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Raising Spiritual Champions

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Hannah Meador The Stand Writer MORE

“If a biblical worldview is not in place by a person’s 13th birthday, they are highly unlikely to become a devoted and passionate follower of Jesus Christ before they die,” George Barna wrote in his new book Raising Spiritual Champions: Nurturing Your Child’s Heart, Mind and Soul.

As a senior research fellow at Family Research Council (FRC) Center for Biblical Worldview, professor at Arizona Christian University, and director of research and co-founder of the Cultural Research Center (CRC), Barna has dedicated much of his life to research. Over the years, he has written a number of books on leadership, spiritual development, and worldview, among other topics. But his newest release, Raising Spiritual Champions, proves essential for parents looking to disciple their children spiritually.

In preparation for writing this book, Barna (georgebarna.com), CRC (culturalresearchcenter.com), and FRC (frc.org) worked together to gather up-to-date research concerning the importance of instilling a biblical worldview in the hearts of children before they reach their early teens.

In a recent interview with The Stand, Barna gave crucial, biblical advice for parents raising children in today’s culture. 

The Stand: How is a child’s worldview developed?

George Barna: [A child’s worldview] begins around 15-to-18 months of age and is typically in place by the age of 13. It evolves through a wide range of experiences: conversations, observations, entertainment, instruction, and more. Essentially, during their formative years, every life experience provides an opportunity for the child to gather more clues to answer their questions about how life works and how they fit into the world. They need to answer a series of questions to make it through every day while satisfying felt needs and minimizing conflict and cognitive dissonance.

The child tends to trust a prescribed set of information sources, such as parents, grandparents, teachers, and media vehicles. Once any of those trusted voices provide inaccurate or inconsistent input, that source diminishes its standing as a trusted provider and may eventually lose its entree into the mind and heart of the child altogether.

TS: How do you define biblical worldview?

GB: A biblical worldview is a person’s intellectual, emotional, and spiritual decision-making filter that bases most – if not all – choices on relevant biblical principles. A worldview is a combination of beliefs and behaviors, with behaviors based upon one’s adopted beliefs.

Worldview is important because we do what we believe. If being a disciple of Christ is about living like Jesus, that only happens if you first believe the same things Jesus believes, with the resulting lifestyle serving as proof of those Christ-like beliefs.

TS: How can we measure children’s spiritual growth and development?

GB: First, make it a habit to regularly assess how the child is doing spiritually. Base that evaluation on frequent observation of how the child is incorporating what you have been discussing and modeling into their daily patterns. You might ask other disciple-minded parents or influencers (Christian teachers, coaches, mentors) to give you feedback about your child based on their observations.

Again, have in mind specific beliefs and their behavioral correlations, not generic, unhelpful measures such as “Is he a good boy?” or “Was he well-behaved?” Highly general measures like that won’t give you much insight into what they truly believe and how they are converting those beliefs into specific behaviors and, ultimately, a worldview.

TS: How can parents trust what their pastor or children’s pastor is teaching their kids?

GB: There’s nothing magical here. You simply have to do your homework, checking the substance of what is taught and done against what the Bible teaches. Take a careful look at the church’s statement of faith and examine what is – and is not – included. … Invite the pastors to explain what they believe/teach related to a list of your nonnegotiable biblical beliefs. Spend some time observing the children’s ministry and make your own determination about whether the objective is fun and games or discipleship.

TS: What are some strategies parents can use to disciple their children?

GB: There are multiple chapters in Raising Spiritual Champions regarding this process. [One] of the keys [includes having] a plan. Discipleship usually succeeds on the basis of a trust-based relationship, and that one-on-one experience benefits from a shared journey – you are both intentionally growing, though in different ways and at different levels of maturity. You cannot produce a disciple without diligent study of the Scriptures. Use stories – personal, biblical, cultural – to help illuminate the principles and their applications or outcomes. Dig deeper through open conversations about the principles and applications, and engage in continual, natural evaluation – largely through observation but also through dialogue and from the objective feedback of other disciples.

Raising Spiritual Champions is available for purchase at raisingspiritualchampionsbook.com.

(Digital Editor's Note: This article was published first in the January/February print edition of The Stand).

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