“I will reveal these truths to you so that you can describe these glorious deeds of Jehovah to your children and tell them about the mighty miracles he did.” – Psalms 78:4 (TLB)
I recently saw a documentary on coal miners in the 60’s who were trying to unionize for better working conditions and higher wages. One young woman being interviewed said that the plight of the coal miner and their troubles with the company had been the table talk all of her life. It was all her family talked about. That story made me think about what Christians talk about to shape their children.
The conversation of our lives will define who we and our children will be. Moses said:
“6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
What did you do to raise your children to follow God? The following is a number of answers I received from readers. I asked, “If you have raised your children and they are walking faithfully with the Lord, think back and relate what “life message” did you emphasize or impress the most on your children.”
- A Minister wrote that his children learned that Christianity is a lifestyle.
- A woman wrote: “I believe that for my daughter and myself it was consistent church attendance with sincere faith. When we hold ourselves to the same standards we are trying to teach, we are the living Bible lesson that God intended us to be. One other thing that I learned in teacher training was that we often get what we expect from people. This is called learner expectancy. A good example would be in teaching reading. As reading and spelling follow initial speaking, we coo at our babies, read them stories, dote on their starting to read, etcetera; and then, finally, most of them do unless there is some kind of learning disability that needs mitigation. We must expect nothing less of our children regarding their spiritual lives. Children left to “choose” their own meals, TV shows, participation in healthy activities most often make poor choices that lead them into difficulties in their future lives. A down to business, mean what you say, take no prisoners, parenting style can produce a successful child. Have you seen the recent advertisements of Chris Rock’s mother’s book? She had like 17+ kids including foster children. Not that I’m endorsing Chris Rock or his mother, but from the gist of her interviews, she meant business when dealing with children. Any form of excellence requires discipline/training. There is that investment of time….that we just don’t seem to think we have any more. I have begun to tell people they have the same 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week that I have when they act like they don’t have the time or that I have more time (on my hands) than they do whether I’m working away from the home or in the home. Yes, time is a fleeting resource, but one must make choices and be able to prioritize. God must be first in our lives. He is preeminent and He “expects” us to treat Him that way. Only if we treat God with the proper respect can we even begin to expect that our children will. There’s that old cliche–it starts with you.”
- An Elder’s wife wrote: “The first thing that popped into my mind is that “honesty is the best policy”. That covers a lot of territory for a kid, doesn’t it? Being truthful at all times isn’t politically correct and is often unpopular with one’s peer group. Returning change to a clerk who has overpaid you or returning merchandise that wasn’t paid for can be difficult. BUT knowing you are doing the RIGHT thing brings an inner peace. I told the boys: if you are truthful with others you will gain the respect of your peers and elders and can be trusted. An honest person will have more restful nights than one who is dishonest. Hope this helps.”
- A Christian man wrote: “We believe our children were on loan to us from God, so we took seriously the command to raise them in His nurture and admonition. We had a family Bible study every day. We made sure each child understood each scriptural truth for themselves, and could explain each one in their own words. Their faith became rock solid because it became personal. They have a scriptural/personal answer for those that ask a reason for their faith. I had the joy of baptizing them when the time came, and that’s a memory I’ll cherish forever! And regarding who to be happily yoked to: we told them many times that they could not look their children in the eye and tell them they loved them if they hadn’t married someone who would help them get to heaven. Both of our girls married christian men. Our son is only interested in christian girls. All three of them are faithful and active in the work of the Lord, and we couldn’t be happier! A short and happy study every day makes all the difference!”
