Preparing the Way for the Next Generation

How do we equip the next generation? (Pixnio/Public Domain)

This week I've been meditating on Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Like me, I'm sure you've read this verse dozens of times. It's one of the key verses we use to encourage parents and church leaders to lead children spiritually.

As I've been meditating on this verse, these words have been jumping out at me.

"in the way he should go."  

I have been reminded that we are called to prepare the way for the next generation and point them to it.

But what is the way? What does the way look like? What does the way sound like? What does the way believe? What does the way require of us?  hat is the way comprised of?

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Let's think together for a few minutes about this.

What first comes to my thoughts is this. First and foremost, we are to prepare the way for the next generation by pointing them to the Person who is the way.

We must point kids to Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life. If kids are going to develop a faith that goes the distance, they must fall in love with Jesus. We must help them see that it's not about the rules ... it's not about religion ... it's not about rites. It's about a relationship with Jesus.

Kids must understand that people will fail them. There will be hypocrites that confuse them. There will be people who lie to them. There will be people who aren't a good example.

But Jesus will never fail them. He is the Way. He is the truth. He is the life. They must find their joy and assurance in Him and Him alone.

Bottom line: If we are going to prepare kids for the way they should go, then we must point them to Jesus.

Second, as we think about preparing the way for the next generation, I believe we must prepare the way by pointing them to the Word. Look what it says in Psalm 119:9: "How shall a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word." 

We prepare the way for the next generation by helping them know the Word. We prepare the next generation by empowering them to defend the Word. We prepare the next generation by helping them memorize the Word. We prepare the next generation by empowering them to discern false teachings, misguided worldviews and patterns of thought that don't line up with the Word. We prepare the next generation by helping them know how to rightly divide the Word. We prepare the next generation by showing them how to apply the Word to their lives. We prepare the next generation by showing them how to measure lifestyles, choices and behavior not by what the world says, but by what the Word says.

The third way we prepare the way for the next generation is by showing them how to make wise decisions. Here's what Proverbs 4:11 says: "I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths."

Knowledge alone will not help the next generation find the way. It will take wisdom as well. You see, wisdom is taking the knowledge you have been given and using it to make right decisions.

As we prepare the way for the next generation, we must understand that kids are facing issues, pressures, problems and temptations that we never faced as kids. And this will only increase as they grow older, and our culture continues to drift. We can't fully prepare kids to face things we have never even faced ourselves. But what we can do to prepare the way is to give them the tools they need to make wise decisions, no matter what they face or what situation they are in.

Another way we can prepare the way for the next generation is by showing them how to watch out for pitfalls.

Here's what Proverbs 4:26 says...

"Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established."

There is a real enemy who doesn't want the next generation to walk in God's ways.  He is waging an all-out war on them. He is laying traps, snares and pitfalls in their way. Pitfalls like postmodernism, political correctness at any cost, relativism, plurality, evolution and sacrificing truth in the name of tolerance.

We must prepare kids to be on watch for these pitfalls and know how to navigate through them.

It's time the church focuses its time, attention and resources on preparing the way for the next generation.  It's time parents prepare their children to walk in the way they should go. No one else is going to do it. And in fact, no one else is called to do it. It's up to the church and home to get serious about our responsibility to prepare the way for those who are walking behind us.

The older I get, the more I must realize that it's not about what I want. It's about preparing the way for the next generation. If that means not hearing my style of music in the church so the next generation can connect in worship, then so be it. If that means continuing to serve even in my older years rather than sitting back and expecting to be served, so be it. If that means changing things in the church that I like so the next generation can find the way, so be it. If it means making ministry for the next generation the top priority at the church, so be it.

There is a poem I once heard that speaks so powerfully to preparing the way for the next generation. As you read, it I pray God will speak to you and encourage you to give yourself like never before to preparing the way for the next generation.

The Bridge Builder

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
 
"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You've crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?"
 
The builder lifted his old gray head;
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followed after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!"

—Will Allen Dromgoole

Dale Hudson has been in children's ministry for over 27 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in south Florida. Christ Fellowship has nine campuses and ministers to over 25,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a children's ministry staff team of over 70 and a volunteer team of over 2,600. He has authored 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Children's Ministry100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Preschool MinistryChildren's Ministry in the 21st CenturySunday School That Worksthe churchleaders.com Top 100 book, and If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry.

This article originally appeared at relevantchildrensministry.com.

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