What is the purpose of childhood? It’s a question that I ask myself as a youth pastor. I hope it’s one that parents are asking as they raise their kids. Strangely enough, this post was inspired by a book called: “Single, Dating, Engaged, Married,” by Ben Stuart. I’m not finished yet, but so far it is definitely a book I would recommend. He quotes 1 Corinthians 7:35 (NASB) as he seeks to define the purpose of singleness: “to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”
Stuart identifies a two-fold purpose: (1) to promote what is appropriate and (2) to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord. The purpose of singleness is not to find a spouse or even to prepare to be married. It is to develop godly habits and draw near to God. As I reflected how I can do this in my singleness, I began to realize, this is the purpose of childhood as well. When our students leave our youth group, I want them to have good habits and live near to God.
There is a difference between singleness and childhood. One who is single has the adult responsibility of doing these things themselves, while a child has a parent who is responsible for helping them in this endeavor. Parents, pastors, youth pastors, etc… have a responsibility to help kids develop good habits and to develop an undistracted devotion to God. Good habits are hard to teach. I could devote an entire blog to teaching good habits. We can summarize this challenge for parents: “What are you doing to teach your kids “what is appropriate?”
How are you teaching them to be a good neighbor, student, teammate, citizen, driver, boss, employee, partner, friend, etc…? What habits are you helping your kids develop? Good habits are almost exclusively intentionally developed while bad habits just happen. For example, good technology practices (computers, phones, social media, etc…) require thought and intentionality. You have to decide every day that you and your family are going to practice good habits with tech. If you are not intentional, bad habits will come quickly and with no effort or thought on your part. It’s that way with all habits. Good ones require effort, bad ones just require a little laziness.
What are you doing as a parent to teach your kids to live “undistracted devotion to God?” What powerful words, “undistracted devotion.” Again, this is not something that can happen by accident. Either you’re actively teaching and modeling this or your kids are accidentally learning something else. Life will get so busy, so distracting if you let it, that God becomes going to church once a week. That’s not a relationship, that’s barely visitation.
God has a plan for your kid. He does. And it is so much greater than anything you can imagine or plan or teach. Help them follow God. Help them use their singleness, date right, and marry well by laying the foundation when they are kids. Help them learn undistracted devotion. This will require you to read God’s word (the Bible) and to teach your kids to read it. It will require you to live actively in a faith community (church) and to teach your kids how to be engaged in Christian community. And it will require prioritizing faith over other aspects of life.