Sadly, many parents today believe that they have fulfilled their spiritual duty to their children by taking them to church and turning them over to Sunday school and youth group. Being part of a local assembly of believers is certainly part of every Christian’s biblically mandated duty (Hebrews 10:25), but that is not the primary method of spiritual instruction for children. The primary means of evangelism and discipleship is the family unit. The nuclear family is a microcosm of the Church. This is God’s design.
So, you might be asking, how are we supposed to incorporate spiritual instruction into our family lives? Perhaps you did not grow up in a Christian home, or are a new parent and just beginning to think about the road ahead, and how best to honor the Lord with the children He has given you. In this post, I will give you some ideas about practical home instruction, as well as food for thought on some things my husband and I have chosen to implement so as to give our children a clear example to follow after. I by no means consider myself an expert, but a fellow sojourner on the narrow path.
The first step is to make sure that you are doing regular bible study and prayer, yourself. We lead in all things, by example. If you are not feeding yourself spiritually, you cannot expect to feed others. Being in a personal, growing relationship with the Lord is vital. It demonstrates to your children the priority that God has in your life, and it also fills your need and teaches you, so that you can then pour into your children and teach them. If you have not been regular with your study and prayer, today is a great day to start! You cannot be in a relationship with someone you never talk to or learn about, right? Reading God’s word is how we hear from Him, and learn about who He is. Prayer is how we talk to Him. I think we are more likely to be successful in personal study and prayer time if we set a specific time each day. I always have my personal study time right after the kids go out the door to the bus stop. Pick a time, read some scripture, meditate on what it means and then talk to God in prayer. I also believe that you will best be served by reading through a book verse by verse. It is difficult to get the proper context and meaning if you are just reading a verse here and there willy-nilly. The point is to understand what God is saying, not decide what we think the verse means to us individually.
The next step is to have a family worship time every day. At our stage of life with teens, we have found right after dinner while still at the table works best for us. When the kids were younger, we would incorporate bible reading into the bedtime routine. Just like personal study time, picking a specific time usually makes for more regular success. If both parents are believers, then it is best for dad to take the lead here. God has ordained that men be the spiritual head of their homes (1 Corinthians 11:3). Dads, don’t fret if you are not bible experts. The Holy Spirit will help you. Read a portion of scripture aloud, talk about what it means, and allow for kids to ask questions. Sometimes this will get a great discussion going, especially with older kids who may decide to share things about friends at school or other issues that relate to what you have just read. It is good to end with prayer time, maybe praying for things discussed during the learning portion, or other issues that have been shared. Keep in mind your kids age-level attention spans. This doesn’t have to go on a long time.
Now that we have covered the two most important aspects to spiritual instruction in the home, I will share some strategies that we have used in our family. When the Holy Spirit, through the regular reading of the word, begins to reshape our perspective into a biblical perspective, we can see opportunities for incorporating biblical principles and truth into many daily situations. One of these situations is discipline. I believe it is important to call misbehavior what it is: sin. When we discipline our children, we always explain what the consequences are for. Hitting, or talking back are not just “not nice”, they are sin. Sin against God and sin against the other person. This goes both ways. As a mom, there have been times when I have been too harsh or impatient, and like my own parents demonstrated to me when I was a child, I make sure to ask for forgiveness from my children when I have sinned against them in anger or unfairness. This is so important for kids to see. First of all, its honest. Secondly, it is modeling to them the right and Godly way to conduct ourselves when we have done something wrong. It is also important as parents to make sure we are offering forgiveness to our children freely, just as God is merciful and forgiving toward us. Aim to give them the correct picture of their heavenly Father through your grace-filled and merciful responses. Another aspect to Godly discipline is that the objective of our discipline of our children should bring about their repentance, just as God’s discipline of His children is designed to do. (Ephesians 6:4)
Something else we always try to do is to incorporate explanations of our choices into conversations with our kids. There are lots of opportunities to model to our kids a striving after holiness, so as to honor the Lord. For example, there are many television shows, movies and secular music groups that I forgo because as a believer I do not want to put evil in front of my eyes and that is exactly the reason I give to my children. “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” Psalm 101:3
I find it very concerning, the lack of contrast many professing Christian parents demonstrate in their family lives to their kids. Now, not everyone will agree with me but this section of the essay is food for your thought. We are more conservative than most people we know. Our aim is not to be religious and legalistic, but rather to ‘practice what we preach’ and demonstrate a striving after holiness. We forgo many worldly entertainments and habits because we want to give a very clear contrast of “the world” versus “Christians”. Some of the things that we have eschewed might be considered areas of liberty. I am not trying to saddle anyone with my own convictions, by any means. Rather I would appeal to Christian parents to seriously evaluate weather or not there is a striking contrast between the culture of the lost world compared with your own family culture. If you watch all of the same shows, listen to all of the same music, concern yourselves with the same issues and have the same pop-culture focus as the lost, then what difference does your supposed faith make, your kids might ask? It is my belief that kids are better prepared for being out in the world as young adults when they have been given a very clear and sharp contrast in their own families of origin as compared with the wider world. It is easier for them to see “acceptable sins” and have an opportunity to turn away from them, if their family has been set apart and acted as an incubator of Christian living. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 Does this guarantee that kids raised in a Christian environment won’t go astray? No. Only God can sovereignly change hearts. But it is our God given responsibility to raise our children in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, and to demonstrate to them what that looks like.
Last and most importantly, pray for your children! Pray for their salvation, and ask the Lord to give you His wisdom as you raise them. He will answer.
Soli Deo Gloria!