“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7
In Deuteronomy God reveals through Moses what the Greatest commandment of all is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” And what is the first thing God tells his people to do to obey this commandment? Teach this to your children. God’s first commandment to his people after placing loving God at the core of their being is not plant churches, cast out demons, heal the sick, or set the captives free, but to teach your children. And that to teach is not just directed to your biological children, but all children. And not just to people with children, but all people.
Today, especially in the USA and Western cultures I believe we do not do a good job of teaching and mentoring our children. Especially by providing them access to those who are “seniors” in our churches and communities. Seniors have attended and graduated life’s “School of Hard Knocks.” They “paid” the full tuition required to graduate this school. They paid the tuition of pain, mistakes, heart break, bad decisions, disappointment, financial loss, struggle, anxiety. They have a wealth of knowledge gained from life’s school of hard knocks they can mentor and share with children and youth so that they do not have to pay the full tuition. Their life’s wisdom and knowledge they can pass on are amazing “Grants” or Scholarships” that if shared with youth can enable them to avoid and not pay all of the required tuition I listed above.
However, in the USA and western culture and western church structure there are very few intentional opportunities for youth to “hang-out” and be mentored by seniors and adults in general. Most children and youth’s opportunities throughout the year to interact with seniors is the half a dozen or so times they see their grandparents at holidays, birthdays, funerals, and special occasions. In our churches efforts to excel growth and numbers of those attending they have launched contemporary services and most churches now have a contemporary service and a traditional service. So the minute people enter the church youth are separated from seniors as youth go to contemporary service, seniors to the traditional service. Youth go to youth groups, seniors go to Bible studies, and the only time the two meet again is in the parking lot headed to cars. I think most churches never look at the theology behind separating youth and seniors in their gathering structures.
The reality is that today's youth have very few real, intentional opportunities to to contact and connect with adults and seniors in their day to day, year to year American structure of life. The reality is that we in the USA and western church are not doing well at “ Teach this to your children.” The reality is that we all need to be more intentional, and intentional being the key word, at making opportunities to not just teach in a classroom setting, but to do life with and mentor our children and youth. And remember God commanded all of us, not just those ”gifted with children” to teach our children.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon at ODC’s Kids of the Kingdom ministry which meets in the pool are of an apartment complex and intentionally reaches children who would otherwise not attend a church or be taught or mentored in “loving God with their whole heart.”