Training Children to Be Ministry-Minded

The number of young people choosing a life of service in Christian ministry appears to be on the decline. Christian college leaders tell us the great majority are choosing secular careers. Fundamental church leaders and parents who desire God’s best for their youth, and who recognize the blessing and eternal benefit in a life of ministry, have a great desire to train up children to be ministry minded.As a pastor, and father of four grown daughters serving in full time Christian ministry, I have been asked to speak to this subject of training up children to be ministry minded. I have often pondered the question of how I came to my own convictions and ministry mindset. As I think back over those early years of our girls lives, I can only respond that it is by the grace of God.

There are, however, basic Bible principles given to us for our instruction that, when violated, can have a devastating effect on our children’s inclinations toward Christian ministry. Yet, when followed, God uses them to produce the fruit He has designed in the believer’s life.

Let us center our thoughts on three biblical principles found in Romans 12:1-2, a very familiar and important passage on the Christian life.

Present Them to Christ
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Believers are here admonished to place themselves at the Lord’s complete disposal. We can also present our children to Him, placing them in His care with no strings attached. Hannah is a prime example of the attitude God desires parents to have about their children’s future. She made a commitment to give her child unto the Lord all the days of his life (I Samuel 1:11).

Give your children to the Lord. They are not yours to keep. We cannot hold a claim on them. Instead, God desires us to present them to Him as a living sacrifice. If we expect them, in time, to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord, we should be living and communicating this to them as they mature.

Though many would say “amen” to the need of “presenting” them to the Lord, few are expressing it in their attitudes and every day training. We must evaluate our own heart’s attitude. Some really have little desire for their children to do whatever the Lord has for them or to go anywhere the Lord would lead. Wanting their children and grandchildren nearby, parents often hinder choices their youth would make for the Lord.

We must desire God’s Goals for them. Often Christian parents, as well as church leaders, instill man’s goals into their youth. Desiring popularity for them, they encourage activities that will make them a hero before others. Desiring wealth and financial security they encourage high paying vocations without thought to God’s prior claim. Desiring them to have prestige, they encourage self-exalting positions.

God’s goals are so much different. He desires their complete love and service. He wants them, in humility, to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Loving Him is to be preeminent. Serving Him is the natural result.

It was encouraging to hear the response of one of our girls when asked: “What influences of the home contributed to your being in service for the Lord today?” The reply was: “I never really considered anything other than being in the Lord’s work…It was a philosophy of how we were raised…It was all I ever desired.”

We must pray for the Lord’s leading in their lives. We have been given the opportunity of interceding before the throne of grace on their behalf. As we desire His will for our youth, we then pray, seeking that will to be accomplished.

Protect Them From the World
“And be not conformed to this world…” (Romans 12:2a)

Our youth are constantly being influenced by the ways of the world. As Satan makes his bid for their lives, they need protection from the pressures to conform to the world’s pattern.

The first place of protection should be the home. God desires the home to be a sanctuary of godliness. Though our society has tried to make censure a bad word, it is a necessity for their personal security. A major protection in our home was the absence of TV and its Hollywood influence. The ungodly philosophies of Hollywood undermine every Christian value we want to instill in our children. Today, with video, and other kinds of electronic reproductions coming onto our bookshelves, some Christian families babysit their children with a diet of “conservative” Hollywood. Subtly, their minds are filled with worldly philosophy. Also, books, like best friends, have a great effect on their thinking. Do we consider the unreal and worldly examples of life that are often presented, even by the Christian novels?

The next place of protection should be the church. It is much more important for our youth to be involved in a church that is separated unto God than one that provides all the “activities.” Putting our youth under the tutelage of the disobedient brethren of new evangelical churches is to throw away the protection of God’s original design for the church. Many parents have lost their youth to the world by taking them where they are given a diet of worldly, contemporary Christian music, and youth groups that focus on bigger and more exciting activities. This only strengthens their “me” attitude and does not produce a ministry mindset. A separated, fundamental, Bible teaching church, should provide a wall of protection, and be more concerned with instruction in pleasing God than in following the world in philosophy and entertainment.

Third, wise parents will stay in tune with the teaching and activities of their child’s schooling. Some of our youth are being destroyed by public school influence and philosophy. Christian schools that are filled with secular philosophies are not much better than their public counterpart. Some parents turn to home schooling and find that they, too, have to be careful of materials, organizations, and fellowships that are filled with compromise and unbiblical philosophy. Constant diligence is necessary to guard the foundation of education that our youth will draw upon to make their life decisions. It is here many Christian disciplines of life are either established or never properly developed.

Fourth, our youth need protection against peer pressure. It is easy for their friends to become the primary influence in forming their philosophy and goals of life. God has given this place to the parent and church. We must guard against their spending time with those of worldly thinking and bad attitudes.

Fifth, children need protection from themselves. Scripture tells us “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child;” and that, “a child left to himself, bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 22:15; 29:15). Though the child thinks he can make his own decisions, he lacks the necessary maturity. The Lord gave the command for children to obey, placing the authority with their parents through the important decision making years.

