The Upbringing of Our Young People - Mr.Slabbert Le Cornu

 The following was taken from a Newsletter written by Mr.Slabbert Le Cornu. Mr. Le Cornu lives in South Africa from where he sends this Newsletter. Translated from the Afrikaans by Gilbert Zekveld.

Mr. Le Cornu writes:
"From the Word of God, as covenant parents, we received the task and calling to bring up our children in the fear of the Lord. This with the intent that our children during all their life, shall serve the Lord and His kingdom. That is what we promised when our children were baptized: "Do you promise and intend to instruct these children, as soon as they are able to understand, in the aforesaid doctrine, and cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?"

It is the purpose of this and future editions of our newsletter, to begin reflecting, not just on the content of the upbringing of our children, but also the methods, institutions and instruments that are used in the education of our children. Was the traditional way, indeed always Scriptural, and do we perhaps not run very much after worldly wisdom?

Do we not follow the traditional way because we always did it like that? Is there not a better way, especially in present day circumstances? I will appreciate it if we can discuss this very important subject. You can contact me by writing to the Esra Verslag address.

For Cross and Crown, Slabbert Le Cornu

ESRA VERSLAG's address: P.O. Box 12303, Hatfield, 0028, Pretoria, South Africa.
e-mail address: [email protected]




Not long ago I read a booklet, that says more in 23 pages than many other books that contain 500 pages. The title of the booklet is:Critique of Modern Youth Ministry, and written by Chris Schlect of the Logos Schools in the U.S.A [Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1995]. The author who was "youth worker" at one time, writes: 'The Church today does not expect what it ought to from children and their parents, and this can be attributed in large part to a flawed concept of youth ministry. This need not and should not be so. This essay discusses the reasons behind this problem and proposes some biblical solutions." (Page 3)

According to the author, children have a greater capacity for spiritual and social maturity, than what is at present attributed to them, and the wrong view of how we must bring up our youth, is precisely one of the problems that hinder spiritual growth and maturity.

It is my purpose in this newsletter,to give the message of this little book in summary. I will also make complementary remarks related to the situation here in South Africa, for the "youth crisis" in South Africa is much the same as in the U.S.A. It is not strange anymore to see reports in our papers that point out the immoral and intellectual decline that takes place among our young people, which often leads to extreme cases like murder and suicide. Is South Africa already on the same road? Is this the fault of the economy or politics, or do we have to look closer to home to find what is wrong? (1 Peter 4:17).

Hear, 0 Israel: the LORD our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deut 6: 4-9).

1. The Advent Of The So-called Generation Gap

During the last 150 years the teaching of evolution has drastically changed the way we look at time. Man has become more and more obsessed by time, and although it had its positive sides, in other areas it has had sad consequences. In the past it was not strange to see young people graduate from the time they were 17 years old and others who were 28.

Students did mature, each in his own way and time. That is why the "one-room-for-all-children" home school, was the norm and no strange phenomenon, as it is now. Also in society children mixed more with older people than is now the case.

Horace Mann did change all this by connecting children to a certain learning pattern, in line with evolutionary teaching, that progress is of necessity coupled to time. That is why students are separated according to age. The result is now that children are judged whether they are "ahead" or "behind," according to the "standards of their match group". The author writes, and rightly so:"Normal' was an arbitrary standard superimposed upon the wealth of data that indicated wide disparity between rates of maturation." (page 4). By the turn of the twentieth century, a certain Granville Stanley Hall, in line with the social application of the work of Darwin in biology, came with the so-called "recapitulation theory" in which he claimed that children develop in the same stages that human history develops.According to that theory the child moves from the barbarian to the civilized phase. His attention was especially directed to the so-called "adolescent years," which he sees as the most critical.

Because this is such a critical phase, this match group must be separated from the other phases. In agreement with his view on evolution this means further, that each following phase is more (higher) than the previous one, and therefore this phase must every time be radically separated from the foregoing phase(s). In practical terms it means that rebellion is what's in store for teenagers, and they must break away from the child phase, and hold themselves back from the adult phase with all their might. It is ironical that social psychologists are still of the opinion that "rebellion" is a positive step ahead.

