It was Adolf Hitler who famously said, “When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side,’ I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already… What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community’” (Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich). Recently, an AP article by Zeina Karam and Vivian Salama reports of ISIS militants luring children from Iraq and Syria to fight in the battles they are waging across the middle east. One photo shows two children posing with automatic weapons as an Islamic militant fighter has his hand affectionately on one of their shoulders (The Denver Post, 11/24/14, 13A). Lest our culture get too sanctimonious, ideologues in our educational, political, and media realms have long been indoctrinating our youth on matters like radical feminism, abortion, homosexuality, climate change, evolution, and the continuing list is lengthy. The world has long known that the way to effect and control philosophical change is by reaching the hearts of children.
Once, in the context of teaching about possessions and stewardship, Jesus made the observation that “the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8b). Have we, in the body of Christ, ever conceded to the spiritual enemy regarding our children? Do we let the world set the standard of right and wrong? Arrange their priorities? Set their moral compass and define their worldview?
At no time is the human heart more impressionable and moldable than in the days of youth. What can we do to reach the hearts of our children? Consider these areas:
- Worship. To me, a most practical disadvantage of programs like “Children’s Church” is that it deprives children of the culture and environment of worship, where they not only practice engagement but also group participation. Since children are such quick and able learners, we can teach them so much about praise and adoration to God with each other in worship (cf. Psa. 95:6).
- Acts of service. Rather than creating an atmosphere that caters to children’s desires, why not create opportunities that teach them the value and importance of service, unselfishness, and giving. By helping them serve, we open their eyes to the joy and fullness of heart that follows doing for others (cf. Acts 20:35).
- Fellowship. Why not do more as a church and as individual families to emphasize the beauty and joy of Christians being together? Involve children in preparing for these times and making them an active part in times spent together with others—teaching them requisites like good manners, courtesy, thoughtfulness, and respect for adults. It will live and grow in them as they pass from childhood to adulthood (cf. 1 Th. 5:11).
Give thought to other areas where we can reach the hearts of our children, helping them to remember their Creator at their tender age (Ecc. 12:1). They are such a vital resource to the heart of God, so much that He calls them “a gift” (Psa. 127:1). May we not, by neglect, default, or shortsightedness, let the world shape and influence them. Through both the church and Christian homes, may we “recruit” our children to love and follow God with all they are (cf. Mat. 22:37).