Let’s Read: Christ is Better
By Claire McNabb
Have you ever watched a toddler have a tantrum? Arms flailing, feet stamping, hot tears running down their face and screeching at the top of their lungs. It’s their way of expressing their frustration. As children get older they no longer have such visible tantrums when they don’t get their own way, they simply change how they express themselves. The word ‘no’ is yelled from primary school aged children, the teenager responds by becoming moody and withdrawn. As we get older we change physically, mentally and emotionally.
Chapter 8 details the growth and developmental stages of children from birth to teenagers. As we have seen before teaching at the right level and using the best teaching techniques for that age group is so beneficial for them. Although I want to focus on the content of chapter 9 there was one key part that struck me as I read chapter 8 and it’s this: “with loving care and wisdom about how kids grow, we can confidently share the good news with children. We do so with the knowledge that God is at work, growing them up step-by-step and stage-by-stage.” (p. 160) I think it’s so comforting to know that while we play our part and do our best, it’s God who is at work in their lives, and it’s him who is growing them!
Chapter 9 deals with the YouTube generation; those young people who come back day after day to watch their favourite YouTubers. As Kennedy points out young people find an online community who shape their thinking, affections and habits of life (p. 162). These young people don’t just have their minds won over, but their hearts as well. Social media (including YouTube) has many positives but also many negatives. Gen Z (those born between 1997-2012), are far more connected to others than any other generation. They have more diverse friendships, they are more aware of what is going on across the world, and they are more likely to use their social media platforms to stand up for what they believe. But there is also a huge amount of social pressure to fit in. The amount of cyberbullying is staggering, the age children first come across pornography online seems to get younger and younger. This is crucial: if we are not encouraging our young people to pursue Christ, then the world is encouraging them to pursue everything and anything but Christ, and they’re doing it with videos and reels and stories that are well produced, that are targeted at the right level, that get to their hearts and minds. Our children and young people need to be taught that Christ is better, that their worth is not in likes or follows, that one day justice will come, and that they must take their stand. We must be proactive, not reactive.
So, how do we do that? How do we disciple well? Kennedy shares a framework taken from Psalm 78—teach, know and live. If you are a Christian parent then you have a huge privilege and responsibility. Teach your children God’s word in an appropriate way. Perhaps it’s consistently reading a Bible story together and praying before bed, or helping them to learn verses. Kennedy shares that in his home he would put on worship music and a catechism set to music as his children fell asleep. Not only should you teach your children but you need to live the gospel out in front of them; say sorry and ask for their forgiveness when you lose your temper. As cliched as it sounds, we need to be intentional about how we live and what we teach. Children and young people are good at picking up whether what we say/tell them to do, matches how we actually live. As we live out the gospel in front of our children and young people we want to set good habits and rhythms. Chandler and Griffin (p. 172) encourage families to cultivate a culture of discipleship through intentional times, teachable moments and marking significant spiritual milestones. It isn’t about another program, or a specific formula, or trying to be better than YouTube (note: we can’t be!), we want to capture their hearts, “they need cultures where thinking, affections, and patterns of life are captured and shaped by Jesus’ redemptive story.” (p. 175)
Do you live out the gospel well in front of your children daily?
What spiritual habits do you have in your family to help your children grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s word?
If you don’t have children or if yours have grown up, in what ways could you get alongside a family in your church to help them as they disciple their children?