how we teach our children spiritual truth, without church
|March 6, 2013||Posted by Mama under world view|
Hands clasped tightly, eyes closed in prayer, I overheard Pal say ever so reverently, “Once upon a time, wish upon a star, wonder what you are, Amen.”
(Chickie learned to feed a baby, she’s turning one this month!)
Perhaps this isn’t such a good example of how we nurture our children’s spiritual lives. If you took him word for word you might thing we worshiped the stars, but while his theological understanding consists of watching others pray, praying with guidance, and trying to follow along as his family sings hymns, the fact that Pal was practicing prayer on his own validates how important it is that we take our children’s spiritual growth seriously. (plus it was really cute!)
We stopped attending church in 2010. Church in itself is good. Meeting with other believers to encourage each other and keep one another accountable is almost necessary for staying on the straight and narrow path, but we took issue with a number of things in the church as a whole, and as much as we tried developing relationships those very significant issues kept us from really being a part of any church without it ending in hurt feelings on one side or another. While individuals within each church are usually wonderful people, the church as an organization spends more time trying to make the world stand up to God’s standards (a world that doesn’t believe in Him in the first place) than holding themselves accountable. It has become a seeker-sensitive organization rather than a discipleship focused one, and it grinds on us big time.
I’ve thought about how to talk on this issue for a while now, it’s not something I can really clarify well I don’t think. I’m pretty sure I would just start rambling and get everyone confused. In the end it comes down to this – we sin, we trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation and eternal life, and we want to pass on our faith to our children.
That last note is where I personally got hung up. Current Christian culture says we need the church to continue in faith and to pass on our faith to our young ones. Even though I knew in my gut this wasn’t true (as many Christians have proven around the world), I have still questioned myself. Recently I finished up the book, Family Driven Faith, an excellent read. It affirmed what Papa and I are trying to accomplish with our alternative lifestyle, and it affirmed what we believe about parents being the ones responsible for bringing children to the faith, not the church. Church is good for helping people to learn more about God, and for gathering with other believers, but it is not their responsibility to raise our children. It is Papa’s and mine, and the influence of parents is far greater than any other, no matter how well intentioned other leaders are.
Thus, regardless of why we left the church and why we haven’t gone back, we feel confident raising our children to follow Jesus wherever we are at.
Family Driven Faith laid out three phases of spiritual training for children, and as I read them I got so excited. We had already begun acting on the concepts within this system the author proposed, and I found it really encouraging to hear him, a pastor and father, establish our personal mission as Biblical and common sense. The following are my notes from that part of his book.
Phase One: Discipline and Training (ages 0 – 6)
We teach the kids to do what they are told, when they are told, with a respectful attitude
We encourage the kids to ask questions about God, then validate and answer them
We demonstrate our personal relationships with God
We begin working on our habits together, because we want to please God
Phase Two: Catechism (ages 5 – 10)
We teach them the catechism (we use the Westminster Shorter Catechism), so they know how to think
We teach them the godly worldview of God, man, truth, knowledge, and ethics so it becomes their guiding principle
We give them opportunities to practice talking about their faith with other believers
Phase Three: Discipleship (ages 10 – adulthood)
We teach our kids how to apply what they have learned
We show them how to use resources to answer their own questions about God
We encourage the kids to practice talking about their faith with people other than our close family and friends
We make sure their education is teaching them to know, love, and obey God (eg. creationism, not evolution, although they will learn about both)
Currently we are use concepts from phase one with all of our kids, as well as parts of phase two for Buddy and Girlie. They may be younger than the “prescribed” age, but those things seemed to fit naturally with them so we make those things routine.
So if we aren’t going to church every week, how do we teach our kids about faith in God? On an almost daily basis the kids and I read The Child’s Story Bible, sing a couple of hymns, and Buddy and Girlie sit for a short lesson from Training Hearts, Teaching Minds, along with practicing their catechism (we’re up to question fifteen!). All of this takes a total of maybe 30 minutes, and it is spread out through the day, Bible reading after breakfast, the rest usually right before school lessons.
I’ve been experimenting with waiting until after supper for Bible and hymn singing so Papa can be a part of it (he leaves for work shortly before the kids wake up for the day so that wouldn’t work), but by then the kids are generally exhausted, ready for bed, and I need a break, not such a good time for family worship. We may start doing family worship on Saturday and/or Sunday morning so he can participate, but it is a matter of starting a new habit so it may take a while.
But we all know that faith isn’t just singing certain songs or reading certain books – faith is also a matter of living, of how we go through life, discussions and prayer, and making faith a priority. All of these things are important to a life of following Jesus, and they are not something you can do overnight. It takes making small choices on a regular basis – creating a habit of living for God. Buddy and Girlie ask questions about God all the time, which leads to a variety of conversations, we pray whenever we need God’s help or we see a way He has provided for us, as well as regular prayer at meal and bed times. We try (although we are human and do fail!) to make our home a loving environment were everyone is respected and cared for, and taught how to love and care for others in the family. We look for God’s hand all around us – in His beautiful creation, in how our bodies heal, in answered prayer… Almost anything that occurs in a given day can be a trigger for giving glory to God or learning more about Him.
I know I am far from perfect. I get impatient, I forget to watch my tongue, I have to be careful about how I prioritize my time, and I eat too much junk food. But even with my faults, or sins if you will, even though I have work to do and habits to improve, I can still teach my kids. Saying that a parent must send their kids to Sunday school because they don’t have a degree in religion is like saying we should all send our kids to public school because we don’t have a teacher’s degree. That’s rubbish! Kids don’t need adults with college education to thrive, they need a loving parent devoted to God and a life of learning.
Maybe some time we’ll go back to our last church, maybe we’ll choose another to attend, maybe we’ll end up in a home church, or maybe we’ll simply keep doing what we have been doing since 2010 – regularly gathering with other believers to encourage each other in the faith, which is what the Bible says church is for. But however we handle the issue of church attendance, we know that our children will be led to believe in God and have faith in the salvation of Jesus, which can and should be taught at home. Seeing as God commanded parents to lead their children, and I trust He knows what’s best for us, I’m confident they will turn out just fine with our discipleship.