“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and 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.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7
A parent’s most basic task is to help their children learn how to live in God’s world. This isn’t a once in a while task, but an opportunity that is available nearly every moment.
One of our elders recently shared how he an his wife help their seven children develop spiritually. What follows are my reflections on the principles he shared with us.
- Family Devotions
Few habits are more important in a home than daily Bible reading. There is no magic formula to the reading, just open the Bible and read it together. Read through chapter by chapter and discuss what you learn about God, about people, and how you should respond. Then ask God to help you. How much you read is less important than the consistency of your reading. A family that feasts on daily manna together is a family that will grow in their love for the Giver of the manna.
- Individual Devotions
Children that can read should be encouraged to read the Bible. They should not be forced to do it, but they should be encouraged to do it. One of the most important parts of parenting is teaching your children to listen to the voice of their heavenly Father. Encourage your children to read, write down questions, and talk about what they are reading with you. And make sure you are in the Word as well. Seeing their parents make the Word a priority will only reinforce their need to do the same.
- Corporate Prayer
Pray together. When you are short on money, gather together and ask God to provide what you need. When you face bullies at school or problems at work, gather together and pray. When God provides for your family, gather together and celebrate. When there are sorrows or suffering or sickness, gather together and cry out to God. Fill the atmosphere of you home with prayer. There’s not one thing we face in which God is not needed, so gather together often to pray.
- Individual Prayer
Encourage your child to pray. At first, they will not know how, but neither did the disciples. Show them how Jesus taught His disciples to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Show them how the psalmists prayed. Praying as a family is important, but teaching them to pray as an individual is also important. Show them that the Father in heaven hears when they come to Him in secret (Matthew 6:6). I do not think you ought command them to pray, but I cannot think of a better constant encouragement.
- Talking About What God Thinks About Everything
We live in God’s world. He made everything in it. That means that every blade of grass, every sip of water, every note of music, and every movie made by an image bearer points to Him. Learn to help your children see with enlightened eyes. This is one of my favorite parts of parenting. We try to not allow an experience we have together go unexamined. What would God think about the movie we just watched? What message is in the song we just listened to? Why did God create an underwater world so few ever see? Why would God give us pets that die? Why does God make us sleep so much of our lives? Questions about God’s creation and our experiences in it are an inexhaustible mine of mind-shaping opportunity. Help your family to examine all things through the lens of God’s Word.
- Talking about our sin and the sins of others
Everyone in your house is a sinner—and everyone knows it. Teach your children what to do about it. They ought see their father and mother humbly confessing sins to each other, and to them. Few family trips are more important than the ones to the throne of grace. Has someone used harsh words? Has someone lied? Confess it to God together. Ask one another for forgiveness. Parents need to wisely consider what to confess to their children, but it should happen. A family that learns to confess sins together will know the power of the Gospel in a way that is unattainable any other way.
- Consistent Church Life
The life of the family should be oriented around the life of God’s people. Few things teach a child apathy toward God like skipping church for sports or unnecessary weekend getaways. A child should see, from their earliest age that gathering with other Christians to sing, pray, and hear God’s Word is the greatest of privileges one can have. Certainly there are other things families can and ought do together, but faithful service of God’s mission as part of a healthy local church is one of the most essential.
- Individual Time with Each Child
Each child is unique. This means each child requires unique care and attention. In families with numerous children, individual time with each child is important. Some will need stern direction where others will require gentler shepherding. Some will respond well to structure while others may be stifled by it. Each child will have unique questions and abiding sin struggles. God the Father relates to each of His children uniquely, we must do the same for our children.
There is no perfect strategy to produce perfect children. But these are a few principles that if followed in faith, can be used by God to help create a spiritual-mindedness in our children that we hope will bear fruit for His glory.
These eight principles came from a talk one of our elders, Mercury Payton recently shared with our church.