Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Teaching our Children

It's back to school time! For many, this will be a child's first year. For many others, your young ones aren't quite old enough to go yet, but this time of year gives you a slight chill thinking about the day when they will be!
Living in Canada, we are blessed to have excellent schools, which are affordable, that teach our children the skills necessary to find work, and that encourage interest in extracurricular options and foster our children's natural abilities, wherever they may lie.
But given the ease with which we can drop off our children with their teachers, we can look within the school for additional help for our children, or even hire a tutor if they are having difficulties, it can sometimes be difficult to maintain the position of 'teacher' in our child's life. And 'teacher' is indeed a role that we are meant to hold. The Bible speaks repeatedly to parents, appealing them to teach their children well, and to remember to tell them about God. The book of Proverbs is essentially a letter to a son from his father, with deference to his mother, teaching him in the ways he should go.
The Bible does not reference Math, or Social, or English, or Science. Society discovered a long time ago that it made more sense to train up select individuals in certain fields and to have them pass along their wealth of knowledge, rather than hope that each family would know how to teach their children multiplication tables. But there is a danger in that method, and that's when we forget how quickly and deeply the world pollutes.

Within our children's education, they will be taught that it is wrong to say that homosexuality is a sin. They will be taught that it is fantastical to believe in a Divine Creator. They will be told that it is not acceptable to believe that some people will go to hell because they believe differently. And this will all be taught to them within our current public school system. It will creep up in science when they discuss evolution. It will creep up in social and english, and I daresay in extracurricular programs. And this is why we need to uphold our position of the primary teacher to our children.

It's about headship. The way a husband is responsible for the affairs of his household, or an elder holds a responsibilty for the affairs of the church. As parents, we do not have to be the only ones teaching our children for their entire education, but when you get down to the bottom line, we do have to be the ones to help our children filter the lies that they will hear, and we absolutely need to be the ones to affirm them in their faith, and to help them hold fast in the face of persecution. If our children stumble because of things they are taught in school, we are not guilty of having taught it to them, but we are responsible for how we address it, and how we guide our children. And the worst thing that we can do is ignore their education, assuming that it's taken care of, and forgetting to involve ourselves so that we are really aware of what our children are being taught.

Now what about Sunday School? Can we not draw the same conclusions from there? Actually, we should be drawing more! The one thing the Bible makes clear as the responsibility for parents to teach their children, is about God and His promises.
And yet, how many of us fail to actively teach our children about God? It's a plague in most churches right now that parents are dropping their kids off to Sunday School, hoping that the program will 'straighten them out' and then not talking about God or church with their families all week until the next time they go to Sunday School. And the way that most Sunday School programs are dealing with this less-involved level of committment and study is by over-simplifying their programs and never digging deeper. So while parents are increasingly relying on Sunday School programs to teach their children everything they need to know about God, the programs are failing by focusing more on keeping kids entertained than teaching them what it means to live for God's glory.
Sunday School, at it's best, can only do so much for your children. It's one morning a week. Once you factor in games and snack (even if they are on theme), it's only really an hour of teaching that your kids receive. We should know by now that an hour on Sunday, unaided by our own efforts, will do little to guide us through a whole week. As adults we devote ourselves to personal study, devotions, prayer times, life groups and accountability groups. We see these as beneficial and even essential to maintaining our heart for God and our desire for Him. Our faith is like a fire that needs to be fed, or else it will burn up too quickly and go out long before we walk back into church the next Sunday.
But how are our children to do this for themselves? Our little ones, some of whom can't even read, rely on us, their parents and teachers, to help them feed the fire. If on Sunday we teach them that God is their ever-present help and that He is everywhere, and in charge of everything, yet we fail to acknowledge Him through the week, are we affirming that message? And as our children grow older, to a point where they can engage in private study, how are they to know what some scriptures mean if they don't have guidance?

We need to embrace, defend and practice our role as the primary teachers in our children's lives. But how?

Deuteronomy 11:19 says, "Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
We need to take every opportunity to teach our children about God and His ways. When you're sitting around at home, ask your child what they want to hear about from the Bible. You might be surprised with what they come up with!
On the road, make sure you pray before each journey, discuss how we rely on God for our safety and that our lives are in His hands, and how He made the things we see out the window.
Read a Bible story and say prayers at night, encouraging your kids to remember that God is watching over them and thanking Him for everything that day. I highly suggest reading the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. She helps illustrate how every story points to Jesus and how the Bible isn't about us, but it's all about Him.
Greet your kids in the morning with a reminder of how God gave this day to us. Teach them to look to Him in all situations.
After school, ask your kids what they learned and make a point to ask if there was anything they heard that they didn't think was quite right. Ask them about what other kids said, as well as the teachers. Lots of times kids have troubles processing things that their peers say, and assume that it's acceptable to act or talk another way because Mommy and Daddy might not have specifically said, "Make sure you don't say _________"

Take time as a family to worship God, either through service or praise. Do random acts of kindness together to help the kids understand practically showing God's love. Check out this blog post for some great ideas!
And don't forget to demonstrate God's love to them by how you deal with them daily. We have a perfect model of the perfect parent in God. And one of the roles that God actively embraces as our Father, is being our teacher.

To God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen!

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