Over the last few weeks we have been considering the question of how Christian parents ought to approach the education of their children. This week I would like to talk about the Bible’s emphasis on the spiritual education that should take place in the home and give some practical guidance as to what that should look like.
The most well-known passage on home education is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This passage is referred to as the Shema and was central in God’s command to teach the next generation who He was and how to love and listen to Him. At the center of this command to Israel is the concept of parents teaching their children. I think we already know this but it is worth repeating. God has designed parents to be the primary teachers of their children. The parent-child relationship is designed to be central in the process of forming faith in the next generation. That, by the way, is the education that matters most. I would like to give you some practical help in how to do this type of teaching in your home.
"You can tell them anything you want, but it is your actions that will demonstrate your heart towards God."
First, understand that the most impactful form of teaching is modeling. You have heard the old saying, “do as I say, not as I do.” We all know that doesn’t work. If you are going to teach your children what it means to love and listen to God then you have got to demonstrate what that looks like on a daily basis. So, what do you love in front of your children? How do they see you joyfully and sacrificially obey God? You can tell them anything you want, but it is your actions that will demonstrate your heart towards God. Now, this does not mean perfection in your love and obedience. It will include many times of honest confession and repentance before your children. When we fail to love and listen to the Lord our children need to see our brokenness before Him, our repentance, and our restoration to Him and those we have sinned against. That is an education.
Second, understand that the teaching in your child’s Sunday School class will look differently than what you give them in your home. I think that a lot of men are intimidated by the thought of teaching the Bible in their home because they think it needs to look a certain way. The term “Family Worship” scares a lot of people away. But this is unfortunately based on a wrong perception. Deuteronomy is emphasizing the all-encompassing impact of the truth in your everyday rhythm of life. Whether you realize this or not you are already teaching morning and night and every moment in between. The question is: what are you teaching? The ideal would be that you are so gripped by Christ that this would flow out of you in every aspect of your life. As you walk and eat and get ready for bed the truth is constantly in your heart and on your lips. I have found that some of the most impactful teaching opportunities I have had with my children are in the unplanned moments and normal happenings of life.
Third, understand that there is still a need to have scheduled times where the whole family sits down to read scripture, pray together, and sing praises to God. Those would be the main components that I think make up a good family time. For us we simply read through a passage of scripture—right now we are going through Acts. I usually then ask the kids to summarize what the chapter was about in their own words. This usually leads them to ask questions or I might ask a question that pops into my head. None of it is planned or premeditated. I just read and let the discussion start. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. We also will sometimes ask if there is anything the passage makes us want to pray for in our lives or the lives of others. We then pray together for a few minutes. At the end then we will usually let the kids choose a song to sing. Now, we love to sing at our house but this could be tough if you haven’t done it with your kids and they are older. There is nothing wrong with listening to a song or reading the lyrics if singing seems to be too awkward. For some it works to have a family time every day. For others, they emphasize once a week. There is no right or wrong way but you have got to find what can work most effectively and consistently for your family dynamic.
There are many other creative ways to stimulate spiritual teaching in your home. Here are just a few ideas to maybe get the ball rolling: take good notes from Sunday’s sermon and come up with two or three heart questions to ask your kids and spouse; schedule a weekly lunch date with your teen to go through a helpful book together or to simply talk and pray; schedule individual times with all of your children where they can ask you any question about anything they want or to talk about what God is teaching you in your life and time with Him; as a family seek out someone you can minister to together as a family. Again, these are just the beginning. You just have to start thinking intentionally and you will start seeing opportunities everywhere.
Now, let me say this, the spiritual formation you do in your home will not ensure the salvation of your children. The Shema is not a formula. In fact, later on in Deuteronomy God tells Moses that the people of Israel will not do what He asked them to do because their hearts were in need of change. The Spirit of God is the only one that can change the heart of your children. He will use the Word of God to do this. Your responsibility is to pour God’s Word into them as much and as often as you can. You cannot save them or make them love Jesus but you can be faithful in teaching them what God’s Word says and modeling for them what it means to know and love Him. This is your responsibility as a parent.