I’m going to be doing this post in a couple of parts as I’m still working on it.
I’m often asked how we communicated to our boys our Christian beliefs. Did we have a particular Bible curriculum we used? Did we use all Christian textbooks? Did we have daily devotions?
In some ways our methods were very simple, but not necessarily easy. I will offer some suggestions here, but before you use these or go looking for curriculum, you need to do first things first. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then all these things will be added unto you.’
The first, and most important step is that you pray, seek God, and examine your own life and beliefs. Skipping over this foundational step, making sure your relationship with God is real and growing, undermines anything you might have to say to your children. Our children live with us. For better or worse, we are their first glimpse of a Heavenly Father. They know, even if others don’t, if the faith we profess is still in evidence behind closed doors. They will note, at first with confusion, and later with contempt if we make much ado about our faith in public and then are angry, judgmental and critical at home. Our children do not need to see us as perfect examples, then they wouldn’t know how to deal with the struggles and temptations that will inevitably come. But they do need to see us dealing with our lives with integrity, asking for forgiveness when we fail, and continuing our journey in faith. So as tempting as it is to want to jump ahead and buy that perfect curriculum that will instill all the right values in our children, or find the perfect church/youth group to see to it that they have only the best in Christian friends…none of that will have the influence on your child that watching you will. So determine now to look to your own spiritual well being and to live an authentic faith for your children.
Secondly, since parents are in parenting mode, disciplining and training their children 24/7, it is often too easy to communicate that Christianity is ‘not doing this and not doing that’. If we want our children to be drawn into a personal relationship with God we need to have more to offer them than a rulebook. Christianity, as Christ lived it, is endlessly appealing. It offers a safe place to unload our burdens, to be real, to find healing and rest. There is joy, real solid joy, in the Christian life. There is laughter and fellowship and fun. Is this what your children think of when they think of living a Christian life? Or do they think of a list of rules…have they heard you say, (I pray not) ‘what will people at church think?’. Of course we teach our children how to behave, we have a spiritual and moral obligation to do so, but if we stop there we have only made half the journey. In a sense, we have stopped in the Old Testament only giving our children the law. The New Testament offers more, it offers Christ. It offers a way to deal with the law that brings peace, healing, and forgiveness. We now have the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control…these fruits will draw our children toward the heart of God. So be sure that in your home your children are seeing the joy and fun of living a life of faith.
Thirdly, God’s plan, sometimes a baffling plan I admit, has been to work through the church. From the beginning in Acts, God has shown that He planned to spread the Good News through His church. He has called the church His bride. Steve and I have felt involvement in church is a critical part of our children’s journey in faith. Church life, just like family life, is a mixed bag. Some parts of it are wonderful. Much of the fun and joy of the Christian life my children have experienced, has been either at church, or with other families from the church. Messages received there, from others, has reinforced what they have been learning at home. Opportunities to serve in Sunday School, VBS, or in their Youth Groups has given them places to find and use their gifts. Unfortunately churches are made up of people who have not been totally perfected in Christ yet, and not all church experiences are positive. My children (and Steve and I) have been hurt, sometimes deeply, by the words and actions of others at church. How we deal with that is also a powerful, pivotal learning moment for our children. Do they see us living with truth and integrity, not denying our hurt, but not holding onto and feeding it either? Do they see us forgiving, loving, and moving past? Do we withdraw from the church when times are tough….is that what Christ would have us do? These are real and sometimes painful questions and moments in everyones life, and how we deal with them will shape our children. For me, I want my children to be committed to church life. During the tough times I pray that their character and faith will be refined and strengthened, and during the good times I pray they find fellowship, fun, and lasting friendships, during all of it I pray they have a place to come worship, learn, and serve.