The following is a great little article from my friend Pat Aldridge, who serve Redeemer Church in St. Charles, IL. Can’t find a word here I disagree with:
Since coming back from the Children Desiring God conference, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about helping kids develop a passion for God and His Gospel. Mostly “how-to” type stuff. The books I have been reading all start by making two things very clear: 1) The importance of family devotions, and 2) The importance of personal growth. I want to explore these issues in reverse order.
The reason I want to start with personal devotions is because apart from them, family devotions won’t have as much, if any, impact on our kids. Our kids need to SEE us spending time reading our Bibles, praying, and handling life in a godly way. They need to SEE grace in action. Whether you understand it or not, parents have the most influence over their children. Two things to keep in mind about that: 1) parents are the people that spent the most time with their children, and 2) kids are like sponges – they absorb a lot from those they spend the most time with. What are we teaching our kids about the value of God, that it’s a private thing not to be disturbed, or that it is in the things of everyday life?
Another reason I start with personal devotions is that you as the parent/teacher need be growing in the graces and mercies of God. If we as the parents/teachers are growing ourselves our teaching will be more mechanical (”going through the motions”) and less life transforming.
Finally, personal growth as a parent means at least one more thing; we need to let our kids SEE us deal with our sin, especially when that sin is against them. We are sinners, just like they are, and we need to deal with that sin openly and honestly if we expect them to do the same. They struggle with the same sins we do – selfishness, stubbornness… do I need to go on? The bottom line in all sin is pride. If our kids don’t see us deal with sin, they won’t understand its devastating power.
I like to think of family devotions as a kind of “small group” for your family. Most churches have small groups and when they are done well, this is where a lot of spiritual maturity happens. It shouldn’t be different with our families. At this point I must confess that I (like I suspect most of you) struggle with making this a habit. Our current schedule (my wife and I work opposite shifts with just a little overlap) compounds the problem. What we are learning is important in all aspects of child rearing; be intentional. We need to use the time God gives us to the best of its ability. Something I’ve had to say to myself is, “Stop making excuses, and just do it!”
I know what you may be thinking at this point, “Now that I have decided to do it, what should I do?” Here are some great resources to start you down the family devotions road. I have decided to start with a booklet put out by Children Desiring God called Helping Children Understand the Gospel by Sally Michael, Jill Nelson, and Bud Burk. I choose to start here because the Gospel is foundational. If I get this wrong it doesn’t matter what else I teach, it could (and probably will) be corrupt. I want my kids to cherish the richness of the message of the Gospel. Once the foundation is set we are planning on moving on to Bruce Ware’s book Big Truths for Young Hearts. It’s a great devotional that breaks down theology and helps kids (and parents as well) understand (as much as we can this side of heaven) how big God really is. From there we will probably us one of the many Catchisms that are out there. One of the ones we have is the Truth and Grace Memory Bookby Thomas K. Ascol put out by Founders Press. There are a lot of good resourses out there, ask people you trust they can probably recommend more, these are the ones I have come in contact with and will work for me.
Keep the following things in mind:
1) As parents we have the PRIMARY responsibility to raise our children in the ways of God. It’s not the church’s job to see that our kids get God. We spend the most amount of time with our kids and they learn a lot from watching what we do, say, and how we handle life.
2) Help your kids see God in the mundane, everyday situations of life.
3) Let your kids see you deal with sin. Don’t hide it or rationalize it away. Deal with it. This will teach your kids volumes about how dangerous sin is.
4) If you need help, ask. It doesn’t matter what stage you or your kids are at, start working to deepen their faith (yours will be deepened in the process).
5) Be intentional. We don’t know how much time we have so use it wisely.
6) Always have the heart in mind. Work on the heart not the behavior.
What are you reading or learning on this topic? Please share.