"a real danger: that in our eagerness to have our children like the faith, we change the faith itself into something that they’ll like"

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Paul J's picture

Interesting post, I do think children need to understand Faith but what dos that message look like vs an adult?

Something along this line, recently was I holding my grandson's Bible after church and happened to look in the back.  In his young handwriting was a list of things he wasn't going to do and his signature.   It was the typical list of Christian behaviors that I grew-up with.  He had just spent a week been under the teaching of an older children's evangelist and I must say the method grieved me.  I want my grandson to Love GOD and to Love Others I want his actions to grow out of his passion for GOD and Others not to just behave.  My prayer is that he will behave in a way that reflects his heart not that he will behave to look good.

dmyers's picture

The author says, "It is my hope that my own children and those to whom I minister would be better Christians than I am, by God’s grace" (his emphasis).  I don't know Michael Riley and I'm not familiar with his writings.  If I were more familiar, perhaps I would understand his statement differently than simply taking it at face value.  Taking it at face value, however, I wonder if trying to teach children to be "better" Christians than we are is just as bad as being too eager to have them like the faith.

As a father of four, I don't want my children to be better Christians than I am.  I don't even know what that means.  Does that mean they are more obedient than I am or have been?  How would I even know that, except on a purely external level?  How would they know?  Only God knows that.  What I DO want for them is to be even more convinced of, aware of, and moved by God's unconditional love and grace at every stage of their lives than I have been.  Seems to me Michael Riley's wish requires his children to work more/harder and to be more uptight and rule/sin conscious.  I want my kids to be more relaxed in God's love than I have been and to live in response to that.  That may mean that some of their externals are different from me (and from Michael Riley), but I think it will also mean that in areas that really mean something to those around them, they'll actually be more Christ-like and come closer to the two greatest commandments.

josh p's picture


I took his statement to mean that they would be more God honoring. I am only somewhat familiar with the author but I believe he has their relationship with God in view not necessarily things he can readily discern. If you are interested in learning more about his view of children's ministry you can listen to a sermon in which he covers it somewhat here: 


He also has a blog: mpriley.com

Michael Riley's picture

I sincerely thank you for reading my post charitably, Josh. Your summary is sound.

My article really never mentioned anything about external conformity to standards. On the contrary, it was almost entirely about heart motivation: is this child really trusting Jesus (rather than merely praying a prayer)? Are we teaching this child to love Christ because Christ is valuable, or because Christ entertains (to state the matter baldly)? Is Christ an end, or merely a means to some other end? The way that we go about doing ministry suggests our answers to these questions, and our children will absorb these lessons (intentional or not).