Raising Kids Who Build, Not Burn

“Those who don’t build must burn. It’s as old as history and juvenile delinquents.”

This is a quote from one of my favourite books, Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury in 1953.

Set in a dystopian future where firemen don’t put out fires, they light them – burning all books. Montag recounts how much he used to enjoy burning books, before his eyes were opened. And this quote is Faber’s response.

I often think about this principle in relation to keeping my kids busy. I find they’re more likely to be destructive when left without direction and purpose. 

“A child left to himself brings shame to his mother,” as the Proverb says.

If I see a particular child wandering around niggling and picking at others in the family, I give them a job to do.

But on the larger scale, this principle is even more important – are we raising our kids with purpose and meaning in their lives? Do they understand what is theirs to build? Or will they find themselves directionless, delighting in burning things down?

How to raise builders

Look around and you can see the results all over the world of people who live without the meaning of knowing Who made them, and what they were made for. Burning down institutions and laws made to protect people and bring joy. Destroying God’s good design for families. Using people like things, or worshiping people like gods.

We need to raise our kids to build their lives on the Rock. To know deeply that they were created on purpose and for a purpose.

None of this wishy-washy “you can make up your own mind about what you believe”. Our kids need parents who teach them with conviction and truth.

Here are the key ideas we need to teach our kids to help them grow as people who build, not burn:

God Made You 

Tell your kids from day one that God made them. The implications of this (which you can draw out over time) are many! 

  • God made them on purpose – he wanted them to be around!
  • God made them so He is the boss – he has the right to tell them what to do.
  • God made them unique on purpose. No, our children are not perfect, as nothing is in this world, but there is much about them that is just how God wanted it to be.
  • God made them in His image – they are more special than the animals!
  • God made them as a boy or a girl.

“So God created man in his own image,

    in the image of God he created him;

    male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27

God Saved You

It doesn’t take long for kids to come up against their own sinfulness. Even before they can talk, they will recognise that their desire to do something even after being told “no” is very persistent. No child is too young to be told that Jesus died and rose again to pay for their sins, and that they can always be forgiven and try again. They will grow to understand what this means as they grow older. But they need to know about God’s grace and forgiveness from a very young age. Don’t withhold that from them just because you think they won’t fully understand.

God Has Prepared Good Things for You to Do

Teach your kids that not only has God freed them from the consequences of their sin, He’s also brought them into His family and given them a new purpose. Teach them that God doesn’t save us so we can be free to just keep sinning and get away with it. Rather, God saves us so we can be free to do good things. And in fact, he has already prepared those good things for us to do! Model for them what it looks like to joyfully embrace the good work God has given you to do today. 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:8-10

You Have a Place in the Church

Bring your kids along to church and help them to join in and connect with what’s happening. Explain the song lyrics. Point to Bible verses. Show them how to take notes. And as they are able (which is sooner than you might think!), give them jobs to do. Let them move chairs. Let them help do actions for the kids’ songs. Show them that they are just as much a part of the church as the adults. They are needed and wanted there, too.

You are Not Alone

We need to show our kids the wonderful examples of Christians around them building God’s kingdom, and Christians who have gone before. Let them see and know that they are part of a wonderful body of believers who are all being used by God to do His will in this world. Even as they will experience the hardship and alienation that comes from being a Christian, let them see and taste the wonderful fellowship as well. 

My eldest child is soon to be 11, so I have a long way to go in terms of raising kids. But one of my greatest joys already is seeing how my kids think of themselves and their future knowing they belong to God. It’s so encouraging to hear their musings about what they might like to do as adults – the things they want to create, and the places they want to go, and the people they want to serve. I know that above all, God is the one who calls and saves and directs the lives of our children. So in the midst of teaching them diligently and raising them to build, not burn, let’s also commit to be just as diligent in prayer for them. 

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One comment

  1. Stephanie Matthews says:

    Thanks for this post, Jess! So many good points! I agree our challenge is to raise kids knowing God made them and for them to discover what purpose He made them for. That’s exciting you’re seeing God has given your own kids a sense of purpose re their desires to create, travel and serve others as adults. We have a dear friend who is a doctor and God gave him that desire when he was only in primary school.
    I also believe it’s important for kids to be needed and wanted in a church family. The whole experience of church, as you mentioned, can really shape them in godliness.
    Yes, we are very sinful and I love your point about teaching kids about God’s grace and forgiveness from an early age.

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