To what extent do Christian parents control the friendships of their children?
The Christian family exists and was created for the honor and glory of God. While present day practices may influence our families, it is vital that we take a close look at what God says in His Word. This article highlights scriptural principles for parents as they guide their children into avenues of good friendships.
Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Parents do not need to be told that each of our children is different and distinct. Psalm 139 shows that each of our children is the handiwork of Almighty God. Children are given to us by God and have God-given characteristics built in from birth. God desires us as parents to observe our children individually and discover their strengths and weaknesses. Strengths need to be encouraged while weaknesses have to be corrected.
As our children grow up and mature, it will be vital for them to establish a circle of friends. By experience and observation we conclude that friends have the potential to influence our children in ways that will either draw them away from us and from the Lord, or bring them closer to the Lord.
The Christian home should be the place where God and His Word are given preeminence. In Deuteronomy 6 there are a number of requirements that God gives to parents as children are taught the Word of God. A New Testament example would be Timothy: "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 3:15).
Whether our children are unsaved or saved we need to encourage them to make positive friendships. When children accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior (and it is totally the grace of God that any of our children are saved), there ought to be that desire to have companions that own Christ as Savior and Lord. John 17:11 and John 15:19 establish a guiding principle that we are in the world but not of the world. It is in this that the example of parents seen in the home will pay great dividends in years to come. Does our choice of friends have Christ as the bond? At the same time, are we involved in ways of outreach to the lost? As a family, our children should be included in both spheres.
As parents we need to ask ourselves with whom we would desire our children to associate. It is then that a plan of action can be set in motion. If we wish our children and teens to associate with others who are saved, then we must provide opportunity for this to happen. While attendance at the assembly meetings may seem to some as secondary, it is a place where our children can regularly find and make friends. Parents, are we at the assembly gatherings and do we set an example to our children in this sphere?
Along with the attendance at the assembly gatherings, our homes ought to be always open. Experience has taught us that young people often just want a place to go. Parents, do the young people in the assembly know that your home is open at all times for them to come? Do they feel welcome?
A great way for children to make friends is by our being involved. Have we as parents taken time with our families on outings with other families? Events such as Seed Sowers distributions, other gospel efforts, childrens meetings, and personal visitation would be excellent ways to have them involved in something very worthwhile.
There will be circumstances that sometimes are very difficult. Some who read this article will be the only young people in their assembly. What can they do for friends? Once again, parents ought to be sensitive to this and encourage their children to invite their friends to their assembly for a weekend. Our children need friends; if they do not find them among Gods people they will certainly find them elsewhere. We ought also to encourage our young people to visit another assembly for a weekend where they have friends.
While some assemblies are small and ones absence is very much felt, young people should be encouraged to attend conferences. Here they will meet young people their own age and with similar spiritual desires. Many of our conferences are very well attended by godly young people and, from a speakers standpoint, we are very thankful to God for each one.
One of the biggest assets that todays young people have is their courage and enthusiasm to speak to their peers about the gospel. This can cause problems however when a Christian young lady, for example, invites an unsaved young man to a gospel meeting. A suggestion would be that you take your older brother along with you or ask one of the young men from the assembly. Be careful what unspoken message you may give. Keep your motives and thoughts pure by having his salvation before you and not a deeper friendship. This is another guiding principle for the numerous occasions that we need to spend time with unsaved friends, such as at school or work.
There will be times when our children, in choosing their own company, will travel a pathway that dishonors God and brings disappointment to their parents. Children raised in the same family and hearing the same Bible verses being read may not all have spiritual desires. Bible examples such as Cain and Abel have been left on the pages of the Scriptures to teach us as parents that, while Bible instruction is important and necessary, the final decision is the childs. As mentioned before, it is by the grace of God that our children are saved. Likewise, it is by the workings of God and our childrens obedience to Him that they will go on. In every aspect of life, we need to set before our children, first and foremost, their accountability to God. This will also help us as parents not to fall into the trap where our motivating principle for their behavior is the reflection that it has on ourselves. The honor and glory of God is the goal. Prayer on their behalf is our resource.
May God help us as parents to provide an environment for our children that will promote spiritual exercise and desire! Might our homes be open at all times to all of the young people so that spiritual friendships and relationships can develop.