Dr. Zach Crook
Jesus’ teachings emphasize the importance of building families on the foundation of the gospel, with Christ at the center. While parents are the primary spiritual leaders in their homes, children’s and student ministries can also play a role in equipping and supporting parents. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses gives his final sermons to the Israelites before they enter the promised land. He emphasizes the importance of following the Lord with all their hearts and passing on this knowledge to the next generation. As we face the challenge of raising our children in a post-Christian culture, we must turn to God’s word for guidance and instruction.
How to Keep Children from Walking Away from Their Faith
Statistics show that many young people stop attending church regularly as they enter adulthood. To prevent this, we must avoid behaviors that drive the next generation away from the church. Moses warns against testing the Lord and emphasizes the importance of following His commands and doing what is right in His sight. By doing so, we can prosper and inherit the blessings God has promised us. The wisdom of Deuteronomy 6:16–19 can help parents who seek to build strong, Christ-centered families that will pass on the faith to future generations.
Christian Parenting Advice from Moses
Moses warned the Israelites not to test the Lord as they did at Massah. At that time, after leaving slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were concerned about dying of thirst in the desert. Moses emphasized the importance of trusting in God’s provision because God had provided for them miraculously time and time again. In Exodus 17, the Israelites had just left the wilderness and Desert of Sin and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for them to drink. They complained to Moses, who asked them why they were testing the Lord. The people thirsted and grumbled against Moses, questioning why he had brought them out of Egypt to die of thirst. Despite God parting the sea and sending manna from heaven to provide for them, they still doubted. The Hebrew word for manna, which was a flaky honey-like substance, translates to “what is it?” and appeared every morning.
The Israelites were provided with manna by God repeatedly, and their response was to complain and question why they were even brought out of Egypt if they were going to die of thirst. They seemed to prefer slavery over trusting in God’s provision. Moses cried out to the Lord, wondering what he should do with these hard-hearted people who were even considering stoning him to death. The Lord instructed Moses to take some elders of Israel and strike a rock at Horeb, and when he did, water would come out of it for the people to drink. Moses did this in front of the elders, and the place was named Massah and Meribah due to the Israelites’ complaining and testing of the Lord’s presence among them.
Christian Parents Must Trust in God’s Provision
If we want to push away the next generation, we can make it easy by just not trusting God’s provision. The Israelites forgot about the manna and the miracles God had done to bring them to where they were, instead choosing to prefer slavery. We can also say that God’s provision is not enough for us. Jesus is our rock, just like the one that Moses struck for water. Paul tells us that Jesus was struck for us, and His blood was shed so that we could have living water and never thirst again. It’s amazing what God does for us, providing a way for us to be saved through Christ’s sacrifice. Despite all this, we often still doubt God’s provision for us.
If we constantly feel anxious and stressed because we doubt God’s ability to provide for us, it’s noticeable to others, including the next generation. If we prioritize our financial situation over our spiritual well-being, the next generation will notice. To avoid chasing away the next generation, we must trust in God’s provision. Although we live in the wealthiest nation in history, we have more debt than ever before, and we often focus more on the American dream than on chasing after the Lord. The next generation is watching to see what we look to for provision and if Christ is enough for us.
Christian Parents Must Follow God’s Law
Continuing on, Moses instructs the people to carefully observe God’s commands, decrees, and statutes. The people are instructed to do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight so that they may prosper and enter and possess the good land that God had promised their fathers. By treating God’s commands like suggestions, we risk pushing away the next generation. God gave us these laws and rules for our benefit, and following them leads to a better life. However, we often neglect these good commands and turn them into mere suggestions.
As believers, we are called to pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus, but sometimes we may choose to do things our own way instead. We are also instructed to guard our speech and avoid unwholesome talk, even if others around us engage in it. Similarly, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, regardless of their political affiliations or beliefs. If we fail to follow these commands, the next generation will notice and may follow our example of treating God’s commands as suggestions rather than absolute truths.
Christian Parents Must Set a Good Example
The Great Commission instructs us to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that God has commanded. Rather than treating these commands as suggestions, we should prioritize teaching the next generation to love and obey God’s Word. When we fail to prioritize obeying the Lord, we not only miss out on the blessings that God wants to give us, but we also set a poor example for the next generation. If we treat God’s commands as optional, they will likely follow suit.
In Deuteronomy, God commanded the Israelites to drive out all the pagan nations from the promised land so that they could worship Him alone. However, they compromised and allowed some of these groups to remain. This compromise led them to turn away from the Lord and follow their own desires. Similarly, when we compromise and give the enemy a place in our homes, the next generation notices. If we prioritize worldly concerns, such as politics, over teaching our children to follow the Lord, we risk losing them to the enemy. As God says in Deuteronomy 6:18, “Do what is right and good, and the Lord your God will prosper you.” We must pursue holiness and obedience to God’s commands, trusting in His provision and prioritizing teaching the next generation to do the same.
Next Steps for Christian Parents
We pursue holiness and obedience because it benefits us, allowing us to thrive and receive blessings and live the life that God intends for us. Consider the next generation—if we fail to trust God’s provision, treat His commands as mere suggestions, or neglect to fully drive the enemy out of our homes, studies show that three out of four children stop attending church regularly. Without talking about faith in the home, parents lose influence, just as Joshua and the Israelites did due to their disobedience.
Interestingly, a man named Josh Dennard conducted research on kids dropping out of church and provided five reasons why some stay connected after high school graduation:
- Families who ate dinner together 5 to 7 nights per week tended to stay spiritually connected.
- Serving in ministry as a family is another way to keep kids engaged in church.
- Having at least one spiritual experience in the home each week was important.
- The children are entrusted with responsibility and ministry at an early age.
- Each child had at least one faith-focused adult in their lives other than their parents.
We must remember that we cannot outsource the spiritual development of the next generation, so we must intentionally invest in it in our homes. It is important to ensure that the next generation is given opportunities to serve and get involved in ministry. Our culture is often focused on consuming, but the Bible tells us to use our gifts to serve God and His church. It is crucial that we provide these opportunities to our children and students. Additionally, research shows that it is beneficial for young people to have at least one faith-focused adult in their lives, aside from their parents, who can support them in their spiritual development. As parents, we cannot outsource this responsibility, but we can seek out other Bible-believing individuals, such as teachers, who can invest in the spiritual lives of the next generation. This is the foundation for families of faith to train up their children into born-again believers living for God!