The unseen threats in your child’s Sunday school could have eternal consequences.
Sadly, in our fallen world, we see reports of child abductions and online predators every day in the news. Your child’s safety is, understandably, always on your mind. How nice, then, that you don’t have to worry as you send your kids off to children’s church or youth group. But as much as we would like to believe that our children are completely safe at church, that’s not always the case.
In most churches, volunteers and leaders must undergo background checks and training before ministering in children’s departments. Secure check-in areas help keep possible predators away and ensure that children are released to the correct person. Layers and layers of protection are meant to secure your child’s physical safety. But a predator-proof ministry doesn’t mean that your child is fully protected. Other dangers are lurking in the church in the form of false and weak doctrine. These unseen threats could have an even more devastating, eternal consequence.
You might be thinking, “Of course my church is safe.” You’ve read your church’s mission statement. You’ve heard the pastor’s stance on Jesus and salvation. You also have full confidence that your church’s teaching isn’t contradicting the Bible. Your child is learning about Moses, Noah, and Jesus. No false doctrine here!
But pause for a moment and think about how well you know what is being taught to your child on Sunday and Wednesday. It might not be what you think.
Just as Paul warned the elders in Ephesus (Acts 20), fierce wolves are lurking. We must be on our guard for false teachers and doctrine that distort the Word of God, even in the hearts of our children. You don’t have to search too far to find churches that are not biblically grounded. Secularism has crept in, beginning with the very first words of the Bible.
Instead of striving to lay a strong foundation built on the authority of the Bible, many children’s ministries undermine the authority of God’s Word or fail to teach the full extent of its truth—usually unknowingly. Teachers don’t show children the big picture of the Bible in order and in context. Leaders often purchase and teach from curricula that present lessons more as stories with a moralistic point than as true events. For example, instead of teaching the creation account as true history, sometimes ministry leaders teach children to doubt the Word of God by teaching that God didn’t create the world within a literal six days, but that the world came about through evolution and millions of years.
Ministry leaders can also contribute to a child’s weak foundation of faith by minimizing God’s role in biblical accounts. For instance, the curriculum’s lesson might focus on Noah’s obedience instead of focusing on God’s judgment and mercy and the coming judgment for unbelievers.
A lifelong, authentic relationship with Christ begins with developing a strong foundation built on the Word and learning who God is as he reveals his character through the Bible.
Children are encouraged to be long-suffering like Job or to be brave like David. Though the accounts of these heroes of the faith can help children build strong character, the overall narrative of the Bible—the overarching message of God’s redemptive love for his creation—is left out. A lifelong, authentic relationship with Christ begins with developing a strong foundation built on the Word and learning who God is as he reveals his character throughout Scripture.
Many children’s and youth ministries have already launched their move away from the authority of the Bible to appear “woke” and make everyone feel welcome. Truth is relative when we try to accommodate whatever is culturally acceptable at the moment. Hot topics, such as homosexuality and transgenderism, are dealt with in many churches based on what the world says rather than what God’s Word says. Sadly, not all churches teach that God made marriage to be between one man and one woman for life, or that children are made in the image of God. In seemingly small ways, these compromises tell children that God’s Word isn’t always right and true.
Compromising on the Word of God, especially at those critical and formative years, can be devastating to a child’s faith and what he or she believes as an adult. When the church teaches that God’s Word isn’t true about everything that’s written as history (such as teaching that creation didn’t happen like God said or that Noah’s flood didn’t cover the whole earth as the Bible records), it creates room for doubt to enter in. Children begin to wonder, “If the Bible is wrong about this issue, what else is it wrong about?”
If they aren’t being taught that the Bible is the authority in every area of life, young people very often end up not just with a weak faith, but no faith at all. In his book Already Gone, Ken Ham documents a national study that revealed that 62% of the young people surveyed did not believe all biblical accounts to be true. That same study revealed that 61% of those who attended church as teens walked away during their twenties.
Though faulty doctrine abounds, it has not infiltrated every church. If your church takes a firm stand on the authority of Scripture, be sure to thank the Lord and invite others to attend. But if you haven’t considered your church’s commitment to teaching Scripture accurately, perhaps it’s time to pay attention. Be constantly vigilant for yourself and your children—their eternity is worth fighting for.
How can you help ensure that your child is safe from false or weak doctrine in the church?
Check what your child is being taught at church. Read the take-home papers and open those update emails from the children’s minister. Ask your child what they learned at church. Become involved in your church’s children’s ministry.
Scripture commands Christians to be watchful, to be on guard because the devil is prowling—even in the church (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t blindly trust that your child is being taught all they need to know. God has called and commanded you to teach your child about God and to pass on your faith. Don’t leave your child’s foundation of faith up to someone else.
Intentionally teach your child about Christ at home through praying and reading the Bible together. Make sure you are teaching your child how to stand on the authority of God’s Word and how to live in relationship with him. When you see false teaching, point it out to your child. Show them from the Bible why it’s wrong and what God’s Word really says. Teach your child to stand firm and to be watchful.
You might have to make some tough choices. If you see evidence of comprise and false doctrine, respectfully approach your church leadership to discuss it. But if the issue cannot be resolved, you should prayerfully consider finding a new church. As much as you love the children’s director or youth minister, if they aren’t teaching from the authority of the Bible, they are harming your child’s faith.