(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)
“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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
~ Deuteronomy 6.4-8, ESV
The ancient Israelites showcase the rewards of following God and the pitfalls of apathy. We would do well to learn from their mistakes. The above passage from Deuteronomy, while addressed to the Israelites, holds a very important principle for parents and teachers alike: actively teach your children about the Lord and His commands.
Commit this verse to your memory and to your heart. Write it down and then put it into action—today.
In this series on training GenNext Christians, we have covered two of our 6 E’s—Engage and Exemplify. This next string of posts will cover E number three: Equip: Teach and Train. As this is the more technical part of the 6 E’s, I will have to break this up into several posts.
Teaching begins with example.
The passage above begins with “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your should and with all your might.” As noted in the “example” segment of this series, it all begins with your example. If you do not love God completely and your children observe that failing, they will be less likely to follow the Lord. Conversely, if your love for God pours into your speech and actions, they will know how to emulate that in their own life.
Commit the Word to Your Heart.
Immediately after the aforementioned sentence, Moses says, “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” Are you committing the Bible to your own heart? Do you know what it actually says? If you aren’t taking the time to learn the word, how on earth can you teach it to your children?
When I was a junior in high school, I took an Honors Precalculus class. It was horrendous, and not because of the math. Our teacher was the basketball coach, but had a minor in math. As always, I never judge a teacher until he/she proves capability or incapability. Within the first class period, my classmates and I concluded that the man had a very thin grasp of precalculus.. He would start to “help” us with a problem and inevitably get stuck himself. At first, I thought it was a teaching method (I gave him the benefit of the doubt), but I quickly surmised that he just didn’t know precalculus very well. My fellow students and I had to teach ourselves throughout the course of the year. We relied heavily on each other. If we hadn’t been motivated by grades we probably wouldn’t have learned the subject at all.
The point is this: if you expect your kids’ schoolteachers to have a working knowledge of the secular subjects they are teaching, don’t you think it’s fair to say we need to have a growing knowledge of the Bible in order to teach our own children? Consider regular bible study as “continuing education,” much in the same way Doctors, accountants and nurses take “continuing education units.”
45-90 minutes per week is not enough
Child’s waking hours: 12 hours = 720 minutes/day or 5,040 minutes/week
Bible class: 45 minutes (if attending 1x/week) or 90 minutes (if attending 2x/week)
School instruction: 7 hours/day, 5 days/week = 2,100 minutes
The average bible class is 45 minutes. An average child is awake about 12 hours (give or take) per day. That’s 84 hours or 5,040 minutes. If they go to public or private school, they will spend 2,100 of those minutes under someone else’s instruction. If we do not actively teach our children when they are at home with us, how on earth can we expect them to really learn the Bible??? 45 minutes of bible class does not trump 2,100 minutes of public school education. Don’t even get me started on hours spent in front of the television!
Do not rely solely on church attendance and church-run bible class to equip your children.
Notice what Moses tells the Israelites in our above passage: “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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This doesn’t sound like a once-in-awhile activity. It is something we must do every chance we get. Whenever we are with our kids is an opportunity to teach.We must take an active role in the daily spiritual education of our children. It must be as regular as eating.
Do not over-delegate.
When it comes to teaching our children, many parents send them off to camps, VBS, and bible classes. These are all wonderful activities. As I have said in my previous posts, I think it’s valuable (and vital) for children to engage with Christian adults (in addition to parents and relatives) in order to make lasting connections within the church. However, if we fail to take a hand in teaching them ourselves, and rely solely on bible classes and church activities, we have over-delegated the task of teaching.
As you are leaving bible class, ask your children to summarize what they’ve learned in class. Listen carefully and ask for clarification when necessary. There is always a possibility they are learning things that do not agree with the Bible and/or give a distorted view of truth. It is possible they misunderstood the teacher and need further explanation. They need you! Be active in your child’s spiritual education in the same way you help in their secular education (assuming that you help with homework, know the teacher, encourage reading, etcetera).
Teaching is not brainwashing.
Do not be deceived by your atheist friends—teaching children about God is NOT brainwashing! Brainwashing connotes severe indoctrination to the point of extremism. I have no desire to brainwash my children, just as God does not brainwash us. I want them to know God, but I want them to possess a faith of their very own, fully convinced in their own mind. I want them to be challenged and know how to dig deeply for answers. In our homeschool, we expose them to evolutionary theory, world religions and contrary viewpoints, asking questions as to how they interpret that information. We will continue to do so! They need to know the commonly held assumptions that run contrary to godly beliefs in order to learn critical thinking, debate, and examination skills.
In the early years, of course, you will be helping them along in their comparison (this is where people often think of it as brainwashing), but this is how most subjects are taught!! You don’t ask a child what they think “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” means, listen to their faulty interpretation and leave it at that. You teach them what “wherefore” actually means, you show them how to look at context. You teach them, in essence, to think analytically. Again, not brainwashing!
Every single person has a worldview formed by their surrounding influences. Our children our entrusted to our care for a very short time, and we, as parents are given the right to teach what we want to teach. Because we love God, we want them to have a godly worldview: one that doesn’t discriminate based on race or class, shows mercy, extends love, rejoices in just judgements, practices truth, walks by faith, cultivates humility, employs critical thinking techniques, and—above all—honors the Lord. That is not brainwashing, it is training.
How do we do this teaching thing? What does it look like?
Tomorrow’s post, Lord willing, will touch on some tools and techniques we can use to help our children grow in the Lord. I will include specific books, videos, and CDs as well as a few free printables. I hope you will join me as we continue in this series of raising GenNext Christians!
Here is a brief list of what we have covered to date, in case you’ve missed any posts in this series: