KIDS | Train Up Our Kids

Guest Blogger: Jason Simmons

In 1992, NBA legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley made national headlines when he declared, “I am not a role model.”  In the era of a kinder, gentler NBA--Barkley’s comments drew the ire of the national media and the general public alike. But “Sir Charles,” as he is known, didn’t stop there.  He continued…”I don’t get paid to be a role model.  I get paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.  Parents are role models.  Just because I can dunk a basketball, doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

And for some random reason, when I think about the church’s role in raising our children in the Christian Faith, I am reminded of Barkley’s comments.

It’s a hot topic of discussion at Downtown Church, and all churches for that matter.  Proverbs 22:6  states: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.”  No one would argue that point of “why” it’s important.  But we struggle with the “how.”  How do we train up our child, and whose “job” is it?

Many people would assume it’s the church’s responsibility.  After all, the church has the proper resources.  Pastors and youth leaders are subject experts equipped to teach and translate scripture.  On the other hand, we know the cumulative time spent on Sunday mornings, youth activities, and confirmation class is a tiny fraction of the time our children spend at home, in school, and in their weekly activities.

Others would argue, since our children spend most of their time at home, it should be the parent’s responsibility.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of this argument! I know my number one job as a parent is to ensure my children follow Jesus.  To love unconditionally, help others in need, forgive the people that hurt them, and live by the Golden Rule.  But as I write this sentence on an airplane somewhere over Texas I’m reminded how super duper busy I am.  And did I mention I’m tired? And all this “training up a child so we can leave the world a better place” seems like a lot of work.  

“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Finally, some would agree if it isn’t the Church’s sole responsibility…or the Parent’s…then its up to our children to decide the path for themselves.  After all, the good Lord gave us all free will.  As parents, we will bring them up in the church, but when they are old enough- the training wheels should come off and it is up to them.   But, as I sit and recall the 14 year old version of myself…yeah, no.   In the 90’s, I knew every word to every song…from Bell Biv Devoe to Bon Jovi-- but I didn’t know many Bible verses!

As I continue to explore the “how,” I realize there isn’t an easy answer.   So maybe we need to go back to the basics of our own faith journey.

It started with our Baptism.  You know the drill.  The child is presented.  The preacher speaks a little on God’s behalf about the importance of Baptism and His promise of salvation.  Next, the parents profess their faith, promise to raise the child in the church, to teach them how to pray, and follow Jesus.  Then the congregation — the body of Christ — gets our turn.  We promise we will nurture and support the parents and the child. Finally, through Confirmation, our children get the opportunity to confirm the promises their parents made for them with their own voice…”Yes, I Believe…”

It’s a team effort, and everyone is invested.

30 years, a wife, and three children later, I finally understand what Charles Barkley meant with his “I am not a role model” quote.  I think what he meant was,  “Don’t put this ALL on me.”

No one would argue a school-teacher is solely responsible for educating your child.  What’s learned at school is only as good as what is reinforced and modeled at home and in the community.

And if we accept that, we acknowledge as parents we play a central role in teaching our children in concert with the church and with our church community.   And just like when your child’s Algebra homework stumps you, its OK that you may not have all the answers.  After all, theologians and scholars have argued and debated these same texts for thousands of years!    

What is important is our children see us all just as we are...on a journey of faith.  Yes we’re tired, busy, and imperfect.  But we’re also seeking.  And we’re hopeful.  And we’re waiting for the Kingdom to come.

Downtown Church is growing.  And as we grow, we will be challenged to “train up our children.”  It has to be a constant area of focus, but we must acknowledge we all play a vital role.  Parent.  Child.  Church.  It takes a village.

Here is a video of me, training up my kid on the Lord’s Prayer.