by Jim Whiteman, Headmaster, Westside Christian Academy
Shepherding A Child’s Heart, Part 1
It seems our “To Do” lists often run our lives. Why is it that we often evaluate the success of our day on what we were able to accomplish that was on the list? This thinking permeates our culture and our children soon catch on. “What do you want to do when you grow up?” we ask them. “What will you do tomorrow? While our children are young, their “to do” list typically includes lessons, sports, school work, recreation, Sunday school and household chores. These are all fine things that can indeed foster responsibility, teamwork and talent. Yet too often we learn to dwell on performance and perhaps forget the “why” of such activities. The Bible is not performance oriented like we often are. It leads us toward character-building, not career-building, on becoming more like Christ, not like our media role models. The biblical “to-do’s” come from God’s directives– our heavenly Father leading his children in a life of faith, obedience and joy.
So think for a minute about your own children. What you want for them spiritually – what are they to be in the inner being – the heart? What is your desire for each child when he/she is 18 yrs. old? How about age 25? What do you think God wants for them? Dwell on that for a minute. How is that going to happen? Through your “to do” list? What is on that list?
Moses writes the words of God in Deuteronomy 6:5-7: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding 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.
When asked which commandments were the most important, Jesus himself replied in a similar manner: The most important is this, ‘Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
Isn’t that what we want for our kids – to fully love God and love others unconditionally? How is this going to happen? Moses had the answer. Parents are to “teach them diligently” all day long!
A few years ago, Christian researcher George Barna looked carefully at how children develop spiritually. In his book Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, he states: The one thing I correctly understood is that human development is a complex mixture of growth in five core areas: the moral, spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual dimensions of life. What I did not recognize is that the basis of each of these areas is one’s spiritual life.
Thus, the most important aspect of our children’s growth and development is their spiritual life. But it must be based on God’s plan. The Enemy has his own spiritual plan for our children. However, Barna says: our national research suggests that shockingly few Christian adults make their moral, physical, emotional and intellectual choices on the basis of sound reasoning from Scripture. The result is they miss God’s richest blessings…Yikes!
This becomes a God-appointed challenge for us each as parents and teachers – to put ourselves in a personal position of growth to better understand the Scriptures ourselves and grow in depth of understanding to live out a biblical worldview. As we grow, we can then be about the business of teaching our children diligently that they would come to love God, love others and be on the path toward Christlikeness.
In promoting a healthy, biblical perspective in our young children’s spiritual development, our school considers four simple overlapping categories which I believe work quite well in our homes. I call thisthe 4-H Hub:
- Head – the development of our minds, intellect, and understanding of truth; the development of knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Scripture says our minds are to be transformed; we are to develop the mind of Christ. At the core of Christianity there is an intellectual platform that provides a foundation for how we perceive the world and thus live our lives.
- Hands – our actions, what we DO, the habits we form and how we spend our time. Scripture tells us to be doers of the Word, and not hears only. We were created to work and to do good works, and that everything we do is to be done for God’s glory – not our self-gratification, not for performance, not to just get to the weekend. Our children in today’s culture are growing up with a deep sense of entitlement and this must be stopped.
- Heart – the core of our being, the center of our loyalty. From the heart can come love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, and an authentic relationship with the Lord. Our heart can also host total self-centeredness, competition, hatred, lust, pride and produce vile language and actions that are contrary to Jesus’ two greatest commandments.
- Habitat – household and cultural communities. Spiritual development happens in relationship. It was created that way. Our intertwined relationships are key and we must understand where in that web our children are growing.
In the next few editions of Excelsior I will discuss each of these four categories, that our “to do” list might focus on what we are “to be.” Care to pray through and think through it with me? Add it to your to-do list.
Jim Whiteman earned his B.S. from Bowling Green State University; Masters Education from Kent State University. He came to WCA as headmaster in 2011 with 18 years of experience as elementary/middle school principal in two area private schools and ten additional years of teaching. Mr. Whiteman also has experience as the chief development officer of a Christian rescue mission. He is very involved in a local ministry for international college students and orphanages in Kenya and India. Life verses include 2 Peter 1:3-9.
This article was originally published in our Excelsior! monthly newsletter.