John Dewey, one of Hall's best known followers, applied this theory to the state school system. He taught a whole generation of teachers, and is seen as the father of the modern public school system in the U.S.A. His ideas were implemented all through America. The purpose of the public school system was to isolate the "crisis" period of adolescence, and the high schools were established to separate teenagers from smaller children and adults. For the first time in western history, just one generation after Dewey, an "adolescent subculture" was created. In the fifties they had their own literature, music, dress, language and etiquette. Hall's philosophy concerning young people, has since been the norm for the western world. Characters like James Dean and Elvis Presley are seen as victims of the older generation that "did not understand how young people think" Music and films of those years and since, is a testimony of "invented adolescence" by G.Stanley Hall, and implemented by Dewey in the schools.

"All children in America that go to school as five year olds, are spiritually sick, because they have certain ties to our forebears, parents and a Supernatural Being. ... It is up to the teachers to make these children healthy - by making them international children of the future." (-from Chester Pierce, a psychiatrist. A lecture before the Childhood International Education Seminar).

Today, this youth subculture is the dominating culture in our society.Culture in all its forms - art, music, etiquette, and recreation, is altogether in terms of the demands and needs of young people.Advertisements are directed to young people, and when directed to adults, it is to make them feel or look younger. Life is centered around young people, and the high school is seen as the cream of life. Someone over the age of thirty is seen as "over the hill", and must then begin with all kinds of fitness programs, weekly recreation, new relationships, cosmetic surgery, etc., all to make us 'feel' younger.The tragedy of all this is, as Schlect writes, "... that late twentieth century America does not allow itself to grow up. " (page 7). This is also seen in South African society. But it is much more important to see how great an impact the evolution-educational philosophy has had on the Church. A very good friend told me at one time: "When it rains on the world, the Church receives some of its drops" ... or is "all" the drops today?

2. The Generation Gap and The Church

It is tragic that the modern church, directly or indirectly, followed the theories of Mann, Hall, and Dewey. It happens in many churches that "doctrines" are not taught to children, precisely because they have not reached a certain "phase". Separating young people, also in the church, began in the thirties, with the explosion of "para-church agencies," for example Youth for Christ, Young Life (today: Campus Crusade), etc. Later, many churches started their own youth programs, and today we have "children services". The stress here is on living gospel music, personal testimonies of athletes, civil leaders, military heroes, etc., with a short sermon and an "invitation" call in the end, to receive Christ as your personal Saviour. There is also a passion for "entertainment rallies", where the "Gospel" is proclaimed in alternative ways, forgetting and ignoring the teaching of Lord's Day Q and A 98. Not only in society, but also in the church this has led to immaturity and childishness.

Schlect points to an advertisement he read in Campus Life, a magazine for young people: "Have the time of your life! Sure you'll study ... College should be fun. And while you're at it, you'll get an education." (page 10). Schlect then shows, and rightly so, what is the sin of young people, namely: fun before duty! Young people are taught to live a life of fun and pleasure, and after that to attend matters of secondary importance, such as work and study. And thus, young people are taught and "brought up" to be more immature and irresponsible. As a salesman in a bookstore I can testify of youth workers who come to buy books with "games" and messages that make young people "feel good". These youth workers want books that do not contain too many pages, and must not be "doctrinal" or "heavy." The irony of all this? As a rule they get what they are looking for!

3. The Question: Where Did We Go Wrong?

This philosophy of "enforced" segregation by age is also introduced into the church. For every age group there is a bible study, geared to the specific needs of every group. But it is especially the young people who enjoy the most attention. Schlect sees this as follows: "Evangelical churches have honored divisions that have existed in our culture for less than a century - divisions which have no basis in either Scripture or common sense. These divisions breed immaturity because they hinder younger people from associating with and learning from their elders. Rather than admonishing our young people with Paul's mandate, 'flee youthful lusts' (2 Tim. 2: 22), we provide a forum for youthful lusts to be pursued." (page 11).

