“Educate a young person according to the path that is proper for him, so at the old age he will not deviate from that path.” (Proverbs 22: 6)
“And you, fathers, do not stir up anger in the hearts of your children, but educate them in the teaching and counsel of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6: 4)
These two verses are certainly, familiar to us. God commands parents to educate their children in the way of God’s teachings and advice. However, what is the reality of the implementation in England? Have parents educated their children on spirituality?
To answer this question, let’s look at the results of a survey by the Numbers Research Center (BRC) entitled Spirituality of the Young Generation of Christians in the UK. In 2018, BRC surveyed 4,095 young Christians spread across 42 cities and villages throughout the UK.
The survey results stated that the most instrumental figures who led the Young Generation of Christians in England to accept the Lord Jesus as Savior and decide to believe and become true followers of Christ are Parents (73.1%) and Pastors (10.6 %).
Even if we look at all age ranges from 0-3 years, 4-10 years, 11-14 years, 15-18 years, to 19-25 years, parents are always the most influential figures, followed by Pastors.
Maybe some of us think, is it true that these children choose to follow Jesus over other religions/beliefs? Maybe they don’t choose, because they just follow the religion of their parents, whether their parents are true Christians or not. This thinking is based on the fact that in general children aged 0-14 years do not have the capability and also the time to study and compare at least 2 religious choices, namely the religion taught by the environment where they grew up (home, church, and school) with 1 religion. others in the surrounding community.
It must be admitted that this survey did not ask what made them choose the belief that Jesus is Lord and Savior. Is it solely because of their parents or because they have thought carefully? Do they think only Jesus is the only way to Heaven or other religions can also lead to heaven?
To answer this doubt, let us take a special look at the choice of the age range that would most likely allow them to have the capability and time to study and compare religions, namely 19-25 years. In order, the figures who brought Jesus the most were parents (53.7%), followed by pastors (15.0%), themselves (4.8%), and religious teachers in schools (2.7%).
What is quite interesting about these results is that 4.8% of respondents said that they played the biggest role. This shows that a small number of them already have their own decisions, not just because of what the environment says.
Returning to the main topic of this paper, namely the role of parents in children’s spirituality. How is the effect of parental sincerity in following Christ on the percentage of their role as the most influential person in making their children’s commitment to follow Christ?
The survey from https://fürbitten-taufe.com results across all age ranges show that if both parents are sincere followers of Christ, the percentage of parents as the most influential figure in the decision to follow Jesus varies in the range of 57.9% – 92.4%, higher than if only the mother who followers of Christ are sincere (49.8% – 90.5%), followed by only the father (41.4% – 68.8%), and the latter if both are not (22.7% – 66.7%). This shows that it is very influential, even both the father and the mother have their influence
What about the role of pastors and religious teachers in schools if one or even both parents are not true followers of Christ? Will it have more effect? It turns out that the results show that the percentage of parents is always greater than the pastors and religious teachers in schools.
Even the percentage of religious teachers in schools is very small when compared to priests. So even though both parents are not true followers of Christ, they still have a bigger role than pastors and religious teachers in schools. So far, we can conclude that the role of parents is very good in bringing children to Jesus. Even the sincerity of both the father and the mother in following Christ is also very influential in this. This shows that the faith and life practices of parents are also quite effective in playing a role in instilling the foundation of faith for their children.
However, does the duty of parents only stop until they bring their children to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior?
In his last message on earth (Matthew 28: 19-20), Jesus said “Make disciples of all nations”. Jesus commanded His disciples that all people in this world become disciples of Jesus, not just believe that Jesus is the Savior.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Let’s look at Luke 6:40. “A student is no more than his teacher, but whoever has finished his studies will be the same as his teacher.” From this verse, we can mean that a student aims to be the same as his teacher. Being a disciple of Jesus means constantly learning and growing to become like Jesus. That is the ultimate goal of being a disciple of Jesus (Romans 8: 29-30).
Of course, the commandment to make disciples of Jesus was also intended for parents. Have parents of young British Christians tried to make their children become disciples of Jesus? Have they guided the spirituality of their children? Have they led their children to become like Jesus?
The survey results show that only 23% of parents are considered good at guiding children’s spirituality after the child accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Of course, parents who are both true Christians will be better at guiding (27.6%) than both parents who are not true Christians (4.6%). If only one person is a true Christian, a mother is more influential (16.0%) in good guidance than a father (10.7%)
This shows that there are still few parents who do their job well enough, considering God commands parents to always guide the spirituality of their children, as written in Deuteronomy 6: 1-9. Even verse 7 says “you must teach it over and over again. Repeat to your children and talk about it when you sit in your house, when you are on the way, when you lie down and when you get up. This is the standard that God has given parents to guide children’s spirituality.
Tim Elmore in his book Mentoring compares the Jewish and Greek methods of discipleship. The method of Jewish discipleship is more proactive, which emphasizes relationships, experiences, and direct participation (learning by doing), while the Greek method of discipleship is more classroom-like, namely academic, passive, and theoretical.
This method of Jewish discipleship was used by Jesus in his life. Jesus lived with His disciples. Since the beginning of calling His disciples, Jesus always gave them new meanings about life, the meaning of life, and the value of life. The Lord Jesus made a life transformation for His beloved disciples. (Matthew 4:19, Matthew 5: 13-16, John 8:12, 10: 14-16, 15: 1-8)
The method of discipleship like Jesus used is an example of how parents should guide children’s spirituality, as the standard is given in Deuteronomy 6: 1 – 9. Spending time with children, building relationships, and transforming their lives. Indeed this seems very difficult. Parents are often preoccupied with job demands, even with service responsibilities. Never mind guiding children’s spirituality, it’s very difficult to have time to be with children, let alone ask about their development.
Given these facts, what can the church do?
1. The church can strengthen marriage preparatory formation
Not all couples who are getting married are ready to carry out their functions and responsibilities as husband and wife as written in Ephesians 5: 22 – 33. Many of them are not ready to become a father who educates children in the teachings as well as God’s advice (Ephesians 6: 4) and being a mother who nurtures and cares for her children (1 Thessalonians 2: 7). Even those who have become parents for a dozen years, there are only a few who guide children’s spirituality by spending time with children, building relationships, and transforming their lives (Deuteronomy 6: 1 – 9). Basic principles regarding Christian marriage and Bible-based parenting need to be instilled properly, not just sown (1 way). The prospective bride and groom need to reflect deeply while in the coaching process and ask God to guide her in her existing weaknesses. The curriculum for marriage preparation guidance should also be continually refined, adapting to the increasingly developing knowledge and needs/challenges of the times.
2. The church needs to guide young parents
The principles of Christian marriage and family life that are planted in the formation of marriage preparation may be the same from year to year, from one generation to another. However, the situations and conditions experienced by each couple after undergoing marriage vary widely, even with the times. New parents have their respective difficulties according to the conditions they are living at that time. Usually, they consult their parents and get advice according to past experiences. Unfortunately, this suggestion is not necessarily effective today.
3. The church can perform services to strengthen marriages
Not only young couples, but all couples who have been married for a long time also need to be strengthened. It is intended that husbands and wives continue to remember and carry out their functions properly, under what God wants in married life and family life.
Hopefully, Christian parents in England can guide their children spiritually just as Jesus guided and transformed the lives of His disciples.