Best youth / children’s teacher… ever

Who would be your number one youth/children’s teacher? If you could encourage just one person to be active in teaching and discipling your children, who would it be?

Maybe it is someone who taught you as a young person, or maybe it is someone who has taught your children in their Sunday groups. Maybe it is someone you have served in youth and children’s ministry with. And then maybe (either out of a conviction of what the Bible says about parents or out of sheer vanity and pride) we think it might be, well, us.

In the book of Isaiah, the LORD tells us who the best youth / children’s teacher is, and what he says is a bit surprising…

All your children will be taught by the LORD,
and great will be their peace.
(Isaiah 54:13)

Isaiah is told of a time when the LORD himself will teach the future children of God’s people. While it is true that there is a sense that the LORD is speaking of future generations enjoying a renewed relationship with the LORD, there is a sense that the text is speaking directly of children enjoying teaching straight from the LORD himself. Imagine that, your child or teenager having a one-to-one with God!

But this isn’t imagination or merely a pipe-dream… it is reality. Our children and teenagers can indeed enjoy one-on-one teaching time with the LORD God, the creator of the heavens and the earth himself.

How? Simple: get them to open their Bibles with a ready-to-listen heart.

God’s Word + the Holy Spirit + a humble listening heart = being taught by the LORD

If you would like your children to enjoy regular masterclasses with the God of the universe, then you need three things:

  1. God’s Word in the Bible
  2. the work of the Holy Spirit
  3. a humble listening heart in your child/teenager

God’s Word

God speaks to us by His Word. Ultimately, this is in Jesus who is the Word of God. The Law and the Prophets (aka the Old Testament) foretell and speak of Jesus (Luke 24:26-27) and the writings of the Apostles (aka the New Testament) passed on all that Jesus did in salvation and taught about God’s eternal Kingdom (2 Peter 1:12-15). Put a Bible in the hands of your children, and they have everything amazing thing that God would ever want to say to them right there, simply waiting to be unleashed.

The Holy Spirit

The Bible is literally breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit was at work in the hearts and lives of those who wrote the Bible to make sure that the message contained in it was from God and not from men (2 Peter 1:20-21). The same Spirit is also at work when God’s people listen to his Word (Hebrews 3:7ff) and guides us into a right understanding of it as we listen (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is given as a gift to all who simply ask the Father and trust in Jesus. We need to help our children and teenagers to be mindful of whether they have received the Holy Spirit or not. If not, then we need to be checking whether or not they have grasped the Gospel and turned to Jesus in repentance and faith in the first instance, and then subsequently help them to ask the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The great news is that the Father will never turn down such a request (Luke 11:11-13).

A humble listening heart

Merely hearing God’s Word is not enough; we need to listen to it, submit to it and obey it (James 1:22) this requires an humble attitude of heart ready to listen to whatever God says, no matter whether we like it or not or whether it is easy to follow or not (Hebrews 3:12-13). Parents/guardians (indeed, every believer they have contact with) need to model, encourage and teach this discipline of humbly sitting under God’s Word and taking time to listen to what the LORD says to us in it. Key to this is not just understanding the Bible, but accepting it as it is, the authoritative Word of God.

Being taught by the LORD

Put these all together and it means that when our children and teenagers spend time in the Bible with the Holy Spirit at work in them and a humble listening heart, they are indeed being taught by none other than the LORD God of heaven and earth.

The observant among us will no doubt have spotted that what I have just been describing is a daily/regular personal Bible time (devotional or quiet time). Spending time with the Word, Spirit and an open heart means receiving teaching from Jesus himself. This is true for us adults, and it is true for our children and teenagers, too.

All too often, we make the mistake of thinking that our children need something different from us. We have this idea that until they reach a particular age, they are unable to make use of the means of grace (God’s Word, prayer, gathering together, sharing the Gospel, etc) that the LORD has given us. Sure, the younger they are the more they will need assistance, help and guidance. This can come in many forms, from children’s Bibles to age-appropriate Bible notes. However, the principal of time with the LORD via an open Bible, the Spirit’s work and a humble heart is the same whether you are 45 years old or 10.

Alternatively, we think that our children or teenagers will not want to spend time in the Bible for themselves. If this is the case, then we may need to be honest with ourselves about what example and expectation we have set over the years concerning Bible time. Have we instilled in them a love for Jesus and a high regard for his Word, or have we neglected this amazing means of grace and relegated it to a once-a-week activity at church? The only way to address this is to repent of our failings and trust in Jesus’ power to work in stubborn hearts like ours and our children’s. We might also need to knuckle down and get on with the hard work of parenting: steering our children in ways that are right and good for them, even though they might initially baulk against them (Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 22:6).

Perhaps it is because of our propensity to overlook or disregard children and teenagers that Isaiah 54:13 explicitly uses the word ‘children’ (as opposed to ‘you’ or purely ‘descendants’/’generations’). We need to have our wrong assumptions and grown-up pride challenged and be reminded that our children and teenagers can have the same meaningful relationship with Jesus that we can… if only we would would bring them up in the pattern of receiving the training and instruction of the LORD that is available to them (Ephesians 6:4).

So how can we help our children to spend some quality time receiving personal tuition from the Lord Jesus? Here are some suggestions…

  • Model it in our own Bible times. Make sure we share with our family what we have been reading and how Jesus has encouraged/challenged us personally.
  • Set aside time to spend in the Bible as a family. This can be reading and chatting about Bible stories at bed times, family Bible time after meals, or a weekly/regular trip out for hot chocolate and reading the Bible one-to-one.
  • Provide helpful tools, like XTB, Discover or Explore.
  • Encourage our children/teenagers to be actively speaking to other Christians in our church about their Bible times, and vice versa. Perhaps ask/arrange for someone appropriate in your church that you know well to spend a few weeks meeting up one-to-one with your child/teenager every now and then.

Dedicated teaching for our children from the LORD himself… just brilliant!