Immaturity is the result of a congregation that no longer in accordance with Scripture, admits young people to have as much contact with older people as possible. Children do not learn from the wisdom of older people anymore (Lev. 19: 32; Tit. 2: 3-6).

The so-called generation gap, which is a twentieth century invention, is used today as an excuse to segregate the young from the old. When young people are permitted to set their own standards, there would develop a "group mentality" and they are inclined to follow each other's examples and not those of their parents. Schlect then comes to what he sees as the basic problem: it is not that there is interaction between the young, but the problem is irresponsible adult leadership and supervision, especially by older people. It is because of negligent and uninterested parents that young people develop a group mentality, a herd mentality in their own way of life, their own mannerisms. Think of the ever returning complaint: "but dad does not understand me ...!" But the youth must be taught to be mature, to be people that one day must serve in a world of adults. Who can better give this teaching than those who are presently adults now? Youth has to learn that to be young is not man's chief end.

Many young people are taken from adult, or the company of older people, in the name of "youth activities in the church," or because they have different needs. It happens that because of this, certain of the children are not at home several days during the week. This is a set back for family devotions, and mutual fellowship in the family.

Here I would like to ask a question: When each member of the family, on a different evening in the week, has a bible study or other obligations at the church, whenever is the family together?

Schlect touches further on a basic problem, when it is said by the modern churches that basic teaching of the doctrines of the church and its confessions are 'too difficult' for children, these "serious" matters are only 'for adults'. (But these last two words are not heard from young people when it concerns the choice of films, and also not from many parents that should be examples for the younger people?) Thus we depart from the godly example set by the mother of Timothy in Tim. 3:14 and 15.

Another aspect that makes us concerned about present day youth work, are many of the "adults" themselves, who lead these movements. They attempt to be "people pleasers", they want to be the children's buddy and be "cool" with the children (instead of being an adult friend and confidant: John 15: 12-15). The manners of youth leaders, dress, language, must then also be adapted to young people's fads, no matter if this is "decent dress" or not. These youth leaders attempt with all kinds of stories, jokes, plays, "tricks'', experiences, to have these children accept Jesus. There is no, or very little teaching from Scripture, the teaching is often the corrupt Arminian error, which changes or replaces the foundation of "your only comfort in life and death", namely Jesus Christ, to your "own choice and date!" when you choose Christ. With so little insight and knowledge of Scripture it is not difficult for any false teacher to mislead the future leaders of the church.

Here, I would like to refer to an article by Steve Schlissel, where he writes that our problem is, that we approach the upbringing of the children in a pragmatic way (is this going to help Johnny to get a good job?), instead of seeing it in the way of the covenant (will this assist Johnny to take his place as a god fearing man in the covenant community of the Lord?). Since Christian upbringing is seen as a mere option and not as a duty of the covenant, this way of doing things assures us that the theological purity of our children, (seen in general) will be very low.

An ignorant congregation and superficial, irresponsible future ministers will be the result, with "ministers" who attempt to serve a congregation with their "church growth skills." However, as Schlissel says, this problem does not begin with theological training, it begins in the homes:

"The bottom line: the solution to the seminary problem for the clergy begins at the door of the first grade of all covenant members. So long as we wink at people sending their covenant offspring to pagan schools, our seminaries cannot be expected to do anything except turn out pragmatists -career boys instead of ministers - for that is what the people will demand, and deserve. ...If you want qualified ministers, the best thing you can do is to have zero-tolerance for public school education."

4. How To Regain Lost Ground

The church must be aware of the danger of compromise, with the purpose to remain so-called "relevant." We must be ‘relevant' for the Lord and His Kingdom, not for man and his worldly lusts (Matt.6:33) It is therefore necessary for the church to repent from all forms of unbiblical thinking about young people and their upbringing. But what can we do?