- A Christian man wrote concerning his three daughters: “All three are faithful Christians and married to men that are now faithful Christians (although 2 of the guys were not Christians when my daughters married them). We have 5 grandchildren, 3 of which are Christians. 2 of which are still young. If I had to name one thing and only one thing, it would be the example of “being involved” that we set before our kids and the example they have set before their kids. As long as one lived in my house, attending services (assemblies) with the saints was not something we thought about not doing… we did it and we just naturally expected our kids to do it… they grew up that way… and became that way. But we didn’t just attend, we got involved and we got our kids involved. From the time they were born, we “brainwashed” our kids with examples of being involved and them getting involved. When we had a fellowship, my girls would be the last ones to leave … after things were cleaned up… simply because Diane and I were the last to leave and I expected my girls to help us… or help others. (To be honest, Diane did more than I did with our kids… I was just around). Getting the kids involved and keeping them involved is the key and is the one thing I think many parents miss today. I read the statistics that 2 out of 3 high school graduates stop going to church. If I were a betting man, which I am not, but if I were, I would bet my last dollar that those kids were not expected to be involved and were not given an example of being involved. When a person is involved, they don’t think about leaving… generally, they feel needed.. Ephesians 4:11 talks about why God gave some to be elders, preachers and such… and the answer is simple… to get others involved… the key to church growth is the same key to family growth… involvement. Now when I visit where my daughters attend… I see them doing the same thing with their kids… and I just smile. God’s Word is right… train up a child in the way he should go … and when they are old … they will still go that way. :)”
- A Minister wrote: “As to your question, I think there is a one word answer… CONVICTION! In all that we do, if we are not fully convicted, our children will know it. If we really don’t want to be at services (or preaching), they will know it. If we are not convicted in our Bible reading, they will see that. If we do not have a strong loyalty to serving God as our first priority in everything, our children will follow our example. We must be willing to go the extra mile, to stand strong in fighting the good fight, to faithfully serve God in every aspect of our lives… and if we don’t… our children will know that we were not really convicted.”
- A grown child looks back: “I would definitely say that the number one principle that sticks in my mind from when I was home, is that God is always to be put first. We talked about God throughout the day at home, I was taught to give to God, I was taught that you worship God the first day of every week, and I was taught a reverence for God through the Bible lessons I was taught, the way I heard [my parents] pray to him and the way I was taught to pray. I want my children to know God the way that I did as I grew up. I cant imagine living a life without God in it. I am so thankful [mom and dad] stuck by me and didn’t give up when things were rough. [They] were the parents that God called [them] to be. Thank you!”
- A young Christian man wrote: “I know, I don’t have kids yet, but I do have fish. My fish have learned that I will feed them no matter what their behavior is [You have to know this guy to appreciate this one].”
- A Christian man wrote: “My wife and I discussed this briefly. If I don’t answer now, I may not get back to it. a) We have three grown children and two are married to Christian mates. Our third is unmarried. All three are walking faithfully with the Lord. b) One major emphasis was the importance of marrying a Christian mate, someone who would help them get to heaven (and vice versa). We stressed that love is more than a feeling, it’s also a commitment. c) We stressed the importance of church family and Christian relationships, and we tried to demonstrate in our own lives that God comes first. We were regular participants at church and in church activities. Our best friends were Christians; we knew that they would reinforce the values we were trying to instill in the kids. d) We tried to stress to our children that “it’s not all about them” and that they are not the center of the universe. Looking back, we could have done a better job of getting them more involved in service projects and activities to help and teach others. (I feel this way for both my children and me, particularly after reading David May’s book, A Call to Arms.) e) We could have also done a better job of setting aside family time for Bible reading, study and devotionals. f) We insisted that our children each begin their college education at a Christian College (in order to be “eligible” for the family education fund). After the first year, the topic of where to go to college would be open for discussion. (Interestingly, each of our children chose to go to Lipscomb, where their mother and I had attended.) g) A huge benefit (we personally had nothing to do with) was that the grandparents on both sides of the family were Christians. Every time we went home to visit them, there was never a question where we would be spending Sunday mornings, etc. There were no conflicting messages from the grandparents to weaken our kids’ faith.
- Another Elder’s wife wrote: “We tried to be consistent on all fronts. If a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ was said, it was very seldom changed. When it came to church attendance, there was no question — we went. In other words we tried to be consistent with what the Bible has to say about our life. I remember that the words ‘all appearance of evil’ were used quite a bit while the kids were teenagers. We did lots of family activities — golf was forgotten and fishing was taken up as a family activity. We spent lots of time with the grandparents. Also, if the kids wanted to stay out late, that was fine. But, they still had to be up and ready to go to services the next morning. We listen to Bible tapes while traveling as well as doing memory work. In other words, it was a way of life.
