A Parenting Priority

princeton 001“Parents’ first responsibility is to inculcate in their children a sense of absolute duty (not to say love) to Christ and His Church. However much children are sent to Church, and however much pleasure and help they get out of it, the whole may be lost if, on reaching teenage years, they are allowed to put lesser duties, even pleasures, before Christ and the Church.

What recreations and amusements children are permitted to enjoy is a very difficult matter for parents to decide, and needs guidance from God. It is a matter, not only of where we allow children to go, but when. The real test of whether our pleasures are right or wrong is when they happen to clash with Church. What then do we do? I have little fear for any, young or old, whatever pleasures they allow themselves, who, when a clash occurs, put Christ and His church first. But it is a deeper question than pleasure. It is not merely Christ versus enjoyment, but Christ versus self. When we have some special call upon our time which concerns our personal advantage, what is it that suffers? Is it our work, or our leisure evenings, or our attendance at God’s house?…

There are two methods of seeking to win young folk to Christ. There is the long way round, which proceeds very cannily with much patience and in earnest hope, holding on to young people through some form of human interest. There is the short way in, which puts the issue clearly to young folk, pointing out that if they are going to be Christians, they cannot forever shelve the challenge and responsibility. They are shown that the Christian way of life is not easy, and as Christians they have often to side with a despised minority, and sometimes stand alone for Christ’s sake. Experience shows that the result of either method is the same in the end. One gains no more for Christ the long way round than the short way in. The test of children’s work (ie, church programs) is whether young people who have professed Christ in childhood definitely choose Him and stand by Him in the later days of youth…

The question has been sincerely asked by several who are concerned about the young folk in our Church, ‘What are you going to provide for the young people who do not, or who will not, come to the Sunday services, the mid-week service, and the Prayer meeting?’ The answer is, ‘Nothing!’ If by adolescence young people have not learned to enjoy the services of the Church, then we have failed, or they have failed. To say that we must provide alternatives for those who have no taste or inclination for what Christ and His Church provides, is an impertinence which insults our Lord Jesus Christ…

There have been times when it seemed that parents actively or passively encouraged their children to put other things before the Church. It would be a terrible thing if someday it could be said that parents had led their children astray. Yet some parents are so anxious that their children should live life to the full, that they tend to encourage or allow too many amusements. I would plead with parents to encourage their young folk to make the Church the heart an centre of their life. Yet it is doubtful whether they can coax them to do what they themselves fail to do. The maxim, ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say’ has never carried weight with the young. If they do not follow their parents, whom are they to follow?”

Letters of William Still, 26-27, 32-34.