1) The very first question we must ask as parents, is: What is our purpose with our children? We must hope that our children will know more about Scripture than we do, that their world and life view will be formed more and better than ours, and their fear of God will greatly increase. That purpose is nothing less than that they will be a "godly seed' (Mal. 2: 15), sharp arrows in the hand of the mighty in our fight against the enemy (Psalm 127: 4,5).   2) In the second place the whole idea of youth ministry must be reconsidered, also if it has a right to exist. According to Scripture, parents, elders and older people must bring up children, and older women must teach the younger women (Titus 2:3). The idea of youth leaders as role models must be rejected. Children must look up to, and follow in the steps of adult people.   3) In the third place and the most important - parents must realize anew that they are wholly responsible for their children. When immaturity is rampant, the chief offender is not the church or the state, but the parents! Scripture is very clear, bringing up children for all areas of life, is the responsibility and task of the parents (Deut. 6: 7; Eph. 6: 4). Responsible youth ministry demands that parents are called and trained to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord. Schlect uses the example of Eli and his sons to clarify the relationship between youth ministry and parental responsibility:
"But Eli was very old, and when he heard the bad news about his sons, and that they socialized with women that served at the door of the tabernacle, he says to them: 'Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people; Nay my sons; for it is no good report that I bear: ye make the Lord's people to transgress" ... Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father." (1Sam. 2: 23-25).

Although it seems that Eli brought up his sons in a "church environment", verse 22 makes clear that Eli when he was an old man, became aware of his sons' transgressions, and that from someone else. Eli failed in disciplining his sons, he was not "around" for them. Eli had to bear the consequences, God's judgment (1 Sam. 2: 27 ff.). This was also a poor example for Samuel whose sons were also rebellious (modern term: adolescent 'phase') after they grew up (1 Sam. 8: 1-3).

Today, many parents follow in the steps of Eli, by delegating their covenant responsibility (away) to others, under the cloak of the misused and wrongly interpreted words of: "... and cause them to be instructed therein." In view of this, many parents persevere in the ways of Eli, of which the many children in kindergarten, after school centers and public schools, too often witness. The words, "and cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power," which in theory are nicely promised and established when the child is baptized, are then very much the reason that we justify in the end that our children are brought up by everyone, but not the parents. The minister, teacher, youth leader, psychiatrist, parole officer[!?], etc., all stand ready to bring up junior, while "Mom" is just there to cook the meals at the "home-hotel", and where the child basically comes, only to sleep, eat, and relax in front of the "head/man of the house," the Egyptian, better known as the TV.

"Dad" is then nothing but the screaming and yelling machine. Dad and Mom will occasionally teach the child some good manners, and "cute" mannerisms, but for the rest is it the task for the "experts" to truly bring up children. But what limits Dad and Mom's "ability" to bring them up themselves? Well, it is like this: Mom's priority as a rule is: the "necessary" full time work, coupled with aerobics dance classes, swimming lessons, nail care, TV programs, tea parties etc. All this makes it impossible for her to spend much time with her children. And Dad's rifle club, sports club, pigeon club, rugby club, card club, golf club, etc. shows "clearly" there is no time to look after and teach the children. We are too busy with all the so-called "important" things in life. On top of this, the average couple has the "massive burden" and responsibility of the present day "large family" of one and one half child! Think of all the money this one child is going to cost! All the necessities like a third car, a third vacation, television sets, videos, rugby tours, etc., have to be paid, before they can think of a second child. Further, this is "clear" evidence that home schooling, or a private school cannot be part of the budget of our family, even if we "really" want to do it. It has become clear, there is no time and no money to bring up our children ourselves. Someone else has to do that for us, and when something goes wrong, well, then probably it is the fault of the teacher, the church, or the state!

