A thorough examination of what God says about children (those who are of the age to be under their parents’ care and the maturity to need close guidance) reveals that God thinks much of children and has a plan for them, even while they are young. Four major themes can summarize this plan: God plans for children to 1) be brought to Jesus, 2) be protected, 3) be trained to be disciplined and responsible, and 4) be immersed in truth. There are many other ways this could be expressed, but consider these things carefully when you make decisions about your children’s education, environment, and influences.
God’s Plan is for Children to Be Brought to Jesus
One of the most familiar passages in Scripture concerning children is found in Mark 10:13–16. People were bringing children to Jesus so that He could touch them, but the disciples, in keeping with the culture, felt that children were not important enough for Jesus’ time and were trying to send them away. However, Mark recounts, “But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’. . . . And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” Jesus wanted the children to be brought to Him and He wanted to bless them. That blessing came because they were led to Him. It is our responsibility as parents to see that our children are led to Jesus, whether we are holding their hands, or we put them into someone else’s hands.
God’s Plan is for Children to Be Trained to Be Responsible and Disciplined
Parents are warned that “folly is bound up in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15) and are instructed to train them and discipline them (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). Children are commanded to obey their parents and listen to instruction (Proverbs 1:8; Ephesians 6:1-3). Studies have shown that the human brain does not fully develop until the mid-twenties (http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2005/September2005/docs/01features_02.htm). Although there is a wide range of how much self-control and maturity is displayed by children and teens of all ages, it is a scientific fact that the brain is still growing and developing much longer than was thought prior to the twenty-first century. During this time, children need significant guidance and constant reinforcement. The end goal of all of this training is that we raise children who become adults who live for God’s glory and understand His ways—like Timothy, whom Paul instructed, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). It is important to note that Timothy was already an adult, old enough to be the pastor of a church; albeit a young pastor, he was not a child. Paul later reveals how Timothy had gained that wisdom: through the instruction of Scripture since his infancy (2 Timothy 3:14–15).
God’s Plan is for Children to Be Protected
One of the most poignant things Jesus said about children was when He called a child to him and told His followers that they should come to Him with the faith and humility of a child, then said, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” With so many clear admonishments in Scripture to avoid the influence of bad company (1 Corinthians 15:33, Proverbs 13:20; 22:24–25) and make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14) and the impetus of guiding and training children on the parents, there is a great responsibility given that must be seriously taken. When my firstborn was an infant, my doctor asked if she was sleeping on her stomach. I told him that she was, and that she didn’t sleep very well on her back. When he related to me the higher risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in stomach-sleeping infants, I immediately began to train her to sleep on her back. I didn’t care if there were millions of babies who slept on their stomachs and that the risk was small. I had been given the knowledge, and with that knowledge came a responsibility. It was my responsibility to protect my baby, regardless of what she found most comfortable (and the discomfort I faced with a fussy baby). The same responsibility applies in how we protect our children from the risks we are warned of from God’s own spoken Word.
God’s Plan is for Children to Be Immersed in Truth
To be immersed in something means you are completely submerged in it or surrounded by it. It touches and affects everything you do, eat, breathe, touch, and think. This term is often used when describing a language-acquisition method. For instance, someone who wants to learn French and goes to live in France and is surrounded by French-speaking people will have much more success than those who take a French class a few hours a week and are otherwise surrounded by people who speak English. This idea of immersing children in the acquisition of God’s laws, His ways, and His character is introduced in Deuteronomy 6:5–7: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Every directive concerning children is that they be in some way led, instructed, guided, disciplined, or protected. There are no directives concerning children, specifically, which have to do with evangelizing, teaching, or even being a light or an example. That is not to say that we shouldn’t be teaching children to do these things. These are exactly the things we should be teaching and modeling for them, and even allowing them to practice under supervision and protection, so that when they are adults, they can carry on the mission that they have learned since childhood.
So, What is God’s Plan for Education?
As with many things in life, there is no specific command or illustration in Scripture concerning school. Just as one can state that the Bible is not a science textbook, but it has sufficient material to draw conclusions about science, one can also state that the Bible may not be an education textbook, but there is sufficient evidence to draw conclusions about education. The logical conclusion is that God intended children to be immersed in learning about Him in an environment where they are protected and warned against that which opposes Him. In Bible times, this would have been in the home, the synagogue, or in an apprenticeship with another family that observed the same religious beliefs. In modern days, we have to look at our culture which requires a level of education that goes beyond knowing how to cook, garden, and sew (for girls), or how to apply one specific trade (for boys). God has placed us in this era and we can still apply His instruction to our current culture. In a Christian school, children have access to the level of education required to function in society and be trained to redeem that culture by being successful adults in a wide variety of trades or occupations.
Parents have the power to choose a Christian school where their children will be led to Jesus by teachers who know and love Him.
They can examine the textbooks and sit in on classes to ensure that their children are being immersed in truth through every subject and every learning opportunity.
Parents can observe and will often find that children in Christian schools have much higher expectations to be responsible and self-disciplined as they are discipled and their hearts are drawn to Jesus.
And finally, parents have the power to choose a Christian school where their children will be under the protection of Christian teachers who carry on the mission to teach and encourage students to obey God’s Word and make no provision for the flesh.
Will there be bad influences? Will there be opportunities to sin? Yes, without a doubt. The beauty of this educational choice is that when you are not there to guide them through the temptations and influences, your (biblical) message is being reinforced, not rejected or ridiculed. In a good Christian school, the role of the parent as the primary authority in the child’s life is in its rightful place. Children need one message, not competing messages. Give your child the best opportunity to grow to be like Timothy, who was “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”