Recently I asked a Christian lady who attends our prison fellowship ministry how her grandson was doing. She sadly shook her head and told me he had become incredibly rebellious in recent years; cursing constantly, disrespecting authority, and refusing to come to Church.
This was surprising to me because a few years ago he had a very tender heart towards the things of the Lord. He came regularly to Bible club, would visit me asking for Bible stories, and spend lots of time around the house loving on my cat that he affectionately called “whiskers.”
Sadly this shouldn’t have been all that surprising because its a pretty common occurrence. Since arriving here in 2016 I’ve seen many children who in their younger years are incredibly hungry for the Gospel, but as teenagers become hardened almost overnight.
The temptation is to become frustrated with their lack of interest in the Gospel, or make a greater emphasis to reach teens or young adults. However, there is also a challenge to reach children effectively when their hearts are tender.
We can reach children in their tender years by:
- Explaining the Gospel in clear terms that they can understand
- Hiding the word of God in their hearts through Bible memorization
- Encouraging them to attend Church services
- Modeling Godly Christian character in front of them (especially important for boys to see Godly men)
- Creating an environment of structure (there are rules enforced, and they clearly understand right from wrong)
- Equip them with skills that can help them in the future (reading, working with their hands)
- And helping them deal with sinful patterns in life through Salvation, and discoipleship
During the grandsons tender-hearted years, it became clear he had a serious anger problem. It didn’t always come out, but was seriously violent when he did lose his temper. The kids told me his father had anger issues as well, so maybe it started there.
I began trying to help him with his anger but to be honest could have worked harder. It didn’t occur to me the little boy who loved to pet the grey cat on my steps would openly curse his grandmother and parents a few years later.
His testimony and others are a sobering reminder the early years when a child is tender for the Lord are an incredibly precious treasure that shouldn’t be wasted.