"God designed each family to be a culture - with a language, customs, traditions, and countless unspoken assumptions. The culture of the family intimately shapes the children who grow up in it. It is the duty of the father to ensure that the shaping takes place according to biblical wisdom. Some fathers establish a rebellious culture for their children and bring the wrath of God, sometimes for generations. Other fathers fail to establish a distinct culture, and outside cultures rush to fill the void. Through the Messiah, God promised blessing to His people, their children, and their children's children forever." The norm for faithful members of the covenant is that their children will follow them in faithfulness. The oddity should be children who fall away. Unless we re-establish faithful Christian culture in countless homes, we will never re-establish it anywhere else."- Douglas Wilson. Standing on the Promises: A Manual For Biblical Childrearing..

This is my own interpretation of how things are currently going in the average family in South Africa. This is what has become of "to instruct them and cause them to be instructed." The neglect of values in our country, is not in the first place the result of political or ecclesiastical reasons, but is a result of the irresponsible behavior of parents, especially of us fathers in maintaining and applying Christian values in our own life and in that of our families.

Scripture teaches clearly that the father (together with the mother) have the primal responsibilities for the upbringing of their children (Eph. 6: 1-4). Many parents think it is enough to take the children to Sunday school, or to church, or drop them off at the young people meeting when Dad is on his way to play cricket, and Mom takes time to look at the TV soap operas.

Ultimately, an effective youth ministry is the task of father. He must create a God fearing atmosphere in the home. Step one will be to turn off the Egyptian (the "original Hebrew word" for the TV.) or what is better, throw it out of the window. Father, and not the youth leader must lead in adoration, prayer, devotions and in fellowship with other believers. Fathers must take care that God's glory and honour will be sought and found in everything, as Moses commands in Deut. 6: 6-9. Schlect writes correctly, "If children do not come face to face with the Almighty God in every aspect of their lives, their fathers, through abdication, are bringing them up in practical atheism." (page 17). Is that not what happens today: a generation of children that are still brought up in the faith, traditions and habits of church and nation, but has lost the godliness and power thereof. They turn out to be nothing other than practical baptized atheists?

It follows that there is no place for the modern youth movement in the church. Fathers must take responsibility once more. And when the fathers do not rise up to do battle, the ultimate focus should not be on these neglected children, but the focus should be on the unfaithful fathers who did forsake their covenant duties:

In the first place, the elders must be examples to these fathers in the upbringing of godfearing children in their homes, (1 Tim. 3: 4,5; Tit. 1:6). In the measure that these elders grow in biblical fatherhood, so shall they grow and be better able to lead other fathers in this (Hebr 5:14). The example of godfearing families is an inspiration for other fathers and families to follow.

In the second place, biblical standards must be set and maintained for fatherhood. Churches are inclined to compromise with the world, and satisfied to do a little better than the world around us. But God's standards are not those of the world. We must look to God's Word and not to the world. The Lord demands faith and obedience of fathers, and anything less is sin. The saints, especially the elders, must act fearlessly and in love, to encourage those families, admonish and speak to them when biblical standards of fatherhood are not maintained.

5. Practical Suggestions

The big question that now follows, what must we do when there is at present a youth ministry in the church? Schlect again points out that it hinders fathers from taking on their responsibility, and without acknowledging anew the principal role of the father, any reformation will not succeed. He recommends the following strategy:
1 ) Discourage unnecessary youth meetings, especially when the family bond must be stressed. It is a good thing for families to sit together in church, instead of what happens today, that each member looks for his/her own place. Important family dates like birthdays, family devotions, eating together, etc., should have precedence over any youth activity, be it in church or school.

2) Young people can attend adult bible studies, especially where parents attend. Children understand much more than we today expect of them. There is a message in the Bible for both parents and children! It may be somewhat strange at the outset, but the child will gradually grow in its knowledge of the Bible and how to study it.

There are today so many bible studies, that there is no more room to accommodate them all. There are men-, women-, youth-, married-,unmarried, almost married-, living together-, divorced-, almost divorced-, lately divorced-, mid year-, seniors-, etc. etc. types of bible studies, and who knows what will be next? All right, all right, I exaggerate a 'little' bit, but one thing is for certain: those many kinds of bible studies are presently justified, for "everyone has his own needs and interpretations." But here is something wrong, for we have one God, one baptism and one Word that is for all (the distinctions are in its application, the message is the same). A possible suggestion is that congregations will return to two kinds of bible studies, one for men, including young men and boys; and a women bible study, young women and girls included. An even better solution would be family bible studies where some families come together -as families- to study God's Word and apply it to all areas of life. Furthermore, the parents, especially the father can be trained in seminars and meetings and further equipped to bring up his children in the fear of the Lord.

