Child psychology has broken down childhood development into stages, and while any myraid of books can provide helpful information, just ask a Mom and they’ll tell you that not one of their children will pass perfectly through each stage in order.
The Bible gives updates regarding Samuel’s growth at each stage of his childhood. By looking at these reports, we can gain insight into how children should progress in their faith and relationship with God and get an idea of what we can expect and how we can guide them through these stages.
“Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, ‘After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.’ “
The job of Christian parents is to take charge of the discipleship of their children. Christian discipleship is a three legged stool. Anyone who wants to grow as a Christina needs to grow in the knowledge of their faith; grow daily in their relationship with God; grow personally, and learn to apply what they’ve learned. The discipleship of children is no different. It simply happens on a different level.
Hannah had not been able to have children, so she made a promise to God. She said if God gave her a son she would give the boy to God to serve him all of his life.
“And the Lord visited Hannah so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 2:21
In response, God gave her Samuel. While the boy would grow up in and serve in the tabernacle, she recognized that she couldn’t just take a baby and drop him off in a basket. So she stayed with her baby and loved him and nurtured him until he reached about the age of three.
Hannah teaches us that a child in this stage cannot be left to discover God on it’s own. It’s imperative that we bring God to our children at this age and let them experience God’s love and care while they experience ours. We are God’s instruments for our children. How will our children experience God’s love if we are not there for them?
The legs of the discipleship stool are greatly simplified at this stage, but all three should be present. A great way to ensure a daily, intentional focus of the discipleship of our children is to incorporate it into their bedtime routine: Bible stories, prayer, and discussion.
Life has many stages, and Christian growth is meant to be daily and progressive – for children and for adults as well. It was for Samuel as it was for Jesus. Hannah kept her covenant with God and gave Samuel to the Lord for his service. Our goal is to teach, train, and prepare our children for life on their own and to get them ready to start growing in and through adulthood.
By the time they become ready to build their own nests, we want to help them develop a mature relationship with God, a solid understanding of their faith, and to find a healthy place in a Christian community.
God’s plan is wonderful – it allows children time to grow into their own faith as it allows parents time to grow in wisdom. Parenting is a lot like Hannah’s life. Every stage involves letting go of the old so our hands are free to welcome the new.
Parenting, at it’s roots, involves a series of losses. Every good parent understands the series of accepting, nurturing, developing, and then grieving what comes and goes. This is how God develops the fruits in our lives.
Hannah understood this, and that is why God blessed her. She made a covenant with God and was faithful in honoring it. As a result of her obedience, God blessed her with Samuel and he grew to be a great prophet which you can read all about here.
May you choose to walk in God’s wisdom, one step at a time.