Christian Ed Begins at Home
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
I may be a Vicar (pastor in training), but I’m a parent as well. The faith of my child, especially as she grows into adulthood, is of utmost importance to me. I’m sure you feel the same way about your children. The question isn’t whether I want my child brought up in the faith. The question is how do I bring my child up in the faith.
- How do should my child be taught?
- How should my child be trained?
- Who should be doing these things?
Essentially, we have two institutions involved in our children’s Christian education and formation, the church and the family.
(For the sake of brevity, I’m going to just refer to “Christian education” in this article, but I’m really referring to learning, training, formation and everything that’s involved in becoming an active follower of Christ.)
These days most churches (ours included) have several programs for Christian education. There are children’s sermons in church and the service itself, Sunday school, VBS, confirmation, youth group, mission trips, conferences and retreats, service projects, Christian schools, and so on. There are lot’s of options.
At home there are also many opportunities for Christian education, even if we don’t always take advantage of them. We can do family devotions, family service projects, teachable moments, intentional conversations with our children, incorporating our faith into various “regular” activities of life, being an example, and so on.
The Two Paradigms:
With all the Christian education opportunities in both the church and the family, two paradigms (viewpoints) have developed.
- Church-Centered – Home-Supported: This viewpoint sees the church as the institution responsible for Christian education with the family doing some things to support the work the church is doing. The two most common reasons for supporting this paradigm are time (parents don’t have the time and church staff are paid to have the time) and training (pastors and youth workers usually have years of training and Biblical educations and sometimes parents can feel that this makes the church staff better equipped for the Christian education.
- Home-Centered – Church-Supported: This viewpoint sees the home as the institution responsible for Christian education with the church providing support and resources for the work the family is doing. The most common reason for supporting this paradigm is that the parents, naturally, have the strongest concern for the well-being of their children.
Which Paradigm Should We Use?
You could make a pretty reasonable and strong argument in favor of either paradigm, so which should we choose? Let’s consider what the Scriptures say:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9
In Deuteronomy, the responsibility and primary action is the parent’s. In fact, the Bible has numerous verses talking about parent’s teaching or training their children (Eph 6:4, Prov 1:8-9, Prov 6:22, etc.). I’m still looking for the verse that says it’s the pastor or youth director’s responsibility to train and educate the children. It’s not that the church isn’t involved in Christian education, but rather the responsibility and primary actions belong to the parents. This is the Home-Centered – Church Supported paradigm.
How do we do this?
There are several practical things that parents can do to train up their child, but the first thing we need to do is make it a priority. If we can make time for sports and drama and TV and everything else, we can make time for training up our child in the faith. It may mean saying no to some things, but that’s what priorities do. Once we decide to make it a priority, there are some practical things we can do:
- Daily family devotions – Set a time aside each day for the family to come together and pray and spend time in the Bible. Use age appropriate materials. The amount of time may also change depending on your children’s age.
- Talk about your faith with your kids – Christ is part of every aspect of our lives. Look for teachable moments, talk about your triumphs and failures, talk about things you learned or experienced. Talk about your faith.
- Train yourself – If you don’t feel like your qualified to teach your child the faith, take the initiative to train yourself. Read the Bible, ask questions, attend Bible studies, etc. Most importantly, pray. The reality is that we all fall short, church staff included; but God still works in our imperfect effort.
- Live your faith – Actions speak louder than words. Show your kids love. Show them grace. Help people with them. And try to live what you teach. We can tell our kids not to lie until we’re blue in the face, but if then tell our boss we weren’t feeling well in order to leave work early to catch the game, we’ve actually taught our children lying is OK. Note: We’re not going to be perfect, but when we fail we can admit that to our kids and confess it was wrong. In this we can demonstrate how we all are in need of and receive God’s forgiveness.
The Scary Truth:
Possibly the biggest (and scariest) thing I learned today. As parents, we are educating and forming our children every day. For better or worse, intentional or not, our kids are watching us and listening to us and learning from us all the time. The truth is that whether we want it to be or not, Christian education really is home-centered. So, let’s be intentional about it. Let’s make it a priority. And by the grace of God and the power of His Spirit let us pray that our children are trained up in the way they should go and not depart from it.
Share Your Thoughts:
- Which paradigm have you been following?
- What do you do in your family to train up your kids?
- What can the church be doing to better support you as you train your children?