Do you remember the first day of kindergarten for your child? It was an exciting and fearful time. Walking your child up to the school building only to release his or her hand to enter a new era of life gave rise to emotion of fear and pride.

During the month of May, many parents are now watching that same child walk across a stage to receive a high school diploma, college degree or advanced degree. It stirs many of the same emotions as when you walked your child into the kindergarten classroom. Joy grips your heart as you see visible signs of achievement, and trepidation fills your heart as you realize that child has broken the bonds of childhood and emerged into an adult.

Commencement exercises demonstrate accomplishments by your children. Their grades are in the books, and they have passed. As parents, your grades now begin to be placed in the books. You have spent years training, developing and shaping your children. When your children walk across the stage and begin a life of independence (OK, maybe not complete independence), you must now stand aside to see if they will walk in the path you have set before them and if years of molding character will pass the test of independence.

The exercise is aptly named. With graduation, your children do commence a new stage of life; all of the spiritual and other life lessons will be put to the test. These children will now make decisions on their own. Mom and Dad will not be there to say “lights out” or “time for bed.” There will be no curfew or ability to walk with them into situations of great temptation.

Parents cannot waste the formative years with their children. Spiritual investment in the lives of children and the shaping of their worldview is of utmost importance. You have but a brief time to inculcate in your children’s lives the values held dear. Sunday morning input is important, but will fall painfully short if this is your only effort to shape the minds and hearts of your children.

Moses had it right. Children are shaped along the way. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) Parents must teach children to read the Bible for themselves and teach them how to apply the principles to life situations. These great truths from Scripture are best taught when they are lived before your children. You cannot settle for talk only. Truth is caught as your children watch you apply God’s Word in real life situations.

Last week, Polla and I had the privilege of attending what may be the last commencement for one of our children. Our daughter graduated from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Like every parent, we watched with great pride as she walked across the stage to receive her Master’s of Arts in Christian Education. Her accomplishment was a testimony to more than two years of exhausting study and diligent preparation for ministry. It was a great day and worthy of celebration. She is about to commence being an adult with a salary. PTL!

I can tell you our greatest pride is that she learned well the lessons taught throughout her life. Her love for the Savior, the Word and the church represent a lifetime of teaching in learning moments along the way. I am thankful for every investment teachers from kindergarten to seminary have made in her life. But I am just as glad that her mother and I did not leave the task of shaping her character to the church or the school. We tried to make every moment count in preparing her for the world she faces.

Don’t miss the teachable moments that happen in the normal traffic patterns of life. These are the ingredients for a joyful and proud commencement ceremony.

Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.