4 Reasons to Teach Your Kids About the Persecuted Church

When Stacey and I were teaching the Kindergarten – 1stGrade Sunday School class in Dallas, we studied and prayed for the persecuted church (using a curriculum put together by Voice of the Martyrs). When the kids left we would give them some prayer requests to pray through with their families during the week. In handing a prayer sheet to one of the kids’ mothers, she said to me: “This is pretty heavy stuff for a Kindergartener.” I thought about what she said, and I agree. It is heavy. However, I do think it is worth it to teach our children, even from a very young age, about the persecuted church. Here are four reasons that I believe this:
1. God listens to prayers (even of children)
There are a couple amazing promises in 1 John 5:13-15:

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

Of course, I recognize that in this passage (and the whole Bible) it is clear that God’s ear is open only to the prayers of those who have faith (here: believe in the name of the Son of God). And I found in our Sunday School class that there were children that were not bearing the fruit of the Spirit. However, there were children in our class that bore a lot of fruit. And God demonstrated that he listened to them. For instance, we started praying for North Korea together in our Sunday School class in April 2018. In May 2018 North Korea freed 3 American pastors that were in prison. Further, the war between North and South Korea was declared over. Now, I know there is still much work to be done in North Korea, but should we say that this was merely coincidence? That is not what we told our class. These 5-7 year olds prayed with all their little hearts could muster. They talked to their parents about it, and prayed at home. And God used their prayers. When we told them of the results of their prayers, their faith was increased. You should have seen how excited they were!
God hears the prayers of his children, even when they are actually children. Should we deny our children the opportunity to be a part of God rescuing pastors out of prison?
2. God commands us to pray

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3

It is not ambiguous in the Scriptures: God wants his children to pray for the persecuted church. If our children are believers, Hebrews 13:3 applies to them. What is amazing about this verse is that it does not just tell us to remember those in prison, but “as though in prison with them.” God wants Christians to empathize with our brothers and sisters that are in prison. Our kids are not going to be able to do that if we give them vague requests or keep such requests from them entirely. In that, “protecting” our children from the difficult realities that the global church faces removes an avenue of obedience from their Christian walk.
For those of our children who are not believers the command remains. Just like the command to worship God, obey their parents, and not steal. We do not tell our unbelieving children that they can lie because they are not believers. We raise them to be Christians, and pray that God would save them so they can put into practice what we have taught them to do.
3. God commands us to be sober-minded
I confess that I was rarely sober-minded as a child. Some of that was my own fault, but some of that was a reflection of my culture. In America, we have this idea that children’s lives are supposed to be filled with games and bubblegum. The greatest concern our children are supposed to experience is whether or not they will make it to the next level in their newest video game. When I was in college was the first time I really saw the biblical call to be sober-minded. One such call comes from Peter:

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” I Peter 4:7

What an incredible statement! As a parent, I know I am often calling my children to be self-controlled, but am I also calling them to be sober-minded? The implication of this passage is that both are necessary for them to have effective prayers. I think this is true, at least in part, in that if our children are not sober-minded they will not be praying for things that God cares about. Honestly, God does not care about who wins their soccer game. God does not care about what they want for Christmas. God wants them to be sober-minded and to pray for people who are dying for Christ. If we protect them in such a way that they do not even know that such people exist, they cannot be sober-minded and they cannot pray.
As an aside on this issue, our relative wealth in the West has allowed us to think that children do not have to obey this command. We think that childhood can be only fun, and try keep our kids from experiencing hard truths. This type of “protection” is not biblical, and is only possible where life is easier. Here in Cameroon, kids know about death because they cannot avoid it. Though in some ways we might think of this as sad, I am hopeful that as they become believers it will lead to sobriety that most children in America will never know.
4. They will wish you had told them
I have been talking to a friend that was protected a lot during childhood. As they grew older and started to learn how the world really is, they did not wish for “protection.” Instead, they experienced frustration. Particularly as a believer, they felt like they had missed out on opportunities to care for and pray for those in need. Parent, if your child does become a believer, they will not have wanted for you to keep these truths from them. If they love Christ, they will not long to forget the plight of the persecuted church. Christians love the Church. Christians love their brothers and sisters and pray for them. The greatest gift you could give them is to teach them the truth.
One truth from the Word seems particularly necessary:

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12

Keeping the reality of persecution from our children will one day put them in a difficult place. One day, if they desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, they too will face persecution. If we have not taught them about our faithful brothers and sisters, they will not know how to respond. If we have not taught them about Richard Wurmbrand, they will not know that they could even love men who were beating them daily. Without the story of the Yao people, they will never know that God is able to break through to even the most difficult places. Without the testimony of Elizabeth, they won’t know that Christians can remain faithful even with their own husbands beat them and abandon them. Worse, they may pity themselves instead of uniting with the Church. Teaching our kids about the suffering of God’s people can only prepare them for what they will one day face. And when that day comes, they will want to be prepared.
At the end of the day, it seems to me that any attempt to “protect” our children from the hard truths of the persecuted church will only hurt them. It will remove opportunities for greater obedience, it will prevent them from thinking about the world the way that God wants us to, and it may even lead them to abandoning Christ. However, when we teach them to pray not only will they be changed, their prayers will be answered. May each and every one of our children have the opportunity to be used by God in such an amazing way.

If you are looking for more resources to encourage your kids to think about missions and the persecuted church, check out our page Missions at Home.


Author: David M. Hare

Dave is a husband, father of four Africans, and is currently helping the Kwakum people do Oral Bible Storying and Bible translation in Cameroon, Africa.