One of the most heartbreaking verses in the Bible is found in Judges 2.10. After the death of Joshua, we read about Israel’s tragic departure from the Lord: “there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”
The generation who ate manna from heaven, who watched as their rebellious parents died in the wilderness, and who witnessed miracles victories, somehow failed to instill a knowledge of the Lord in their children.
Did they forget the command in Deuteronomy?
“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 6.5-7)
Were they simply too busy conquering and constructing?
Did they simply hope that having their kids around the right people would help them learn through osmosis?
We are not given the details, but that small verse in Joshua implies an epidemic lapse in parental responsibility.
What will be our legacy as 21st-century Christian Parents? While we cannot control what our nation chooses to do, we each choose the direction in which we lead our families.
The battle for the hearts and minds of our children doesn’t begin in the schoolyard. Success cannot be found in a pew cushion. If we want a shot at winning this war, we prepare for the fight on our knees. God is not going to force us to be good parents nor will he force our children to robotically obey him. He will, however, equip us with the strength and wisdom to guide our families in the right direction.
What are some habits we should establish to strengthen our families in the Lord?
Pray as a Family.
The best way to teach our children how to pray is to pray with them.
To establish this habit, begin by praying together before each meal. Practice this consistently, and your children will eventually stop you from eating to make sure you’ve said a prayer. Once this routine is established, look for another time when you are routinely together and make time to pray as a family, allowing each member of the family to participate.
The value of reading the bible with your children cannot be overstated.
When my oldest daughter was barely a year old, I would read to her from a toddler bible while she sat in her high chair. During worship, as long as she wasn’t acting up, I would nestle her in my lap and allow her to flip through a children’s book of bible stories. As my children grew, I would adjust this routine, reading during a snack or meal while they were doing something they enjoyed. In their early years, I would use story bibles, rhyme bibles, or children’s picture bibles to keep their attention. Now that I have a 7, 9, and 11-year-old, I’m able to read straight from the Bible at breakfast time. It’s so ingrained in our routine that if I start eating without my Bible on the table, my seven-year old will dash into my bedroom to get it.
Elisabeth Elliot, Doctor Dobson, and Corrie Ten Boom, all wrote about how their parents read the Bible daily with their children. In each case, nearly all of the children in their family remained faithful to the Lord. I cannot predict whether all my children will choose to follow Christ, but I can make a concerted effort to teach them the gospel while they are in my home.
Commitment to Worship
Demonstrate to your children that giving our time to God in worship, encouraging fellow Christians, and learning about His Word are vital commitments. If we allow other activities to encroach on this time, what message our we communicating by our actions?
What we do speaks volumes above anything we say.
- Are we helping others?
- Do we approach worship with joy or groaning?
- Do we skip services for super bowl, soccer, or simply to sleep in?
Those little eyes are watching our every move.
What are they learning from us about the importance (or unimportance) of worshipping the Father?
Eat A Meal Together each day
My spouse used to work twelve-hour shifts in law-enforcement, so I am well-acquainted with the challenge of scheduled family meals. During his first year, the schedule changed monthly. There were many “lunch break” dinners in which he would sit down in the chair and dispatch would call him out to the road before he’d had a chance to take a bite.
Life is unpredictable. I get it.
No matter how wacky your schedule, attempt to eat together at least once a day. Be intentional about it. Some of the best conversations with your children happen around that dining room table.
Involve Children in the Important
The best choice I made was to start involving my children in important tasks. If we want children to have a vested stake within our family and our churches, we have to involve them in both the menial and the important. Let go of perfection in the kitchen. Allow them to accompany you on a visit with the elderly. Let them read the bible aloud during devotion time. Give them the opportunity to pray for the family. If they feel they are being enabled to take a vital role in the family, they will remain more committed to it over time.
God has given us our children for such a brief season. Seize the opportunity to pray diligently over your family and point them toward the Lord. A relationship with God is of greater value than fame, careers, or financial status.