We moved around quite a bit and the kids knew that one of the first things we would do is locate a local congregation to be ready to worship with them. Our house was always open — to our kids friends and to any visiting church members. One time I told the girls that we were having company, they countered with,” do we know them?” The reason for this is that we often provided room for the visiting preachers etc. this was not news to them and so it became a way of life for them also. We seldom told them they needed to do these things, they learn from a consistent example.”
- A Minister wrote: “It is difficult to single out just one principle. We taught our children, first and foremost, to love and serve God, but there was one principle that we emphasized: service. When my son wrote an essay about my influence for his congregation’s Father’s Day lesson, he told a story that happened when he was a young child. It was about bringing home with us from church a woman and her unruly young children and serving them lunch, all with the idea of “thinking souls” (influencing her to obey the gospel). We expected our children to work hard to serve the other members of the family, families of the congregation, and the community. They were given an allowance, but it was not in payment for their service to the family. That was an expectation based on the fact that they were part of the family. Our children all have families of their own, but when they return to our home for family dinners, they and their spouses get up from the table to do the dishes, insisting that their mother enjoy the grandchildren while they clean up. They serve others in a myriad of ways with their time, talent, and money. We taught this from the scriptures, of course, but we modeled it until it became a way of life for them.”
- An Elder wrote: “Character– what you do when no one is watching. Honesty, integrity, meeting commitments ( marriage, your faith, etc.) doing right/values.
- A Christian lady wrote: “My daughter is 27. She was baptized into Christ several years ago. After sharing comments with her from last year’s lecture regarding the baptism of underaged persons, I was glad to hear that she had reevaluated her own baptism and found it satisfactory. She graduated from YC with an A.A. and from Harding with a B.A. and an M.A. by the time she was 23 although she was never an “A” student in her highschool standing. She had to really work for it. She relocated to Colorado and has worked in a variety of different jobs. Although she’s no millionaire yet, nor perhap will she ever be, I feel she’s is as successful a kid as can be raised. She is well-adjusted. She has her ups and downs and, of course, would like to be better off, but wouldn’t we all? She married 2 years ago. Her name is Angel of all things, and she married a young man named Abel, of all things! He was baptized into Christ the year before they were married and just this past December he went on his first mission trip to India of all things. And now I have to quit writing because I am all misty.”
- A Chrisitan woman wrote: “I think one of the main things in our family was our priorities. Especially concerning worship times. We have never missed a Sunday morning, Sunday evening or Wednesday night except for sickness or unavoidable travel. I just don’t understand how people can miss so much church and still expect God’s favor and blessings. We really impressed this to our kids, (Or, I sure hope we did). So many people miss because their kids have sports, they go to games, or my personal pet peeve, “We have family in town, (or company)” Well, invite them! Or tell them you will be back in an hour or two. We have three children. Alan is 22 and will be graduating in May from Harding with a Preaching / Missions degree. Belinda is 20 and is majoring on Math Education. She is very faithful. Christine is 12 and is a joy. I think we have done a good job with the Lord’s help.
- From an Elder in Minnesota: I think the most important thing for parents to teach children is submission to authority. Especially for fathers. I think fathers stand in the place of God in the early training of children. Children learn respect, obedience, submission, and uneasiness, insecurity, and fear when they disobey. The severity of the “crime” is taught by the severity of the punishment. The greatest sin is disrespect for authority. A child should never say no to a parent – especially dad. Fathers teach many things, but I think the hinge pin is authority. The other side of authority is to learn how good it feels and how good it really is when you’re on right side with your earthly father. Children who don’t want to let their fathers down but want to please their fathers will more likely follow that pattern toward God when they are older. The ultimate goal of discipline is self discipline.
Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart is a proverb, not a certainty. Bad parents can have good children and good parents can have bad children. We’ve had to deal with various degrees of rebellion in all of our six children. Thankfully most are doing well as they mature. But we are not in fellowship with one. She is a fallen Christian and knows she’s wrong, but she refuses to repent (change her mind). Scripture is full of examples of children of godly parents who don’t follow their parents instruction.
