In the first part of this series of posts, I asked the following questions of Christian parents who send their children to public schools and universities:
Are your children able to defend their faith in this environment? I don’t just mean, Can they explain their faith to others? I mean, Can they recognize and confront cultural lies so they can maintain their own beliefs in the gospel?
In part 2, I felt the need to discuss the purpose of education, historically and how it’s viewed today, before explaining how you can train your children in a biblical worldview. Now, I’m going to address this question:
Christian parents, what are you doing at home to help your school children navigate through this post-truth environment?
Before your children can learn to identify the cultural lies that frequently bombard us, they first must learn the truth. For this, you need a game plan with a good offense and defense.
Offense: Ground Them in Scripture
The first way we learn something often is what becomes the most deeply ingrained in our minds. For instance, when learning a sport, it is essential to focus on proper form. This avoids the development of bad habits. Correcting a bad habit is often more difficult than learning the correct one in the first place. With this in mind, it is better to train your child in the truth first than having to root out lies they have come to believe.
Train up a child in the way he should go,Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
One of your primary duties is to provide your children with a foundation in scripture. An excellent way of discipling your children is through family devotions.
I didn’t grow up with family devotions, but my husband, Doug, knew how he wanted to instruct his family in the Lord. When our son, Nate, was a toddler, my husband instituted Family Reading Time.
Before bedtime, Doug would sit in his recliner with Nate on his lap and read from a children’s Bible. As Nate grew older, my husband read sections directly from the Bible.
Doug chose the New Living Translation because its language was more accessible for our children to understand. We started in Genesis and worked our way through to Revelation, reading only the narrative sections. This provided all of us a sweeping overview of the whole Bible.
After the Bible reading, we’d pray as a family. At one point, we added a novel reading at the end of our 45-minute devotional time.
Our daughter, when she joined our family at age six, knew little English. So, I read to her from a children’s Bible while Doug continued reading the Bible to our son. After about a year, Sombai understood enough English to listen to the regular Bible readings.
When both of our kids were teens, we’d select a book of the Bible and read it section by section. My husband asked comprehension questions to make sure the kids understood what they heard—and to check if they were listening and not daydreaming!
A couple years ago, when our son reached college age, my husband changed our devotional time to be more like a Bible study. We used the a chronological Bible, which has some commentary, to read through the Gospels. Then we moved onto Acts and some of Paul’s epistles.
Teaching our kids on how to discuss scripture passages proved to be challenging at times. They were used to listening passively, and now we expected them to engage with the text.
Over time, our discussions grew. We covered what the Bible taught on various issues, including how some Christians disagree on how to interpret particular passages.
Occasionally, we’d also point out where cults have twisted certain verses. My daughter’s youth group had spent some time covering the beliefs of the cults and how they differ from the gospel. Talking about these helped reinforce what she learned, taught our older son, who hadn’t had instruction on this topic, and reminded all of us that we always need to compare anyone’s teachings to what scripture actually says.
At this point, dear reader, you may be thinking, Wait, I don’t know that much about the Bible. How can I teach it to my kids? If you have been attending a Bible-teaching church regularly, you probably know more than you think you do.
My husband and I were raised in Christian homes, active in youth groups and involved in ministry as teens, attended Christian colleges, and enjoy studying the Bible and reading books about the faith. My husband loves reading theology. But you may not have this background.
You do have the Holy Spirit to guide you, and, hopefully, more mature Christians to aid you. And you can learn with your kids. If they are young, you just need to teach them what the Bible says. If they are older, all of you can learn how to use Bible reference tools—either hard copy or electronically. Just make sure the resources you use are biblical. Consult a mature Christian or your pastor for suggestions.
I will meditate on Your preceptsPsalm 119:15-16 (NASB)
And regard Your ways.
I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.
In addition to family devotions, we’ve encouraged our children to develop the habit of personal devotions. Every Christ-follower needs to know how to feed himself spiritually.
When I was around nine years old, my mom taught me how to read through Proverbs each month. Proverbs has 31 chapters, one for each day of the month. I’d read one chapter, then ponder a verse or two that spoke to me, and jot down my thoughts in a notebook.
I started my kids with this method for personal devotions. Now, they read their Bibles on their own. During Family Reading Time, we occasionally mention what we were learning during our own devotion times. This created accountability.
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)
In addition to biblical training at home, you should regularly attend a Bible-teaching church. God has called us to be part of the body of Christ. Your children also need to learn that part of our walk with Jesus is fellowshiping with other believers.
This includes finding a way to serve the body of Christ. As teenagers, your children can help in Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, or participate in worship. They aren’t too young to get plugged into the life of a congregation.
Children and youth programs can also augment your work to disciple your children. For instance, the AWANA program provides an excellent way to help them memorize Bible verses and learn fundamental truths of the faith. But some church programs can also be a stumbling block.
Dangers of Sunday School and Youth Groups
Often, Sunday school teachers and youth leaders spend more time entertaining the kids instead of teaching them biblical truth. Even worse, the children learn ideas that are contrary to the Bible in Sunday school.
According to Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it, those who attended Sunday school as children were more likely to leave the church than those who only attended the church service. Why? Here are some reasons:
- Sunday school teachers call biblical accounts stories. Children associate the word stories with fairy tales. They learn facts at school. Sunday school teachers need to let children know that the events in the Bible really happened and that several even have historical evidence that verifies them.
- They are more likely to hear a pastor or Sunday school teacher say that it’s okay to believe the earth is millions of years old, contradicting the Genesis account.
- When they ask tough questions about the Bible or the faith, they often receive unsatisfactory answers.
Apologist author and blogger Natasha Crain in her post, “How Sunday Schools Are Raising the Next Generation of Secular Humanists,” discusses several reasons why Sunday school programs fail to aid children in becoming Christ’s disciples.
- Lessons focus on character development without thoughtful ties to theism (a belief in God).
- There’s not enough emphasis on understanding the identity of Jesus and why it matters.
- Bible teaching is limited to what’s in the Bible, and rarely addresses questions about the Bible.
- Churches aren’t supporting parents enough in discipleship, so parents end up focusing on raising “nice” kids.
It’s the Parents,’ not the Church’s, Job to Train Children
As Moses instructed the ancient Israelites, I admonish you today: train your children in godliness. Don’t expect the church or youth programs to do it. Discipling your children in the Lord is part of the parenting job.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 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.Deuteronomy 6:4-8 (NASB)
In my next post, I will discuss the defense plan: apologetics.