When I got home this afternoon, waiting in the mail was a fantastic article by James Dobson (formerly of Focus on the Family, now head of Family Talk). God's timing is perfect! Right there for me to read was this: "Spiritual training of children should begin at the earliest moments of awareness and continue through the teen years. The most important year, however, MAY BE AGE FIVE!" Hello? It was like God was saying "Tracye, are you listening? PERK UP and pay attention."
Why is this year so important? Statistics show that this is the time frame that kids either begin to internalize what they are taught and make it their own or Bible stories and lessons become like fables that don't apply to the real world. It's VERY important to carefully instruct during this time to lay the foundation of faith.
Listen to these startling statistics from a nationwide poll in 2003. Children age five through thirteen have a 32 percent probability of accepting Christ as their Savior. That rate drops dramatically to just 4 percent for kids ages 14-18. Those that have not become Christians before age 19 have only a 6 percent probability of doing so the entire rest of their lives. Oh my! What a responsibility we have as parents!
Though Christ is a HUGE focus in our home, I am honest enough to admit that we just aren't always doing enough. Dr. Dobson shared four key components to help guide our efforts more effectively.
- Talk to your kids early and often about the Lord and His kindness. One of the first verses a child should learn is "God is LOVE!" (1 John 4:8). Often point out how trees, flowers, birds, rainbows, and other wonders of nature are gifts from God's hand. He made all those wonderful things, just as He created each one of us! Teach them to thank God for their food and ask for His help when they are hurt of scared.
- TEACH YOUR CHILD TO PRAY AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE! Perhaps, this is the area that I am failing the most. It's time to move past "now I lay me down to sleep" and other rote prayers. They need to hear us as parents pray out loud. I am pretty private about my prayers and I need to work on being more open and "vocal" with them.
- Scripture Memory---"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psalm 119:11). If you want your children to be morally guided when they are not in your presence and when they are older, you MUST hide the Word of God in their hearts NOW. Make it a game! Use rewards. Many Sunday School songs are based on scripture. Teach them those songs. Music is a wonderful tool (which is why I highly recommend Seeds Family Worship CDs).
- "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) for the spiritual warfare of your children. Prayer is God's remarkable gift to us. It is our lifeline to heaven! We have to constantly be "at bat" for our children against the destruction Satan is waiting to bring.
"These commandments that I gave you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates". (verses 6-9).
Parenting...it's a serious job! We can NOT do it without God! We HAVE to be purposeful. Spiritual training should never fall squarely on the shoulders of our children's church ministry staff and volunteers. They are there to reinforce what should be taught at home. They are to be our greatest cheerleaders! However, they are there to help...NOT shoulder it all! Monumental Task? Absolutely. Required of us? Without a doubt. Time to stop letting time slip away with wasted opportunities. Never been a more important time to be purposeful. Thankful that God's grace fills in where I've missed opportunities and grateful for the opportunities that He will continuously put in our paths. The time is NOW.