Children grow up developing various interests and appetites in life. Not all appetites are good appetites. Every Christian parent is concerned that his children will develop spiritual appetites as they grow older. Sad it is when as parents we become aware of a lack of spiritual appetite in our youth. Many times by this point it is too late to begin to inspire this interest. How can we develop a wholesome spiritual appetite in our children as they grow up?
First of all, let’s consider what a spiritual appetite looks like and what it does for us. Spiritual appetite prompts children to read their own Bible as they get older. They find meaning and blessing from the Word. Children with a good spiritual appetite participate in Sunday School. They fill out their blanks, and they learn the memory verse. They venture answers in class even if they are unsure if they are correct.
Spiritual appetite moves youth to seek Bible answers for the tough questions of life. Why no insurance? What does nonresistance involve? Euthanasia? The Lord’s return? Separation-why and how? Youth with a spiritual appetite look forward to Bible School and take in more than one term if at all possible. They participate in discussions and do their homework. They have more than just a social interest in attending Bible School. These same youth make good teachers and Christian workers. They enjoy sharing Truth with others. They are not ashamed of being part of a church with sound applications to Bible principles. They form Biblical convictions for themselves and stand true to them under pressure.
These ideals for youth may seem too high at first glance. Influences around us would tempt us to think that this is too idealistic and something much less than this is fine for youth. after all, they say, young people are only young once and they must have some space to enjoy life.
Let us think soberly about this subject. Many a young person who developed a wrong appetite has left the church and has been swallowed up by the world and its pleasures. Can we afford to allow a weak spiritual vision for our children to develop and make it easy for them to slip away into the world? We must put our best effort into helping our children develop a spiritual appetite that will carry them through this life onward to the shores of Glory!
Spiritual vision and appetite must first be present in our lives as parents. It is nearly impossible to inspire our children to embrace something we don’t hold dear. Our desire for God and His Word must be strong. We must be an example of personally loving God and reading the Bible. Consistent family worship will convey how much we love the Truth. Our zeal for church services will also speak volumes. Children should see their parents enjoying the Christian life.
The development of spiritual appetite must start very young. Reading Bible stories to small children sparks interest in God and His Word. Small children can learn some simple memory verses. Sunday School and Bible School classes are part of this early learning experience that builds spiritual knowledge and interest.
Children should listen to their parents’ spiritual conversations. Eating a meal around the table or riding together to church are good opportunities for spiritual discussions. These kinds of conversations should be somewhat normal for children to hear. It should not just be the preachers who talk about God and His Truth. Sad is the home where Dad can talk a tin ear on all his friends about hunting, cars, work, etc., but falls asleep while others discuss spiritual things!
The church and school atmosphere must be conducive to developing spiritual appetite as well. The love of learning and good study habits will help children learn spiritually as well. Good reading comprehension skills will help with understanding Truth. Children should learn to use Bible study helps and concordances. Schools where God is honored and respect for authority is maintained will keep spiritual interest alive in children. We must keep our children from developing the “hang out behind the church” mentality. They should be enjoying Sunday School and church services. They should be able to visit with others after church close by the adults.
Our churches should give opportunity for our youth to share in teaching and devotions. Our leaders should be an inspiring example of the freshness and joy of studying and understanding God’s Word. Church services should be alive with zeal and interest in Truth. Christian service opportunities will help inspire more spiritual interest and deepen our youths’ vision for the lost. Choruses and street meetings should be a regular part of our youth activities.
We also will need to guard our children’s reading materials if we want them to have good spiritual appetites. The romance novels, Western books, etc. will not lead a heart toward God! The characters in our books should represent the values we want to instill in our children. We must be aware of other appetite killers as well. Sports, fancy clothes, electronics, powerful engines, four-wheelers, etc. will steal the interest and affection of our children. Youth activities should involve more than just play. Getting together for a Bible study in one of the homes or to sing should be normal. After church when youth gather at a home for a snack, there should be some spiritual discussions. Youth also should learn that working and earning money is not the ultimate achievement in life.
Church attendance and participation will build spiritual interest. When our church has services we should not be asking, “are we going?” We should always plan to be there unless there is sickness or other reasons to stay home. Homes that honor the church standards at all times will also build spiritual interest in their children. When as parents we make church standards “our” standards, we give our children a great example to follow.
Another way to build spiritual appetite is to have our travel and vacations involve God’s people and their church services. When children see us loving to worship with God’s people in other parts of the country it helps them appreciate the church. This will broaden our friendships and bring many blessings to us. Let’s be careful that “vacation” is not an excuse for letting down the bar of spiritual life and indulging in worldly pleasures that war against the soul.
Finally, it must be our desire that each of our children find Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. They must experience first-hand the cleansing of His blood and the peace that follows. There is no substitute for this! All of our teaching and influence must be channeled toward this one and ultimate goal.
God help us to be faithful parents who are instilling a love for God in each of our children. May the lives of our children be a blessing to the church of today and tomorrow as long as the Lord tarries His coming.