they either point to, or tell us about, God’s plan for redemption. It is critical that the kids know that the Bible is not the work of human minds, but the very words of God given to us. It is crucial that they realize that every word in the Bible is true and useful. And, it is foundational that they understand that it is through the Bible that we know about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Finally, they must understand that while we have a high view of the scripture, it is not the Bible that we worship but the one that the Bible tells us about!
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 Eight can be found at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/cyc08.htm
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While I can see it is very important to give a child the right grounding in scripture . I can also there is a right time to do this in association with their development and capacity to understand the meaning and context.
As Child brought up with bible reading it was never a pleasures and not something that I remember.
My son attends a Waldolf Steiner School. They teach the world through story and festivals with everything in its place for the time of year and the season. My son enjoys these lessons and repeats them to me.
It is a joy to see him received these gifts of wisdom from the past and bring them in to the future.
All the best
Thank you for your comment. I do believe that our role as teachers and parents is to teach the Bible to our kids in ways that are appropriate for them so long as that does not lessen the power of the Word of God. I don’t think children are ever too young to start learning the truths of God. That said, the Bible is living and active and should never be taught as a dead book. The Bible is full of exciting stories and evidence for the existence of the him who created us all. God is creative, loving, powerful and exciting. We should be excited about the God, and about his word, and that enthusiasm should spill over in our teaching. To make reading the Bible (a treasure given to us by God) a drudgery or a chore does a disservice to our savior at best and likely raises to the level of blasphemy! It would not work to tell a child “You must love God!” Instead, we much teach them why he is worthy of our love and deserves our love and let them decide to love him. In the same way, simply telling a child that he MUST read the Bible will not engender in them a love for the scripture. Instead, we must show them the joy of reading and digesting God’s Word! We must teach them how to make God’s Word their own rather than trying to force upon them something which is ours, or worse yet something that is not ours but which we feel like we they should have!