For better and for worse, Joash was a man who was easily influenced.
After being made king of Judah at just 7 years old, Joash led his people to turn away from idol worship and to re-establish correct worship of the Lord, all thanks to the influence of a priest named Jehoiada. Indeed, King Joash “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicles 24:2).
Unfortunately, this good influence didn’t last. After Jehoiada passed away, princes of Judah came and encouraged Joash to restore idol worship. Joash listened to his new influencers and led Judah to serve the Asherim and other idols (2 Chronicles 24:17-18).
When I read the story of Joash, I think about the 50 or so children under my care.
Serving as a children’s pastor, I get a firsthand glimpse at the range of people seeking to influence this next generation. In addition to parents, friends, teachers and coaches, there’s a whole world of strangers seeking to influence people from afar.
Children, as well as adults, are regularly exposed to advertising, TV shows, movies, video games, social media and more that seek to influence them. It’s estimated that the average person in the United States sees thousands of advertisements each day. Combine that with regular amounts of mass media consumption and social media interaction, and it becomes clear that our children are inundated with potential influencers.
So, what can we do to help our children avoid the fate of Joash?
Parents should join their children in their digital worlds.
Many parents today take great care to keep up with their children and to know where they are at all times, as well they should. But parents need to be just as vigilant to keep up with their children in the digital world. After all, it’s easy for children today to fall prey to negative influences, even while sitting on the couch.
To guard against this, parents must take the time and effort to learn what their children are watching and with whom they are interacting. Parents must set clear limits on what is allowable and what is not.
In addition, children’s social media accounts should be open and accessible to parents. A product like Circle, which lets parents track and restrict all internet usage on their home network, could be a great help. Church leaders should encourage and equip parents to take an active role in their children’s digital lives.
Each of us should be a positive influence.
Titus 2 gives us a clear template for older church members positively influencing and discipling younger church members. These types of mentoring relationships are desperately needed today as children swim through a sea of competing influencers. Though parents should serve as the primary influencers of their children, the rest of the church has a wonderful opportunity to help parents by coming alongside them to help encourage their children.
Church members with no children at home should consider serving in their church’s children’s or youth ministry. Or they could make time, even if it’s just once a month, to be a positive influence in a child’s life. Imagine what a blessing this would be to children.
Let’s be the church family that drowns out unhealthy voices with life-giving truth and love.