Who is responsible to teach children about God and the responsibility that children as they become adults have before their Creator? The harsh reality is that knowledge of who God is can be lost in a single generation. I have observed families where the grandparents are faithful church attendees, the parents were raised in church and believe the church is valuable but do not attend, and the children of said parents have zero knowledge about God or the church. The same happened throughout the Old Testament as it chronicles the almost systematic unfaithfulness of the people called by God to be His representatives on Earth.
10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. Judges 2:10 ESV
How could the generation after Joshua not know what had happened to their parents and grandparents in the wilderness and the battles fought to secure the land where they were living? Worse yet how could they have not known the Lord?
The answer to the questions comes down to influence of children as they grow into adult hood. Below is a list of influences in a child’s life. It is a Top 5 list with 5 being first and least important.
5 – Leadership of the Country: Leadership of a country matters for the wellbeing of the people in the nation. While Joshua ruled and the elders that ruled with Joshua were in power the nation of Israel served God and followed His ways. In the Chronical of the kings of Israel one can see this dynamic play out over and over. Leaders who served God made an impact on the direction of the country. But this kind of influence is not personal and lasting in impact to the individual. While verse seven tells us that the people served the Lord in the days of Joshua the following verses from above tells us that as soon as Joshua’s generation was gone the next generation did not know the Lord.
7 And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. Judges 2:7 ESV
4 – Professional Ministry: Like the leadership of the country the leadership of ministry is vital to the corporate community and how well that church body will serve God. Bad leadership will destroy lives, but is it the responsibility of the Minister or youth leader to raise the next generation to know the Lord? The youth leader and professional minister casts vision and provides an environment to learn and know God. However their influence is limited to a few hours a week if the parents and children attend regularly. Parents and Students listen and understand the following… The Youth Minister cannot fix the problem. The youth minister in a majority of cases is only able to reinforce the Godly things being taught at home. All of the priests and sacrificial systems that were followed by the nation of Israel did not make the next generation know the Lord any better.
3 – School and Community Teachers: More influential to the next generation than Political leaders and Church leaders are the teachers and servants who care for children day in and day out. In western culture children are sent away each day to day care, schools, and community centers where they are taught reading, writing, and the cultural worldview of the day. These teachers have immense influence over the next generation because of the amount of time spent caring for and teach children each day.
2 – Peers and Friends: Here is a quote that highlights a fascinating truth about people and demonstrates the powerful and negative influence that peers have on each other.
If ten 14-year-olds are grouped together, they will form a Lord of the Flies culture with its competitiveness and meanness. But if ten people aged two to 80 are grouped together, they will fall into a natural age hierarchy that nurtures and teaches them all. For our own mental and societal health, we need to reconnect the age groups*
It is a powerful truth that youth peers influence the behavior of each other in a way that is almost second to none. When King Solomon the most wealthy and wise king of Israel died his son Rehoboam succeeded to the throne. He rejected the advisors of his father and took advice from his peers. This Lord of the Flies quest to establish power on behalf of the new king resulted in a permanent split creating the states of Israel and Judah with two kings going forward.
And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, 1 Kings 12:13 ESV
Left unchecked without solid adult interaction peer groups of youth are a decidedly devastating influence on the lives of individuals.
1 – Parents: The most powerful and most important influence in the life of any child are the parents or primary care givers. Their influence on the worldview of a child is unquestioned. Parents can however limit or relinquish their influence to the child’s peers and or teachers by not being actively involved and intentionally promoting a set worldview at home. For the next generation after Joshua to not know the Lord or what He had done speaks volumes about the parents and their priorities toward the children at home.
Joshua as a leader tried to influence the nation to serve God and while he was alive it seems he did so but that leadership did not bring about lasting influence only temporary law and order. Joshua asked the people to follow him but in the end his primary influence ended at the doors of his own household.
15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 ESV
God also put into place a system of teaching and church leadership that would point the way and provide support to those households that wanted to serve Him. Had those parents implemented and embraced the teaching that Moses outlined the next generation would not be lost. But in the end the teaching inside the church is only to support and reinforce what is going on inside the home.
19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 11:19 ESV
The reality for these people is that they did not train their children in the things of God. They like most people became consumed by earthly pursuits and abandoned the training of their children to someone else or worse yet to the influence of their peers. For parents upset over this news please understand that it is never too late to start having conversations, spiritual ones, with your children. Remember you are the biggest and most powerful influence in their lives.
A word also for youth that yearn to know more about God but are not receiving the training they need from parents. Know that you also are an influence. Tell your parents that you want to be in Church. Tell them you want them to explain the scriptures to you. Most parents will respond to this in a positive way.
Above all else know that God himself is a perfect Father and through the Holy Spirit He will provide the teaching needed for anyone that draws near and seeks his face.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalms 32:8 ESV