Sometime back, on Thursday 8th May 2003, I preached on 3 John 4 and the sermon was entitled “Children.” The apostle says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (ESV). Although John was referring to children in the faith, to me, this is what every Christian parent is aiming to say about his or her children. Let us not forget that children (from the onset at birth) are the emptiest vessels that can be filled up with anything and be moulded into anything! John filled his spiritual children with the doctrines of the faith. Putting it differently, while the crowning desire of parents is for children to be their joy and fulfilment, they can equally be the shame of the parents and the despair of the world. It all depends on what we put in them.

From John’s statement, we learn that children: –

  • Learn from us,
  • Lean on what we are, and
  • Live on what we give them.

When a child is born, the child comes into the world with a blank hard disk. As time progresses, that hard disk slowly receives information that sticks to it. The first thing that disk will receive is a sound then a feeling of being touched, then the multiplicity of sounds, and so on. In normal circumstances, most of the early training that comes to the disk is the mother’s touch, voice, and sight. Of course, the father’s sight, voice, and touch are part of the child’s early experience as well. This means that the parents’ responsibility is awesome. In other words, the child’s world begins with the parents and it expands worldwide as time passes. It is critical, therefore, that we instil in them while they are young the values that will influence their future lives. A Puritan, Arthur Jackson, emphasised this when he said “It is common sense to put the seal to the wax while it is soft.” Is this not the reason why the Scriptures stress the need for us to “train a child in the way he should go”? (Prov. 22:6).

This begins with the parents’ godly lives and these lives can mould the children through many avenues such as family altars, Sunday school (at church) and Christian fellowship. Ralph W Neighbour Jr says that the home fellowship group can play a major role in moulding children after the Christian pattern. It is critical, therefore, that parents are active participants in the church’s home fellowship groups. They must set an example.

In most conventional churches, all church members commit themselves to helping other parents in bringing up their children in the fear and instruction of the Lord. This happens when the children are being dedicated to the Lord at a church service. This must be done at practical levels. In the early years, if they can afford it, parents must go for joint holidays at exotic places such as the Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Siavonga, Chaminuka, and South Luangwa Game Park. This will help their children not only to play together but also to learn from each other. Their parents, on the other hand, can be talking about some challenges they are facing with respect to some of their children. In this way, they will advise each other on the way forward.

You will notice that in our churches we have some members that have natural affinity to children. Such affinity is not confined to the church but also at their own homes. Because of the way the Lord has gifted them, children naturally gravitate towards them. There are some babies who will refuse everyone else, except the one who is thus gifted—in the process even shocking the parents! I have seen this over and over again. One gifted man was travelling from Ndola to Kitwe and, during the bus trip, he befriended a baby and started playing with her. “If I continue playing with your baby, she will refuse to come to you,” he told the child’s parents. “In fact,” said the mother, “we are surprised that she accepted to sit on your laps. She never accepts strangers.” Sure enough, when they arrived in Kitwe, it was hard for the parents to get her back. It took the man’s personal persuasion to convince the baby to get back to the parents. “What sort of person are you?” asked the father. The stranger did not answer them, but the child kept on looking at the stranger as he disappeared into the crowd. Children of all ages sometimes look forward to going to church so that they can see and play with this type of person. My prayer is that such people will be godly people so that the influence they have on children will direct them to the Christ of our salvation. Of course, it is vital that parents should know such a person well enough to entrust their children to him or her.

Unfortunately, there is an increasing number of single-parent families in our churches. This could arise from losing a dear spouse or from that terrible experience of having a child or children outside marriage, sometimes through non-consensual sex. What is critical to the church is that these people are very dear brothers and sisters in the family of God. The specially gifted members of our churches can come in handy and play the role of a father or mother figure. The fear of such roles is that the gifted people do not want to be seen to be having secret affairs with the affected single parents. It would be good to have workshops on a topic like this. I have seen the value of such gifted members of the church.

Children can be used in church growth in several ways:

  • Sometimes children are the source of church growth. Some churches that do not actively evangelise still grow and this is through their children who become Christians. This shows that those parents are doing what Scripture instructs them to do.
  • Children can be used in active evangelism. Neighbours’ children who are friends to our children, can be invited to join us at our Sunday school. Undetected by our children, this is a form of evangelism. I remember over and over again visiting homes to such children. In many cases, the parents to the neighbours’ children ended up coming to our church, being saved by Christ, and becoming church members themselves. Sometimes, when parents to such children notice positive changes in their children’s behaviour after some weeks at our church, they come to find out why these changes have occurred in their children. In the process, they find the Christ of our salvation.

Most parents avail their phones to their children at a very tender age, even as early as one year old. Before long the child may know how to operate the phone and become even more acquainted with it than they are. In one sense, this is good. It is important to educate our children on how to use these modern gadgets. The problem comes when the child begins to access many sites on the phone which may begin to corrupt his or her morals. When you avail these gadgets to the child, make sure that concentration on education is not affected.

