Making the Decisions

Dear Pastor,

My wife thinks we should avoid forcing our standards on our children. So instead of forcing them to go to church with us, we are going to allow them to choose which church they want to attend. Is letting our children choose their own way in this way a good idea? Thanks, Soft Hearted

Dear Soft,

This is a very popular way to think in our age of relativism. I have a few thoughts regarding this matter that I think should be factored into your decision. First, when you mention “forcing our standards”, do you mean “making decisions for them”? If that is the case, we force our standards on our children all the time. Life cannot be any other way. The younger our children are, the fewer decisions they get to make for themselves. We don’t let toddlers decide not to wear their diaper, for example. Or, you don’t allow your children to be rude to you, do you? Do you allow your children to go to bed whenever they want to, or get up when they want? If you don’t, why would you assume you should let your children make up their minds about spiritual things? Whenever you make a decision for your child, you are “forcing your standards on them”. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s part of what it means to be a parent.

To take a slightly different tack, let’s assume you have children who are in their early teens. This age child is often not capable of making even minor decisions well. Let’s say, for example, that you were to allow your young daughter to choose what school she was going to attend next year. What would her criteria be? Would she factor in the abilities of the teachers or the environment of the student body (related to good study)? Or would she go where there were hunky boys or cool girls? Children usually can’t make good decisions because they don’t have the background and training to think wisely. To go a step further, they shouldn’t be allowed to make life long decisions when they are not capable of making them. Children should be taught to make wise decisions by letting them practice on short-range problems. Then, when (or if) they goof up, you can teach them how to make a better decision the next time.

Finally, the Bible tells us that we are to bring up our children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord”. This means that we are to bring them up in the world that God created, relating everything in the world to God and his purposes for us. From the time they are little, we are shaping the way our children think, whether we like it or not. If we avoid church, they will avoid church. If we act as though our hobbies are more important than spiritual concerns, they will think the same way. On the other hand, if we live in such a way that our children are assured that God is as important to us as we tell them he is, they too will grow up with that conviction and live godly and joyful lives. The Bible assumes this fact and tells us that we are to teach our children with purpose and conviction about God’s wonderful world and how we are to relate to him. We are not allowed to let our children make decisions about spiritual matters; we are to tell them and teach them and discipline them to understand that we are living in God’s world.

With this in mind, as we focus our attention to your original question, we realize that while it is a popular question in our day, it is really wrong headed. We impose our standards on our children all the time, children not capable of making those kinds of decisions, and we are not allowed to let them have free rein. We are obligated to raise our children in the realm of Christ’s rule. This means, with relation to church attendance, they will come with us.

I hope this helps. Pastor

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