When our youngest child was in junior high, he decided he didn't want to go to church any more. He felt he knew it all, his dad preached too long, and none of his friends went. I reminded him his older brother had always attended church, never felt his dad preached too long, and went whether his friends were there or not. I was busy polishing his brother's armor to put on Peter. Despite my mistake, God was faithful. Peter survived, and at present is a junior high pastor in charge of hundreds of kids who don't want to go to church.
We all tend to think we know exactly the equipment our children need to fight the giants of life. Just as Saul hung his heavy armor on David for his fight with Goliath, we busily hang our expectations, or worse, the church's expectations, all over their little lives. We need to let our children say, "That's not my armor. That's Saul's. Don't hang Saul's things on me. Let me be David."
Pastors' kids are especially susceptible to such well-intentioned gifts. After all, we reason, what do they know about war? We are the veterans who have learned the skills of battle. We forget that David is another generation altogether and he must do it his own way.
For example, we know our kids need to be in the Bible. So we go to the Christian bookstore, buy out the shop, and hurry home so we can begin to stuff our child into a shield of faith shaped by the contents of the shopping bag. I remember trying to do it with our daughter. It didn't work. She resolutely put the books aside, thanking me politely. She more or less told me I had to forgive her for getting to know God her own way. Eventually she chose a system of study that fit her needs exactly.
Every parent's heart misses a beat as she watches a child select five small stones from the riverbed, fit them in the sling, and step out to face the foe. Do it the way I did, we cry, silently if we're sensible, out loud if we're normal.
But our Davids already have five small, ideal stones. These are their weapons, and we rob them at great peril. (1) Our children's natural abilities given by God with their personalities in mind. (2) Their own burgeoning faith. (3) A young person's enthusiasm and incredible potential. (4) The background and heritage of their short past that molded their minds and prepared them in the school of hard knocks. (5) The spiritual gifts and calling of God.
David's prowess with the sling and stone brought Goliath down. He acquired those skills as the youngest of many brothers who kept sheep. If he had not been left alone to face the lion and the bear, would he have stepped out alone against Goliath?
Our children have a King within them. Royal blood flows in their veins. It's hard for pastors' kids to remember that, as they fight Goliath with all of Israel watching. Sometimes brothers jeer on the sidelines and parents try to dress them in someone else's armor. But let David be David, and he'll chop Goliath's head right off.
Help David gather his small stones. Take a risk and give teens responsibility. Put them to work. Don't entertain them to keep them in church. Employ them in the fight. Dare to send them on short-term missions or team them with a college kid to teach a class. Let David be David, and send him out to do battle in the name of the Lord. You won't be sorry—you'll see.