On the Conversion of Children

Several months ago the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus provoked the ire of many with their controversial song, “We’ll Convert Your Children.”

“You think that we’ll corrupt your kids,
if our agenda goes unchecked.
Funny, just this once, you’re correct.”

The song continues,

“We’ll convert your children.
Happens bit by bit.
Quietly and subtly.
And you will barely notice it…

We’ll convert your children.
We’ll make them tolerant and fair…

Your children will care about fairness and justice for others.
Your children will work to convert all their sisters and brothers.
Then soon we’re almost certain,
your kids will start converting you.”      

In response to the tidal wave of criticism, chorus members released a statement claiming that the song was mere satire, tongue-in-cheek humor that was obviously lost on their hysterical traditionalist objectors. However, further comments demonstrate that lurking behind this veil of “humor” is indeed an agenda that has its sights set on the children of believers:

“After decades of children being indoctrinated and taught intolerance for anyone who is ‘other,’ from using the Bible as a weapon to reparative therapy, it’s our turn. We have dedicated ourselves to being role models, teaching, spreading the message of love, tolerance and celebration through our music.”[1]

Before the shock of this event wears off on us completely (if it hasn’t already), we would do well to stop, reflect, and ask ourselves the evaluative question, “What can we learn from this?” In the moment, we all felt a great deal, everything from righteous indignation to fear for our children’s future, but what are we to do now?   

First, we need to remind ourselves that there is no reason for the church to fear or despair even in the face of such pervasive wickedness. The LGBTQ+ message is radically opposed to our own and holds more sway in our post-Christian culture than ever before—but it isn’t altogether new. What we’re seeing now is nothing but another wave of Romans 1 idolatry dressed in 21st century clothes:

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done…Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:28, 31).

None of what we’re seeing today takes God by surprise. This alone ought to comfort the fearful parent and concerned church member. Yet God’s Word doesn’t just describe the problem, but prescribes manifold ways in which the church can forewarn and forearm its children against the lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:5). God has not left us to fend for ourselves. He has given his church grace to endure before, and so we are assured that the immutably holy, wise, and gracious God will give his 21st century church everything necessary to flourish even in the midst of cultural upheaval.

How then should the church respond to the mounting pressure being applied to our children? Using the baptismal vows provided in the PCA Book of Church Order (BCO) as a guide, I want to address two groups—those parents whose children are still living under their roof and those who either have no children of their own or whose children have grown and since left the nest—and provide concrete ways for all to participate in this work of discipleship.

Christian parents need to take seriously their responsibility to train their children to be mature men and women in Christ. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The members of the men’s chorus are right—the slide into sin and apostasy happens “quietly and subtly”, so subtly that we “hardly notice it.” Due to the Fall, by nature we all tend toward spiritual declension, not improvement, and our children are no exception. Growth in godliness on the other hand is anything but subtle or passive, it is a supernatural work of God’s grace in the heart that works against the grain of our sinful nature. Thomas Watson reminds us, “Weeds grow of themselves; flowers are planted. Godliness is a celestial plant that comes from the New Jerusalem.”

At the same time, however, the Shorter Catechism teaches that the Christian, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, is to diligently use all the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption (WSC Q.85). For Christian parents, this means they are to train up their children using the means of grace, central among them being God’s Word. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Sanctification cannot happen apart from the Word. If we want our children to grow in the grace of sanctification we must put the Word before them early and often.

If you are not doing so already, I would strongly encourage you to begin worshipping as a family in your home. When I say, “family worship,” folks will sometimes wince and say, “That sounds very stilted.” But, it isn’t. Call it whatever you want— worship, devotion, Bible-time, quiet-time, I’m not picky. What you call it is of lesser importance than actually doing it. Family worship can be as simple as reading the Bible with your children, memorizing/reciting/discussing several catechism questions, and praying with and for your children.

That’s it, maybe 10 minutes of your time. And while it may not seem like much, as J.W. Alexander wrote in his book on family worship, this little investment of time over a period of years can yield everlasting results in the lives of your children:

“In many cases, we may suppose, the first believing prayers of the Christian youth ascend from the fireside. Slight impressions, otherwise transient, are thus fixed, and infant aspirations are carried up with the volume of domestic incense. Is it too much to say that, in this way, family worship becomes the means of everlasting salvation to multitudes?”[2]

Now, to those who have never had or no longer have small children/adolescents in the home, the question naturally arises, “What can I do?” For starters, I’d encourage you to reflect and meditate upon the vows you took at each of our covenant children’s baptisms:

“Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting the parents in the Christian nurture of this child?”[3]

These children, by virtue of their baptism, are entitled to the rights and protections of covenant membership, and are to be cared for to the degree that we care for their parents. Their sanctification, like our own, is a group project in which all must participate. Discipling our children is part and parcel of the Great Commission, we are called to disciple all within the visible church, both young and old, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. The Great Commission spans all tribes, tongues, nations, and ages.

Practically speaking, what does this “assisting the parents” look like? As a caution, I’d encourage those of you who have adult children to keep parenting advice that sounds like, “You should do “x” because that’s what I did with my children,” to a minimum. While this advice may be helpful at times, we need to keep in mind that no two children are alike, no two families are alike, and that the world looks considerably different now than it did 30, 20, and even 10 years ago (remember that Obergefell v. Hodges was decided just six years ago).

Wives don’t appreciate their husbands’ vain attempts to provide a quick fix to their complex problems; likewise, younger parents will respond better if you listen to the unique challenges and pressures they face before offering advice. Instead of jumping straight to the solution, start by asking parents what the needs of their family are, commit them to prayer, and check-in with the parents periodically to remind them that you are praying for them. Ask parents, “How are you and your spouse handling all the responsibilities on your plate? What are your children learning in school? In Sunday school? How can I pray specifically for your child?” As often as we lift up the names of our adult members at our prayer meeting, we should have the names of our covenant children frequently upon our lips. Whether or not they are our own children, many of them, even at a young age, already have God as their Father which makes them our brothers and sisters.

Additionally, opportunities to serve families and youth in the local church abound, whether your church is small or large, with a burgeoning youth group or only a handful of children. Churches are always looking for more nursery volunteers which affords young mothers the opportunity to participate in corporate worship and to teach their older children how to worship. Consider volunteering as a children’s Sunday school teacher, substitute teacher, or teacher’s assistant. And beyond Sunday mornings, make an effort to invite young families to your home, even if you aren’t young yourself, or offer to bring dinner to their home (bedtimes can be a factor with young children) and enjoy a time of fellowship with the family. 

As the Apostle Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians, do not lose heart (2 Cor 4:1). Do not let the world around you move you off of the unshakable promises that God has made to his church. Pray for the next generation. Pray that God would convert our children. Assist the parents among you as they raise the next generation. And model for the next generation what adulthood lived to the glory of Christ looks like both on the Lord’s Day and every day in between.

Stephen Spinnenweber is the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

Related Links

"Family Worship and Its Benefits" by Jason Helopoulos

"Courageous Christian Sexuality" by William Boekestein

Revoiced Spirituality by Jonathan Master

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman

Biblical Personhood & Gender Confusion, with Derek Thomas, Richard Phillips, and Rosaria Butterfield. 


[2] James W Alexander, Thoughts on Family Worship (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998), 34.

[3] PCA Book of Church Order, 56-5