by Neil Anderson
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it
Your primary responsibility as a parent is to lead your child to Christ and help him establish his identity in Christ. When a child comes into the world, he is completely dependent on his earthly parents to feed him, change his dirty diapers and provide shelter. Childhood and adolescence is the process of moving from total dependence as a child to total independence as an adult. In the process of finding out who they are as individuals, children gradually move away from many of the people, thoughts, and ideas they have experienced through their parents and move toward the people, thoughts, and ideas which they have made their own.
A child is capable of understanding God’s love and protection and receiving Jesus Christ as Savior at a very early age. But understanding his spiritual identity is a process that takes place over the years of his childhood. It is the process of shifting his dependence from parents to God.
Children wrestle with identity around age 12. Researchers of cognitive development say that most 12-year-olds can think as adults. They are capable of abstract thinking and understanding symbolism. This is significant when you remember that Jesus appeared out of obscurity at age 12. Furthermore, the Jewish bar mitzvah has been celebrated for centuries when a boy turns 12, the age at which Jews believe that a boy becomes a man. Many churches have confirmation for children at or near the age of 12.
I believe age 12 is the approximate time in a child’s life when we should help him establish his spiritual identity. Evangelicals have tended to minimize junior high ministry and focus on high school. High school is too late for some kids to be challenged with their spiritual identity. Don’t make that mistake with your children. You must begin early helping them understand who they are as children of God and what their identity means to them spiritually. Seeing themselves as God sees them is the most important perception your children will ever have. If your kids don’t find their identity in Christ, they will find it in the world.
Help me guide my children into a relationship with You, dear Father, so they may establish their identity in Christ.