3) Organize affairs for families, not just for young people or only parents, for certain occasions. The program must not be changed to accommodate children's needs, but must be in line with the program and leading of adults.

4) Avoid those everyday tricks of modern youth ministries like those dried up Anabaptist messages, games, literature, music, etc. Good books for children can also be read and appreciated by adults also. All those different bible versions (Men- ,-,Women-,Youth-, Toddlers-, etc. type of Bibles,) show the total "segregation" of the covenant communion of the saints. Try to get good books, for instance, Pilgrims Progress, Robinson Crusoe, Scottish Seas, Huguenot Gardens, etc. The author rightly says, "nobody is too young for Psalms and good hymns." (page 20). Psalms are very important! Besides that, a knowledge of Scripture and the creeds are also very important.

5) It is very important for the children not to depend on youth leaders anymore, but change that dependence to their parents, even if it take some time. A good way to change will be for parents to start a parent-children bible study or for the parents to start attending their son or daughter's youth meeting (contact the youth leader beforehand and inform him/her about your visit). Children must associate their upbringing with parental authority. It is the purpose that in the long term the parents take over the bringing up of their children from the youth leaders, and other "experts."

What about the children of unbelievers which are involved in youth ministries? We should be thankful for the good work that is done in this area, but the exception should not become the rule. Covenant blessings are first of all given to parents (Prov. 22: 6; Acts 2: 39). They can attempt to have these children take part in bible studies in Christian homes, instead of youth ministries. They should be invited to eat with the family and be there for family devotions. While at the same time attempts should be made to involve the parents of these children. These children should be taught to always respect their unbelieving parents and ask them questions, even about the Bible and the faith. These children should not be brought up as enemies of their parents, but must still respect and honour them (Eph. 6:1-3).


6. Conclusion

The author finally sums it up by saying that the "youth ministry" should not be abolished, but must return to its rightful place: the family, with father as the primal covenant leader. We must always keep in mind that god fearing families are a gift from God, and that without the work of the Holy Spirit, no youth program or strategy for fatherhood can be successful.

7. Some Personal Remarks

To conclude, parents must anew re- think what is our "primal" role in the upbringing of posterity, especially how we bring this into practice. We know it takes sacrifice to be true Christians (1 Tim. 3:12), and our present day circumstances are difficult. However, we are called upon to do what is right and good before the lord, and not what is easy and pleasant.

As parents, how much do you appreciate God's covenant children, which he He loans out to you temporarily and promised to give you everything needed to bring them up? Remember, one day we all must appear before God's judgment seat to give an account of how we brought up our children. When we claim we did not have time and money, there is something wrong with our priorities and planning (Mat. 6: 33), especially in the area of bringing up our children ...Remember, where your heart is, your treasure will be ... ?

Dear reader, I hope you clearly understand that the problem is not that there are several age groups, for the Bible speaks of parents, children, old people, infants, etc. The problem starts as soon as we build walls between the several groups, and attempt not to see sin between parents and children in terms of the Bible, but by looking at these things via the eyes of the psychologist. For example, by saying, "he is just going through that stage," or "she is young, but once," or "all those in his age group does that", etc. etc. Groups must be distinguished, not separated, and never in the family context. Finally, the church and the covenant family must beware of so-called democratic individualism, and return to the biblical covenant model as we find in Scripture. May the Lord Jesus strengthen us anew to bring up His children in all His counsel, in doctrine and life, for:

"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it:"except the lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain... "Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. ... "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them!" (Ps. 127:1,3,5).
For Cross and Crown, Slabbert Le Cornu

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