- From an Elder in Texas: We must live for Jesus. He must be a part of everything we do, not just on Sundays or during Youth Activities but also in outside activities such as School, Sports, etc. I guess bottom line it gets down to understanding our Mission and Purpose in life. What are we here for? We are here to work out our own salvation first and then seek & save the lost. It’s not just all about ourselves. Number one, Linda and I worked hard to set the right example of what it’s like to be a good Christian. We tried to make our faith and spiritual walk a good example for them to follow. And did it stick? Yes, for my children, I can say for the most part it did. All of Linda and my children are grown and on their own.
- From Dan: What we taught in our home I’m a little reluctant to say because I was not perfect, not even close. But with God’s help, we did a lot of things right and I hope our children would agree. The three oldest are married to Christians. The fourth is in college and dating a Christian. The fifth doesn’t date yet and in another year will head off to Christian college. All five are members of the Lord’s church. Before we had our first child, we knew we wanted to raise them in a Christian home. Our first infant child was held for us by ladies in the church as we went forward to be baptized into Christ. At an early age, our babies became familiar with singing and Bible history. We told them Bible stories and prayed with them every night. We taught our children from the earliest age to pray and to expect an answer. There probably wasn’t a service that went by that we didn’t have to take one of our five children out for some disciplining. They learned to behave in the church or we made them uncomfortable when they went out. They were taught to participate in activities and to help others. From the earliest age they gave from their own money and we let them know how proud we were that they gave with a good spirit. Before we would come to church for any church event, they would be reminded to greet Christians. It’s not always roses in the church, but we were mindful to never run down the church. There might be faults, but we chose to emphasize how precious the church is. We talked to our children about sin and that some day they would need to follow Jesus and be saved: we talked about confessing Christ and Baptism. We taught them to stand up for the truth and teach their friends if possible. We would say it was more important to be right with God than to compromise and follow the crowd. We taught our children that when it came between their parents and their peers, the peers always took second place. We taught our children that we expected them to be good examples because we were a Christian home; and no expectation was placed on them because they were the “preacher’s children”. That kind of talk was anathema to us and we rejected anyone whispering that our children should be better since they were the preacher’s kids. It was enough that our kids had to meet our expectations. And we taught them to marry a Christian since a non-Christian mate could not help them or their children get to heaven. From a very early age we taught our children that they would go to a Christian college. It’s a good education and a good start away from home.
What was the mission in the Mayfield home? Our mission was to save our children. This is the way we trained them to go.
From the people I have talked and communicated with, whose children became faithful Christians, they saw themselves as being on a mission to impress upon their children just how wonderful is God and the Christian life. Along with talking about it and modeling it, the children understood that they were to walk with God from their youth and all the days of their lives. Deviations from this path were corrected. This development from early in childhood is what we see in Jesus’ upbringing. “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Lk. 2:40; cf. 2:52) Godly parents model for them the Christian life on Sunday and throughout the week. They live it daily in their prayers, Bible discussions, and in the everyday applications arise. The parents were totally committed to raising their children to be followers of Christ. Raising children to follow the Lord did not just happen. Without the kind of diligence you see in the responses above, the children would be lost to the world.
I think about what Moses said in Deuteronomy. How he said the word of God is to be in our heart. It is to be what we talk about throughout the day. It’s on our mind when we wake and when we lie down. This parent is living and breathing the truth and is diligently shaping and molding the children to know God. The Proverb that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it“, makes more sense to me today (Pro. 22:6). If parents were honest or could see more clearly, they would see that they are training their children to be materialistic. They would see they are training their children to be friends with the world. They would see that they are training their children to go the way of hedonistic pleasure seeking. If parents could see clearly, they would know that what they talk about when they rise up, before they lie down, and when they walk through the day is not the Christian life. Training our children to go the right way takes a clear vision of what God wants. Instead of us trying to figure out the loopholes for why this Proverb might not apply to every circumstance, it is far better to examine the way we are training our children to go, and change the direction while we have time. God will be our best help and ally.
Age of ability and accountability
Moses in the Promised Land