Barna recently polled a group of more than a thousand teens, aged thirteen to seventeen, to see how they interact with the Bible. For the most part, the results were fairly encouraging. Sixty-six percent of practicing Protestant teens saying that they read the Bible on their own at least once a week, with forty-three percent saying that they spend an average of fifteen to twenty-nine minutes with God’s word when they open it.
However, the most interesting findings relate to the connection between parents who read their Bibles and teens who do the same. Roughly half of practicing Protestant teens reported seeing their parents reading Scripture on a regular basis, with another forty-two percent saying that they see their parents read the Bible at least occasionally. And while kids seeing their parents studying God’s word doesn’t guarantee that they will as well, fifty-five percent of teens who read Scripture once a week have parents who do the same, and only ten percent rarely or never see their parents open the Bible.
Clearly, there seems to be a connection between the level of interest in God’s word that kids see in their parents and what they are prone to emulate themselves. A time will come when a child’s relationship with the Lord has to be about more than simply following in his or her parents’ footsteps, but one of the most important things adults can do is to model what that relationship should look like.
In Deuteronomy 6, God instructs his people to make sure that every aspect of their lives is committed to him and then to model that devotion in everything they do. Whether it was sitting at home, walking around the town, or even in decorating their houses, God’s word was meant to have a constant place in their lives (Deuteronomy 6:7–9).
Before they could teach their children, however, they first had to be sure that their own walk with God was strong. It’s the same for us today. If we want to disciple the younger generation, whether they’re our kids or someone else’s, then we have to start with ourselves. The “do as I say and not as I do” approach is just as hypocritical as it sounds, and such hypocrisy is often one of the primary reasons that young people fall away from the church as they get older.
So ask yourself, would you want the children in your family—or simply the children in your church—to grow up to have the same kind of relationship with God that you do? There’s a very good chance that your answer will have an impact that extends far beyond yourself. Each of us has been called to help those that come after us walk faithfully with the Lord. Will you?