The Audacious Task of Raising Children to Seek Joy

two children having a pillow fight
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In the very early pages of The Silver Chair, book four in the Chronicles of Narnia series, we come upon a scene in which a young girl stands at arm's length of one of the most serene and seemingly thirst-quenching streams she’s ever laid eyes on. She is terrified, however, of what she deems to be a problem in getting to drink of it. 

Although the sight of water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason: just on this side of the stream lay the lion....

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl.

…The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

…“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion – no one who had seen his stern face could do that – and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.1

As parents, we are given the hopelessly impossible task of raising children who chase after joy with every fiber of their being. Impossible, that this, unless we know which stream to point them to. We’ve heard of this stream. We’ve tasted of it. In our weary days of sick children, difficult births, and painful goodbyes, the waters of that stream have run over us.

As a pastor, you bear the additional responsibility of caring for families, both in their times of sheer joy and in those of overwhelming sorrow. Here are 3 ways you can help them raise joy-seeking boys and girls;

Model what raising a godly family looks like

No matter how many courses we have taken in seminary the reality is, we're not perfect parents. We're haunted by the regret of things we should have done or ways we could have handled a situation differently. These don't mean, however, that we're complete failures to our children or to God. 

God has designed you to be a consistent and faithful tool in His hands. He has given you the grace to raise children who see you in the study, who hear the Gospel preached from the pulpit, and who see compassion next to hospital beds of departing loved ones. 

You may not do it perfectly but you do it in response to the grace that God placed within your own heart when He gave you the amazing gift that children are. Sure you're going to get criticized for not doing things others thought you should have, but know that when you raise your family soaked in mercy and grace, onlookers catch that and want to reproduce the same.

Train your staff to pour into the church’s children

It’s vitally important that the children who walk in your door each week are equipped, engaged, and protected. Whether you’re training paid staff or volunteers, there must be a solid biblical foundation in place for them to build on. 

Questions to ask include; “Has my church trained staff to help children through traumatic experiences?” “How, as a church, are we positioned to engage on matters of gender identity?” “Do the adults caring for the children create a safe environment for growth to happen?”

These are only a few ways in which the church needs to prepare for the ever-changing tides of culture. The children in your church have questions. The children in your communities have questions. Are you adequately prepared to help them navigate the answers? Give them answers that fuel their joy for Christ in all things.

Encourage your community to bring their children to church

All parents, whether religious or not, want the best for their children. It’s possible that through their children, parents will be encouraged to at least inquire whether or not following Christ is good for the entire family. And it’s possible through the children in your community to engage families who might never otherwise step foot inside your door. 

Engagement is going to look different for each and every one of you reading this. It may look like ministry to a local youth shelter, it may include visiting a juvenile correctional facility, or it could mean walking across the street and talking to the single mother who looks as though she’s worn down. 

In all of these cases, the point remains the same, ministry opportunities abound in each of our local communities. Let me take you back to the stream if only for a moment. Our children are thirsty, our churches and communities are thirsty for water that instantly refreshes. When we model biblical parenting, preach on the value of family, and exalt Christ in all that we do, we bring onlookers to that stream which at once quenches their every thirst. 

1. Lewis, C.S. The Silver Chair. HarperTrophy:  New York, 1981, pp. 19-21.

© 2018 Focus on the Family. 

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