This was the answer my son gave tonight as they asked him whether Jesus was his Lord and Savior.
He gave it without thought, without consideration, without hesitation. He didn't look around the room to determine if it would be the right answer. He did not contemplate how his energetic answer might make him look. He just answered "Heck yes!"
Then he was baptized.
My parenting approach to all things Jesus is this, if my kids don't have a relationship with Jesus, I don't want them to fake it to make me happy. Though I am ever eager to figure out what each of them is going through and what they think about, well, most everything, I choose not to force them to say or do things for the sake of saying or doing them. Yes, I believe in making kids go to church, but church is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about choosing Jesus and choosing to follow Him every day. Those are two different things.
The Bible says I should train up my children in the way they should go so when they are older they will not depart from it, it doesn't say manipulate them to stay on the path. It doesn't say force them to train themselves, all the while I sit on the side lines yelling at them. This idea of training brings to mind a person out there in the field or on the track, coming along side the athlete correcting positioning, illustrating their tried and true knowledge and encouraging them to keep going. Most people who train others are qualified based upon their own past performances and continued practice.
So, when God tells me to train my children up, I know He's calling me to a higher standard of living, so I can show them how life should look. Then after I've trained them, they can run their own race of their own accord, not at my mandate, and this process starts early.
Tonight, when my 8 year old son stood in front of the church and shouted "Heck yes!" in front of a few hundred people, I know his answer was his own. We show him how life should look by our example, we show him how it should not look by pointing out where we missed the mark, we provide correction, we provide encouragement, then we watch as he continues to grow into a man who knows the path God has for him. The path from which he will never depart.
Then we celebrate...