What Can You Do to Prepare Your Children for “the World"?
It was Christmas morning, and I was 12 years old. Wrapping paper was scattered throughout the room, collateral damage from the frenzy of Christmas excitement. All that was left to open was a small white envelope with my name on it and instructions to “open in private” written in parentheses. I remember sitting alone in my room examining my father's handwriting that covered the pages, wondering how long it took him to write. It was immediately special to me. In this letter, my dad called me to begin preparation for manhood. He was commissioning me to take ownership of my preparation in becoming a man who desired to honor God with my life. Written in the letter was a father's blessing and a promise that he would walk beside me, pray for me, and pray for the woman that I would one day marry. He encouraged me to walk with God and to let His Word direct my paths, whatever the circumstance. That Christmas, my father's words initiated a new chapter in our relationship, and in my life. A chapter of preparation for how to walk with God in a broken world, and a calling to be sent into the world with a purpose.
Before and after that letter was written, my father has consistently communicated and modeled a biblical approach to preparing me for the world. Twenty-five years later, I still have the letter and an understanding of the power of intentional preparation for the world.
Three aspects are key to helping your children prepare for the world. You have to understand what it means to prepare them for “the world,” understand their purpose, and every Christian’s purpose, as set by God, and understand that perseverance will be involved in this.
First we must understand that “preparation for the world” is different from “protection from the world.” Protection from the world often measures success by what our children don’t do in the world. Students not cursing, not drinking, not doing drugs, etc., become the marks by which we, as parents, grade ourselves on raising our children. However, this is neither an adequate approach, nor a biblical one. The calling God has given to parents is to train up our children in biblical truth. We are to give them a firm foundation of faith and a biblical lens through which to view the world. That foundational truth starts with understanding that God’s ideal intentions for us in creation were twisted and broken by the sin of rebellion within us. God then shows us the lengths He has gone to redeem and restore our relationship with Him through Christ.
Essentially, we’ll never be able to protect our children from the world because the sin that courses through the world is the same sin that resides within us. So preparing our children to deal with the external temptations and sins of this world ultimately begins with them learning how to deal with the internal temptations and sins within themselves.
Be intentional to explain the reality of sin in our lives that leaves us with a continual need for Jesus as our only Savior.
Be intentional to empathize the brokenness in their own hearts, connecting it to the cause of the fundamental brokenness in the world.
Be intentional to equip them to interpret the world through the biblical lens of Scripture, as they become exposed to more of the world and its brokenness.
It is imperative that we clearly and continually articulate the child’s purpose in the world. Begin with the end in mind. Attempting to prepare your child for the world, without a clear understanding of their purpose in the world, will quickly lead to confusion and frustration. In Christ’s commission we find our ultimate purpose in this world; to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20). This purpose is played out in classrooms, homes, businesses, churches, hospitals, and in a million more places, in a million different ways every day.
Psalm 127 compares your children to “arrows in the hands of a warrior.” With this image in mind, we understand that God’s purpose for your child is not to be protected from the world, but to penetrate the world for the glory of God. We are called to prayerfully prepare our children with a biblical foundation, point them to Christ's commission, and ultimately send them into a broken world to glorify God and make disciples of Christ. Wherever our children go, whatever they do, their purpose remains the same.
Be intentional to explain God’s purpose for their lives and how glorifying God is tied to everything they do.
- Be intentional to emphasize their calling to be ambassadors for Christ, sent into the world with a message of redemption and reconciliation to God.
- Be intentional to exemplify a culture penetrating life for your student to observe and learn from.
It is in Christ that we find our identity and purpose, which fuels perseverance. Too often, parents today focus the preparatory years on their child’s ability (sports, academics, performance, etc.) instead of their child’s identity (who they are in Christ). If the child’s abilities are taken away one day, or opportunities to use those abilities dry up, they are left searching for their identity. It is imperative that we consistently remind our children of their identity in Christ, and that He has a purpose for their lives.
To adequately prepare your child for the counter-cultural mission of proclaiming Christ to the world, they will need to be equipped to persevere. Jesus tells us that we will all have trouble in this world, but to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Trouble in your child’s life is guaranteed. So is Christ’s presence and power. We need to teach our children to lean into Christ and become dependent upon His ability, not their own. The perseverance of your child’s faith, as they encounter trials and tribulation, will depend upon where they place their identity, not their ability.
- Be intentional to explain who they are in Christ and the calling He has placed upon their life.
- Be intentional to emphasize their identity in Christ, apart from their abilities, successes, or failures.
- Be intentional to emulate Jesus in continually loving and praying for them as they go out into the world and encounter trials and tribulations.
Stephen Loeffler has been a leader and educator in the church and secular world for over 15 years and has taught at Christian High School for 3 years. He has a B.A. in Christian Education from Hannibal University, minoring in Youth Ministry, and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary. Stephen also served for 7 years as an officer in the Marine Corps until resigning his commission as a Captain in 2016.