One other way to be so frank with children is to tell them both the good and the bad side of smartphones and social media. Parents should only avail phones to them after they finish their secondary school education. While this may sound very harsh, it will help the children to concentrate on their education. It will also safeguard their morals. I remember telling Benjamin Ngoma Sakala (who was staying in Bauleni shanty compound then) that he should not own or use any smartphone until he finishes Grade Twelve. I told him that if he obeyed this I would buy him a smartphone upon his completion of Grade Twelve. He obliged and as soon as he finished Grade Twelve, I bought him the promised smart phone. When the results came out, he did so well that he got grades one and three in Maths and Additional Maths, respectively.

The use of the smartphone during church services is another challenge facing both the children and the older folks. The problem we have is that we cannot tell whether or not the children are using their phones for Bible reading and referencing. Sometimes we think that they are, when in fact they are surfing through Facebook or some other websites. We, however, must admit that technology is moving at a fast pace. We cannot escape this trend. We must train these children how to use their phones properly in worship. For example, some of our youths have Grace Hymns Supplement and Grace Hymns on their phones. Should we stop them from using their phones for purposes of worship? Some of our children do not take the Bibles we have bought for them to church. The reason is that it is more convenient for them to carry the phone instead, which has the Bible on it and they know how to access it.

Another area that is a great challenge to our contemporary world is that of viewing various programmes on television. If not properly guided, children will be filled with much filth that would lead them to many negative acts that would badly affect their futures. I needed to say this so that it does not remain unsaid.

Children go through what is called “the changing self” as they grow. It is important for parents to learn how to relate to their children at every phase of growth. In fact, parents should be the ones who should be explaining what a child is going through. Some of our children may face such challenges as early pregnancies. These may come through rape, consensual sex, living together, incest, and so on. This can happen to them, sometimes, even when we have done our best to raise them up after the pattern of Scripture. Other challenges that come through sex include HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Bad company can lead them into drugs. Let us be clear, when children experience these negative things, they still remain our children. We must continue to parent them as best we can. We must remind them of what we have been teaching them and we must do so with love that issues from our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

In general, the key to convincing children is: –

  • To raise them up in the fear and instruction of the Lord (Eph.6:4).
  • To be the very best friends to them so that they believe you more than they believe their friends at school, the people in the community, and anyone else on social media and in the movies. If this is done with the guidance of Scripture, the children will share with you their deepest joys, thoughts, frustrations, and problems.
  • To depict such consistent Christian lives that the children will have no choice but to pattern their lives after you. You must be their mentors in every way.
  • Never to differ as a parents in their presence or to get them to hear you shouting at each other. Always discuss your differences in the privacy of your bedroom.

At church level, children must be kept busy in church activities. Some church denominations such as the United Church in Zambia (UCZ) have Boys and Girls Brigades. These keep their children occupied with spiritual activities at club level and thus they are kept away from many negative activities. Can our circles create some activities that can keep our children glued to our biblical principles? Often, our youth programmes (often referred to as “YP”) do not seem to meet the needs of children. Is there need for us to revisit our approach to YP programmes?

The mushrooming of the health and wealth denominations is a threat to children in our churches today. The falsehoods being peddled are done in such a way that they carry an air of compelling authority that can easily sweep away our children. One way of countering this is to have times with our families in which we go through the teaching points of the sermons we hear from our church services. Another way is to so befriend our children as to make them free to share with us what they have come across that day. What you do when that happens is to go through what they saw and then explain it from Scripture.

Expose your children to families that have children who equally need the friendship of your children. Because these families have brought up their children in the fear and instruction of the Lord just as you have done, their influence on each other will be beneficial to both parties. In other words, the children will grow up in an atmosphere which is governed by the godly parents themselves. If parents do not do this, they should not be surprised if their children pick up bad language and wicked behaviour from their schools, their communities, and from social media.

Many modern children, even in our Christian homes, are raised up by maids, especially where both parents report for work elsewhere. These children are surrendered to nannies as soon as the maternity leave is over, and then they are surrendered to day-care centres when they are one and half years old. Then they are surrendered to pre-school education. When in Grades One to Twelve, they are surrendered to private tuition soon after school. As can be seen, it is difficult to trace any proper parenting in this cycle. It is important, therefore, that whoever parents entrust their children to must equally be well behaved and patterned on Christian teaching. They must be trustworthy and honest. One way of meeting this need is to get Christian people to set up maid training centres. Then Christian couples can employ maids trained in these centres.


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Neighbour, R.W., The Shepherds Guidebook: Spiritual and Practical

Foundations for Cell Group Leaders, TOUCH Outreach Ministries. 1994.

Thomas, I.D.E., A Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, Banner of Truth Trust, 1977.

White, R.E.O. A Guide to Pastoral Care, Pickering Paperbacks, 1983.