– Billy Sunday
More is caught than taught. Your children or someone you are mentoring will never go the way you tell them to unless you go there yourself. It’s one thing to advise a child to do something, but when we do just the opposite, that’s what we’re really telling them to do. Our words fail to teach when our actions fail to match them. We cannot tell someone to do something and then ignore our own advice, which is why Paul wrote that we ought to “join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do” (Phil. 3:17).
There are more than a few times I admitted to my children that I am not perfect and that I make mistakes. When I admit my imperfections, I take the pressure off of them to be perfect. One of the greatest strengths for the Christian is transparency and honesty. When we confess our sins, faults, and shortcomings to others (James 5:16), it humbles us, and I believe it humbles them, too. Children will see it as normal to admit mistakes and confess their sins and that it’s actually a good thing.
One wise seminary professor of mine once said that the church will never go where you are not willing to first go. Or you could put it this way: The church will never go where you are not willing to lead. I noticed that it is easier to start a ministry than to try to push others into one. When I started a nursing home ministry years ago, some started to participate, but I never got anyone to participate until I participated first! Children will learn to go down the path of righteousness if you are also taking that same path; however, we cannot expect any child to go down a path that we first don’t walk down ourselves.
The very best way to train a child in the way they should go is to go that way yourself and model it, mimic Christ, be open and honest, and lead because unless we are willing to walk in the ways of God, we can’t expect a child to do so.