We know our children may not appreciate it at the time, but will later realize the importance of the protection. Recently, one of our girls made a point to express appreciation for her not being allowed to go her own way. With tears in her eyes she said that her decisions at that time would have led to an entirely different life today. We must be willing to be unpopular with our children as we put up the walls of protection for them, trusting God for the results.

Prepare Heart and Life for Service
“…but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2b).

The Christian’s mind needs to be changed from its own carnal thinking. A child’s way of thinking is constantly being influenced by the world. In order to prepare our youth for service, their minds must be transformed to God’s pure ways of thinking, through know- ledge of the Word of God. We are told of Timothy’s godly mother and grandmother who left the legacy of knowing the holy Scriptures from childhood (II Timothy 3:15). Let us take every opportunity give full knowledge of God’s Word. Parents should frequently read Deuteronomy 6:6-9 and be reminded of God’s recipe for successful Bible instruction.

Secondly, Scriptural knowledge must be coupled with a genuine response from the heart. Children are sometimes well indoctrinated with truth and yet not inwardly submitted. We must not assume, because they know the Gospel, they are converted. As we are told to examine ourselves to see if we be in the faith (II Cor 13:5), we need to help our children do the same.

The Lord has instructed us to keep our heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). Envy, jealousy, hatred, selfishness, rebellion and of other wickedness can be held in the child’s heart. Parents who learn to identify and discipline bad attitude, as well as bad behavior, will find reward in the end.

Third, put God first. The transformed mind will love God completely. We are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind (Matthew 22:37). This is our goal in teaching children and should be demonstrated by our own actions.

One visible demonstration is honor of the Lord’s Day. One of our girls spoke of the impact it had upon her. “School work, though always stressed that it must be done, was not to be done on the Lord’s Day.” Then speaking of the Lord’s provision said, “Though we couldn’t work on Sunday or Wednesday night, the Lord provided jobs. Our college was paid for, even though Dad didn’t have the money to contribute to our education.” Another said, “We never ever missed a church service.” Then recounting an occasion, even while traveling, that Dad still made sure they were in church services said: “I remember thinking, God is as important to Dad as he says He is. This had a great impact on my life.”

Another biblical way of helping the child put God first is instructing them to tithe. It was interesting to hear one daughter recount: “Before any of our earnings were used, a tithe was always taken out for the Lord…We were taught that everything we have belongs to the Lord.” She then noted how this had helped her in keeping the Lord first.

Fourth, be consistent. A great influence on the young heart is consistency. We must be the same in the home and in private as we are in church and public. Many youth are turned from the truth because those instructing them do not have a life that backs their words. Hypocrisy is a stumbling block that has turned many hearts from ministry. This consistency needs to flow over into our attitudes as well. Keeping our hearts right and guarding against a critical spirit doesn’t go unnoticed by our youth. A critical spirit, especially toward those in ministry, will not produce ministry minded children.

When church problems do arise the children do not need all the details. They should only be aware of matters that involve them and then be instructed in the biblical responses to these problems. This will help prepare them for other issues later in life.

Fifth, personally involve them in as much of the ministry as possible. This has a great effect on a young person’s later choices for service. Whereas many church youth ministries are entertainment driven, we must turn from that to ministry involvement. As they become involved in various aspects of ministry they begin to experience the joy of service and understand the privilege it is to have a part in the Lord’s work.

Our girls said: “We felt very much a part of the ministry…we passed out church flyers and gospel tracts door to door…we folded bulletins…we greeted visitors…we participated in special music…we prayed for each of the people.” With this kind of involvement, when the answers to prayer came and God’s work in lives became evident, they rejoiced in the privilege they had in being a part.

Another part of this involvement is exposure to godly Christian servants. Who are your children’s heroes? If you were to allow them to have a picture poster of someone on their bed- room wall, whom would they choose? More importantly, who is on the poster of their mind?

Our girls came in contact with many famous people. They were not music, sports or movie stars. They were pastors, missionaries, and lay people who loved and served God. We spoke of them with high esteem. Our children still look to them as their heroes.

Have your children at every missionary service of your church. Then, let them see and hear these servants on a personal level by opening your home to them. Take your children to Bible conferences, such as our Ohio Bible Fellowship, where they are exposed to faithful ministers of the Word. Keep the Lord’s work and His workers at the forefront.

Though the world would like to have first claim on the lives of our children we can raise them to have a heart to serve the Lord. Let us pre- sent them wholly to our God. Let us also protect them from conformity to the world by putting up walls that hinder its influence. Then, let us prepare them for service by pouring into them every Scriptural influence that is at our disposal.

April 2003

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The OBF Visitor is the official publication of the Ohio Bible Fellowship. Feature articles from past issues of the Visitor are made available here for your use. You may read, distribute, and use this material as long as you do so in its entirety and without modification. All articles © The Ohio Bible Fellowship.

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