I recently learnt that our church grew from a small Sunday School work started by a certain Mr and Mrs Cook in 1953 (150 Years of History in Singapore: The Brethren Story). As we look back, we have much to thank God for growing that ministry to who we are today.
With the advent and success of Sunday School in the past decades, we are inclined to pass the faith development of the children to the church. However, the reality is that the twenty-first century church has only an hour or two with the children each week. That is not a lot of time to make a big difference in the spiritual life of the children. It is crucial for the family to take primary responsibility in discipling the child in the ways of the Lord.
However, many parents will agree that they too do not have much time to spend with their children. In fact, a recent study by Singapore Kindness Movement suggested that parents agree that they should play the main role in imparting moral values to children, but find it hard to do so because of a lack of time (ST Times 27 June 2017).
Parents are not only working longer hours, children are living equally hectic lives. They are involved in a myriad of school events, co-curricular activities, and enrichment or tuition classes.
So what is the solution to raising a child to know and fear God in today’s context? I doubt there is a one-size fits all solution; I can only take comfort that I have fellow Christian parents who struggle alongside and pray with me in the Parents Support Group. However, one thing I am convicted is that both parents and the church need to work hand-in-hand to raise the next generation. To be clear, I am not only referring to the teachers in Children and Teens Ministry or the Youth Overseers, this is the work of the entire spiritual family.
The importance of engaging and discipling the next generation cannot be overstated. Reading the book of Joshua will no doubt inform us of Joshua’s faithfulness and how he served the Lord with utmost devotion. In Judges 2, we also see that Joshua’s generation of elders likewise led the people to serve the Lord well. The elders had seen the great hand of God at work; and were brought into the Promised Land. However, when they had all died, “there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (v10).
In my reflection, I have come to realise three things which I will briefly mention.
- Serving the Lord does not necessarily lead to knowledge of who God is, and it certainly does not equate to one’s spirituality.
- Discipleship is essential: the elders and the parents recorded in Judges 2:10 did not teach the next generation about God and His saving work.
- Testimonies are important. Faith can be strengthened when they hear from those who have personally experienced God. This can serve as faith deposits which will encourage and give hope during tough times.
If we do not take our Deuteronomy 6:4-9 mandate seriously, we will likewise lose the next generation; who will then suffer the consequences just as Joshua’s descendants did. Let us all model Christ, walk alongside a younger believer, and testify actively. Let us press on to be faithful to God’s discipleship command.
By Samuel Lin, Pastoral Staff (YCKC Bulletin 1&2 July 2017)