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Why it’s good to indoctrinate your children!

A family at St Marks was recently discussing the advantages and disadvantages of being either an adult or a child. Unlimited screen time versus responsibilities and lots of play time verses an early bedtime were debated back and forth. However, the comment that silenced the conversation came from the 8-year-old when she stated confidently that it’s better to be a child because Jesus said we need to have faith like a child and so faith is easier for children! There was no come back from the parents to that one!

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Matthew 18:1-5

Jesus was clearly teaching the disciples that we don’t earn our salvation but receive it like little children, with arms outstretched and grateful hearts. The image of a child receiving a present on their birthday and being quick to rip off the paper and enjoy the contents is helpful here. Jesus challenges the adult disciples to adopt the ‘lowly position’ that children naturally have in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Children are children, they are new to life and always learning and exploring. Their natural sense of awe and mystery makes it easier for them to believe in an awesome God, who is bigger than anything they can even imagine. They are unburdened with concern for the future as they live in the here and now and can learn to trust in their heavenly Father easily. They are uncomplicated and do not need to over analyse everything. They will easily accept belief in a Trinitarian God when an adult will grapple with this for years.

What an opportunity is ours – to minister to children in these formative years! Children who can more easily receive the gift of salvation.

Many Christians prioritise ministry to adults over ministry to children as most effective and more important. Can children really understand the important things of God? Isn’t thinking about life, death and eternity too scary for them? Should we not protect their innocence? Shouldn’t we let them grow up and know all their options before we push them into a decision? Surely, we shouldn’t indoctrinate our children.

That is what I advocate we should be doing – carefully indoctrinating our children! The definition of indoctrination is ‘the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically’ However, indoctrination is often seen as a cruel, even an evil thing to do to someone. The world advocates self-discovery and so ‘forcing’ someone to believe anything uncritically is frowned upon. Yet parents lovingly indoctrinate their children every day: they tell them not to tamper with electrical sockets, to brush their teeth, to be careful of the fire. They don’t give options when truth and issues of life and death are at the centre! The origin of the word comes from the Latin word for teach, doctrina and originally that’s simply what it meant!

Christian indoctrination is the most loving thing we can do for children. I would be overjoyed if our children at St Marks grew up and entered their adult lives with a solid foundation of Biblical truth they have grappled with and are utterly convinced of. Therefore, we value ministry to children and intentionally disciple our covenant children and reach out to children in our community.

I encourage you to grab every moment you have with your children or grandchildren to teach them and disciple them. Talk daily to your children about Jesus. Pray for and with your children as often as you can. These are strategic years in their lives, and they will soon be over, let’s not waste them!

“If the Kingdom of God is to come with power we must begin with the children and we must teach them from the very cradle.”

Martin Luther

In future blog posts I will help parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and all church members see how we can be ministering into the lives of children both formally and organically.

Sam Doherty tells a story about a little boy who was once asked, “What do you plan to be when you grow up?” He replied, “Maybe a missionary, maybe a gangster!” “What do you mean?” his enquirer asked. “Well” replied the boy, “it all depends on who gets me first!”

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About Naomi Jones

Naomi is the Children's Minister at St Mark's Plumstead.

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