“Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night.” Deuteronomy 11: 18-19 The Message
We choose churches for many reasons, one being how active their children’s and youth ministries appear. While these ministries help engage our children with their faith, I fear parents sometimes substitute their personal responsibility as the family’s spiritual leader for these programs.
I’ve seen this from many angles: as a daughter of divorce, a Sunday school teacher/youth director and as a parent.
More children than ever are raised in broken homes – absent a father, mother or both. And, when they step foot into a church, brought by a grandparent, aunt or uncle or neighborhood friend, the teacher/youth leader is most often the first and only reflection of Christ in their lives. The church leader becomes their spiritual parent, creating a haven where these children find grace, mercy, and companionship; a place of purpose, joy, and spiritual growth.
Watching my children transform from helpless infants into stubbornly independent toddlers, I realized firsthand, a parent’s great spiritual responsibility. As a parent we are our child’s first reflection of God. How we treat them, what we teach them through our actions, words, and deeds determines their world view and their God-view, regardless how wonderful their Sunday school teachers and youth leaders are. What we emulate at home matters most. Yikes!
So, if we’re so messed up, how does God expect us to teach them His ways? God says it best in Deuteronomy 11: 18-20. Devour God’s Word until it becomes part of who you are. Then teach these things to your children all the time – morning, noon, and night. And if you do, His Word becomes part of them and things will go well (paraphrased).
In other words:
- Make God a priority in your own life – develop your relationship with God first. We cannot teach our kids what we don’t do ourselves.
- Intentionally teach your children God’s Word and Ways - show them God’s presence in everyday occurrences (creation, relationships, etc). Do your kids see you reading the Bible, praying other than grace? Is Bible reading and praying part of family time?
- Reflect God in every part of your life - not just at church.
- Be real – when you mess up, admit it and ask their forgiveness. Kids need to know we’re not perfect.
- Show mercy and compassion - keep the doors of communication open with unconditional love. Set healthy boundaries and discipline with love.
It is our number one priority and privilege, as Christian parents, to reflect who God is to our children. We’re not perfect but we are their first encounter with the One, true, and living God. Embrace every opportunity. There is no substitute!Embracing Every Opportunity, Dawn Aldrich Author of Auntie’s House Host of Penn’s Pals