The Earlier the Better

Timing is critical. Researcher George Barna confirmed what we have known—that it becomes progressively more difficult to influence children spiritually as they grow older.

Here are his disturbing findings:

The data show that if a person does not accept Jesus Christ as Savior before the age of fourteen, the likelihood of ever doing soisslim.

Based on a nationwide representative sampling of more than 4,200 young people and adults, the survey data show that people from ages five through thirteen have a 32 percent probability ofaccepting Christ as their Savior. Young people from the ages offourteen through eighteen have just a 4 percent likelihood of doing so, while adults (ages nineteen through death) have only a6percent probability of making that choice. The years prior to age twelve are when a majority of children make their decision asto whether or not they will follow Christ. (Note: These statistics reflect polling done with all parents, regardless of their faith. The results would undoubtedly be different with a sample of committed Christian parents.)

"The earlier the better" when it comes to introducing our children to the Lord. Furthermore, everything we do during those foundational child-rearing years should be bathed in prayer. There is not enough knowledge in the books—not in this one or any other—to secure the outcome of our parenting responsibility without divine help. It is arrogant to think that we can shepherd our kids safely through the minefields of an increasingly sinful society. That awesome realization hit me when our daughter, Danae, was only three years old. I recognized that having a Ph.D. in child development was not going to be enough to meet the challenges of parenthood. That is why Shirley and I began fasting and praying for Danae, and later for Ryan, almost every week from the time they were young. At least one of us bore that responsibility throughout their childhoods. In fact, Shirley continues that practice to this day. Our petition was the same through the early years: "Lord, give us the wisdom to raise the precious children whom you have loaned to us, and above all else, help us bring them to the feet of Jesus. This is more important to us than our health or our work or our finances. What we ask most fervently is that the circle be unbroken when we meet in heaven."

Again, prayer is the key to everything. I'm reminded of a story told by a rookie playing for the Chicago Bulls in the National Basketball Association. One night, the incomparable Michael Jordan scored sixty-six points, and the rookie was sent in for the last couple of minutes of the game. When the young man was interviewed by a reporter afterwards, he said, "Yeah, it was a great night. Michael Jordan and I scored sixty-eight points." That's the way I feel about parenting and prayer. We do all we can to score a few points, but the greater contribution is made by the creator of children.

Book: Bringing Up Boys

By Dr. James Dobson

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