The Eight P’s of Parenting (Part 2)
The Eight P’s of Parenting (Part 2)
In these bulletins, we’re studying eight ways parents can help work toward the salvation of their kids. Last week it was to Provide for Them and Pray for Them. This week:
Pass onto Them the Faith
Faith in one generation does not automatically become faith in the next. Faith is not hereditary, like a button nose or blue eyes. Eli was a good priest, but his sons Hophni and Phineas were atrocious (1 Sam. 2:12). Samuel was an important prophet and judge, but his sons Joel and Abijah were terrible (1 Sam. 8:3). David was a great king, but his sons Absalom and Ahimelech betrayed him (1 Kings 1:6). Being a good Christian ourselves and helping our children become good Christians are two complimentary but distinct efforts.
Faith passes from generation to generation through active teaching. God has no intention of appearing miraculously to every generation; instead, God commanded older generations to tell miracle stories “to your sons and your grandsons” (Deut. 4:9). Three times God told Israel that their children would ask a question—about the Passover meal (Exodus 12:26-27), about the commandments (Deut. 6:20-25), and about the memorial stones from the Jordan River crossing (Joshua 4:21-24)—all three times God told them to use the opportunity to instruct and inspire. Not, “go ask your mother,” not “go ask the preacher,” not “go outside and play and stop bugging me with your questions.” To answer why. To instruct and inspire.
God says in Deut. 6:7, “you shall teach [these words] diligently to your sons and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” In other words, morning noon and night. In the pew and in the car. In Wal-mart and at Disney. When something good pops up on TV and when something bad pops up on TV. Take advantage of teachable moments. There is never a bad time to impart godly wisdom to our kids.
This takes patience and effort. There are some moments when “because I said so” is sufficient—moments like, “put that down!” or “get out of the road!” Part of a child’s learning about authority is that he should obey whether he at that second fully understands the reasons why. But other moments beg for teaching and explaining. “Why do we have to go to church?” could be dismissed with, “you hush and get in the car because that’s just what we do!” This statement is sufficient to compel a young child to obey. But this statement is not sufficient to convince a growing child that worship obligations are important, helpful, enjoyable, meaningful.
Thus, “Why, dad, do we go to church?” is an excellent opportunity to pass on the faith. “Because, my dear, God is our creator, and God is our provider, and God has done so much for us that we enjoy going to worship Him and say thank you.” “But, dad, why do we go so often?” “Yes, dear, I know that there are times when we want to do other things. But God’s word says assembling together gives us encouragement and time with people we love who share our convictions!” And so forth.
I suppose we parents can overdo it so that our kids dread every long car ride. But, teach some! Don’t foolishly say, “I want my kids to be able to make up their own minds about God and life.” That sounds so enlightened and so fair. But don’t you worry, Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4); he owns the airwaves, the schools, and the streets, and he will claim more than equal time without you offering it. No matter how often we drag our children to worship, no matter how often we teach, Satan will be working to offer our kids plenty of opportunities to make up their own minds.
Don’t leave teaching to the Bible class teachers alone. Thirty years ago, Homer Hailey wrote in Carrying out the Great Commission, p. 134, “A serious error made by today’s parents is to commit the spiritual development of their children to a few minutes of Sunday morning Bible classes for which neither the parents nor the children make any serious preparation.”
We parents should create opportunities to teach. Paul says in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Bring your children to Bible studies offered by the congregation. Have conversations about the Bible and the lesson at home. We must not just compel, we must convince. Influence requires time, connection, and conversation. Instead of coming home and plopping down on the sofa to watch TV, parents must get involved in children’s lives to influence them. Ask them what happened during their day and don’t take, “Nothing,” for an answer. Pledge that you will not turn on the TV or pursue your own hobbies until you’ve spent time with the kids.
Of all God’s creatures, only human beings have the privilege of imparting to children character and wisdom. Mommy spiders do not teach spiderlings how to spin webs. Mommy mammals teach survival skills but not character—the rat doesn’t care if her brood says their prayers, and the tiger doesn’t worry that her cubs marry well. The angels do not reproduce (Matt. 22:30). Only human beings have the responsibility of imparting character to children. Even if we are not ultimately responsible for our children’s choices, we are responsible for how we guided them. We must help them to develop a faith of their own.
If we shirk our God-given responsibility to teach, we will reap the consequences in church buildings with no young voices. Pass onto them the faith!