“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Bilbo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien.
I can’t help but think of this quote from one of my favorite books as our students prepare to start back at school this fall. For Frodo, stepping out his front door would set him on an adventure that would lead him through perilous lands and almost cost him his life as he sought to destroy the ring of power in the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor. I may have lost some of you with that last sentence, but please bear with me. I doubt that many of our students are going to face the same types of trials that Frodo did as they venture out their front doors, but the advice from his uncle Bilbo is still quite applicable.
As students prepare to step out their front doors to begin this next year of school (or even if they don’t have to leave their homes to go to school), they will be faced with a bevy of challenges that could sweep them off their feet if they aren’t firmly planted on the ground. For some of our students there are brand new challenges such as heading off to public school for the first time, or starting high school, or maybe taking some college classes to get a head start. For others, the challenges could be the same ones as last year, such as how to maintain a consistent walk with Christ in the midst of a culture opposed to anything Christian, or struggling to fight the temptation to fit in over the need to stand out, or just the challenge of getting through the rigors of another academic year.
So how do we prepare these students for these challenges? How do we make sure that they know how to “keep their feet” so they aren’t swept away? I want to share two ways we can do that as parents, as ministry leaders, as brothers and sisters in Christ who all face these challenges when we step out of the comforts of our homes.
The first thing we can do is pray. And I don’t say that flippantly like some tired Christian cliché that we toss around when someone tells us they are going through a tough time. Most of us have told someone at some point, “I’ll pray for you” and never give another thought, much less an actual prayer. No, what I am talking about here is real conversation with our Almighty God, asking Him to watch over these students as they maneuver their way through the pitfalls of junior high and high school. This means praying for students by name, with specific concerns in mind as we bring them before our God who “hears us in whatever we ask” (1 John 5:15).
This fall we are going to be pushing a new emphasis in our student ministry, one that is centered around increasing the prayers lives of our students, both individually and corporately. I want students to know that they are stepping into the battlefield of life, armed with the prayers of their parents, their peers and their church.
The second thing we can do, and this one requires a little more work, is to provide a firm foundation. All the prayers in world can be futile, if we aren’t providing our children with a firm place to stand when the ground around them starts to seem a little shaky. Are we preparing them for the trials they might face as they leave the protection of the nest? Have we taught them how to apply their faith and their beliefs to real world situations? What do we do when our children come home with questions about gender identity and equality? Do they know how to talk about sensitive issues such as racism and police brutality? How will they respond to temptations to take part in immoral behavior?
Where are the bricks coming from for this foundation and who is laying the bricks? The primary bricks are being laid at home. Whether parents realize it or not, they are the greatest influences in the lives of their children. The type of foundation they are going to have as they step out into the world is going to start with the bricks being laid by their parents. Parents, are you giving your children a biblical worldview, and more importantly are you teaching them to take ownership of their worldview? “Momma says” didn’t work out too well for Bobby Boucher in The Waterboy and it won’t work out too well for your kids. They need to be able to defend and assert what they believe because they know it to be true from their own understanding of scripture. We need to teach our children how to study the bible. We can do this by having bible studies with them, but also by them observing us studying our own bibles.
And don’t hide the world from them and vice versa. I’m not advocating immersing our children into secular culture, but if we aren’t talking to our children about what our world is like when they are in our homes, how are they expected to respond to it when they leave and are face to face with it? We should be teaching our children how to examine our culture through the lens of scripture so they can discern for themselves what is truth and of value.
There is also the responsibility of the church to provide spiritual nourishment and the tools necessary to navigate the shifting sands of today’s world. I must be diligent to teach those who come through our student ministries the truth of God’s word and how to apply it in their lives. I want to put as many resources as I can in the hands of students and parents that will help in growing closer to the Lord and in discernment with dealing with this fallen world. Of course that only works if students are coming to church. Which again falls back on what ideas are our children learning about church from home. Do our children value going to church because they see us, as parents, value going to church? Are we teaching our children that there is a great need in receiving biblical instruction and being encouraged through Christian fellowship that is provided through the local church?
We should do everything we can to see that our children begin this school year with a passion for biblical truth and a desire to please God. This is no easy task in a world that has seemingly turned its back on Him. We should do what we can to make sure our own children do not follow suit, but that they trust in the Lord and keep their eyes, and their feet, planted on Him.
Soli deo gloria,