I want to introduce you to Avery, a former student of mine. Avery had a lot going for him. His grandfather was a senior pastor. His parents loved each other and the Lord. Avery was active in a Bible-believing, gospel-centered church, had Christian friends, and played on the student worship band. If there was ever a child that should grow up to love Jesus, it was Avery.
Unbeknownst to others, there was a battle raging in Avery’s heart. During his senior year of high school, Avery sent me the following email:
I have been weighing a lot of things in my life lately, and I have decided to renounce my faith in Christianity. I simply don’t know what I should believe in, and I won’t pledge myself to a religion when there are so many other options.
What caused Avery to reject Christ? In his words, it was different “perspectives” he was taught at school over an extended period of time. These different religious “perspectives” planted seeds of doubt that blossomed into disbelief in Jesus. Avery’s parents underestimated the transforming power of education and were unaware that it was shaping their child’s belief system.
I’ve seen enough Averys over the years to believe that if parents and pastors are serious about raising children to treasure Jesus then they cannot ignore education. Children spend approximately 16,000 hours between K-12 in an environment that is faith-shaping, mind-molding, and belief-forming.
Grace Church of Eden Prairie, where I am a pastor, recognizes the impact that education has on the faith of children and has made it a strategic focus of ministry. Our vision is to see children treasure Jesus Christ, and we believe that education is a means to that end. It either helps that effort or hinders it.
Because education is a touchy and taboo subject for many churches, it is critical for church leadership to be in agreement about what the Bible teaches on the subject. At the heart of our ministry is the conviction that education is a Romans 14 issue. Parents are free to choose public, private, or homeschool. But, because the Bible clearly commands parents to raise their children in the Lord, I believe the best choice for parents is to choose some form of Christian education for their child.
We seek to support and equip families in all three spheres of education: public, private, and homeschool. Each have unique needs and we have created a ministry tailored to those needs. Homeschool families need help doing school. We offer a monthly support group for parents, regular social activities for families and children, and weekly classes for K-12th graders in our building. Public school families want to know their rights and what is being taught to their children. We offer worldview training, a prayer and support group for parents, an educator’s breakfast that equips teachers to proclaim the gospel and live it out at their school, and we equip students to lead Bible studies and be salt and light on their campus. The private school ministry promotes Christian education through a yearly Christian education fair so that parents can research and explore options at a one-stop shop. Next year I will teach a seminar to parents of four year olds titled, “Perspectives on your child’s education” as this is a natural time that parents are beginning to think through the educational choices they will make for their children.
At the heart of all three arms of our educational ministries is worldview training. A person’s worldview is their belief system. Mark Cosgrove, in his book Foundations of Christian Thought, defines worldview as a set of assumptions or beliefs about reality that affect how we think and how we live. We want our young people to love Jesus, think like Jesus and live like Jesus, but to do that they must be immersed in a biblically-based, Jesus-centered, God-driven worldview.
This is “big picture” training and provides the framework for one’s belief system. These four components are a good start, but not an end. Meat must be added to these bones in the form of weekly biblical teaching. Paul tells young Timothy, “Continue in what you have learned … and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the Scriptures” (2 Tim. 3:14-15). Our children must be well-trained and well-acquainted with the Scriptures so that they can be wise unto salvation in Jesus. We use the Gospel Story Curriculum by Marty Machowski to teach our children the big picture of the Bible centered on Jesus Christ, we teach through entire books of the Bible on Wednesday night, and we have a special class called Foundations that teaches basic doctrine to 2nd, 5-6th, 9th, and 12th grade students. A couple of times a year we have a one hour parent seminar on training your child to have a biblical worldview using Answers in Genesis 7 C’s.
It should come as no surprise that many young people are ill equipped to defend their faith when confronted with waves of unbiblical teaching. Their grasp of doctrine lags far behind what they know of technology and sports, and only a minority whose parents have been diligently training them make up the difference. Sadly, many have not learned what we thought we taught them. From their viewpoint, Jesus is as relevant as wallpaper paste. Many Christian churches and schools have failed to teach young people the basics of the Christian faith, and those who teach a contrary worldview have filled the vacuum. If we want to raise up a generation of gospel believing and biblically literate people, then we must get serious about providing in-depth worldview training taught from Scripture for young people and their parents.
I believe that means we have to get engaged on the educational front for it is here that worldviews are being formed and belief systems are being shaped. If you knew a child’s education was the difference between that child following Jesus or rejecting Jesus, would you act? Education is powerful. It is never morally or spiritually neutral. In the absence of clear, biblical teaching young people tend to get sucked into believing what the culture believes. Education is never the ultimate answer. Jesus is. But education is a vehicle that disciples millions of young people every day so that they no longer “know what to believe and won’t pledge themselves to Jesus.” We cannot ignore education. Avery is a testimony to this fact.
If you are a pastor, my encouragement is to start exploring how you can equip parents in your congregation to train their children to have a biblical worldview and how you can build worldview training into your programs. If you are a parent, my encouragement is to learn what secular humanism is and to begin regularly reading and discussing the Bible with your children. There are wonderful resources available to assist you in this effort. Renewanation, Summit Ministries, and Answers in Genesis are a few excellent resources available to you. I want to encourage you to explore all that Renewanation offers, both in print and audio format, as they have proven to be helpful for me and the families I minister to. It may be the difference between your child walking with Christ or walking away from Christ.
Josh Mulvihill is pastor to children and families at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, MN. He is responsible for shepherding parents and their children into a deeper walk with Christ, as well as leading the children’s and family staff. He is married to his wife Jen and has three sons and one daughter.
This article originally appeared in The RENEWANATION Review, Volume 6 Issue 1. If you would like to become a member and receive a print edition of the magazine, please click here. If you would like to learn about other ways you can get involved, please click here.