I want to offer two final suggestions for training our children well in knowledge of God:
5. Develop a structure for a focused time of Bible reading and prayer. In other words, practice family worship. Not only does God deserve our worship, but the benefits of having our children see that we take seriously the reading of God’s Word, prayer, and (if you are so inclined) singing together as a family are incalculable. This is one more communal practice that will shape their hearts, but it will have the potential to impact them on a more regular basis than Sunday gatherings with the whole church.
I think the keys to doing family worship are to keep it simple and not to give up. Keep it simple because you don’t want to demand so much from your children that you leave them dreading family worship. Family worship is probably not the time to spend 45 minutes exegeting a passage of Scripture. But if you can spend even just 5-10 minutes reading the Bible together, talking about what it means, singing a hymn of praise, and praying in light of what you just read, that will be a very worthwhile practice over time. Choose a time that works well for your family. I have chosen the time right after dinner, when we are all sitting together at the table. Of course, there are many nights when we are not at the table together because we are at baseball practices, games, or other events. So we don’t do it every night.
And that brings me to the other key to success here: don’t give up. You probably won’t have a structured time for family worship every single day. In fact, you may be doing well to do it 2-3 times a week. That’s okay. Stick with it. Don’t give up. Do your best to make sure it is a regular practice, even if it is not a daily practice. Your children will still see that it matters to you, and they will still be shaped by those times you spend worshiping together as a family.
6. See your children’s sins as opportunities, not catastrophes. Some of the most fruitful gospel conversations I have had with my children have been during times when I have disciplined them. Discipline provides the opportunity, not only to correct bad behavior, but to address the underlying heart issue that led to it. As parents, we must correct bad behavior, but if we stop there, we have stayed in the shallow end of the pool. When your child disobeys you, stay calm and take time to ask probing questions about what led him to do that. What must he be thinking and feeling about your authority and about God’s greater authority that led him to disregard your instructions? What does that say about where his heart stands in relation to God? And what are the consequences of having that kind of heart (not only immediately, but in eternity)? So is there any good news for him in this situation? Yes! God loves him and holds out the promise of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
Very often I find that disciplining my children gives me the opportunity to talk to them about my own failures as well. As we discuss their hearts, I let them know that my heart is wicked too, and that my only hope before God is the cross. Don’t waste opportunities to probe the hearts of your children and apply the gospel directly to their sins. Discipline them with loving instruction that leads them to Jesus.
What ideas do you have about grounding our children in the gospel? What practices have worked well in your family? Please share with us.