1. PrayWe all know that parenting and teaching pushes us at times beyond our natural strength and patience. We can't do any of this without the power of the Holy Spirit. This is especially true of passing on biblical truth. As the old saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Still, there is hope.
"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26 (NIV) "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth." 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NASB) "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)
2. Set a good example.It is easy to forget just how much children mirror their parents. We get jolts of reminders when we see or hear children doing or saying what they've seen from us. It's always the little gestures, the turn of phrase, or the slip of the tongue we never noticed, isn't it? Think about this. Kids are watching your relationship with God too. Is it really important to spend time reading God's Word and praying, or is that just another thing we say, but don't really mean? That cuts me to the quick. Does it convict you too? Make you stop to think? We can tell kids how important a relationship with God is until we're blue in the face. The word's won't penetrate until kids see actions behind them. One of my fondest memories of my mother are the days we were home from school. She would always make time in the morning to sit at the kitchen table with her coffee and read her Bible. I didn't think much of it until I got into middle school (junior high, back then). That was when I started asking questions about the things I was hearing at church. I asked Mother first because Dad was usually at work when the questions first arose. Mother's answer was always the same. "You'll have to ask your dad, but let me show you what the Bible says." Then she would open that well-read, blue covered Bible and read me verses that applied to my question. Then Dad would come home and I'd ask him the same thing. His answer was usually a brief explanation of the terms confusing me followed by, "Look what the Bible says." My parents modeled turning to Scripture daily and when we have questions. I pray I always do the same. Do you?
3. Do not reward inappropriate behavior by laughing, etc.Yes, I know. This is Parenting 101. Bare in mind that I originally wrote this list for high school students training to work with younger elementary children. Still, it's worth a bit of self-check. I know I catch myself doing this unintentionally sometimes. It's the really funny kid who just wants a reaction of any kind. It's the quiet and secretive child who has learned to do things behind your back thinking that you'll never no. I realize it ultimately comes down to the old adage, "Pick you battles." Still, these behaviors may be symptoms of a larger heart-problem. Do conversations need to happen about taking our value from the way God sees us? Does lying and deceit need to be addressed? Not all parenting and teaching conversations happen in the heat of the moment. Sometimes we need to address heart-issues. This takes time to examine patterns of behavior. It also takes seeking calm moments to pull children aside for heart-to-heart conversations. This is also the point where I'm so glad the Holy Spirit's job is to make us more like Christ. I know the power to change is not in my words. It is in the Spirit working through me (1 Corinthians 3:6-9; Hebrews 4:12). Still, the Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts of children and teenagers. He is either drawing them to Christ (John 16:8-11) or shaping them into Christ-likeness (1 Corinthians 3:16-18).
4. Be prepared. Be flexible.This last one is really two that go hand in hand. It is also more specific for intentional teaching situations, though it may have broader applications as well. Here's the deal. Kids don't handle "dead time" well in structured learning situations. Kid's have great creativity and energy. If you don't have something planned, they will come up with something which may or may not fit with your goal for the time. It is important for teachers (including parents leading family devotions, worship, or Bible study) to plan more than you think you will need. Prioritize what you want to do. Know what can metaphorically fall off the table while you still make your point. Things may not go according to plan. One idea may flop while another may take much longer. Be flexible and roll with the punches. Keep in mind that back-up activities could be a life-saver.
Except when...Before we conclude this long blog, I need to be sure I state the major exception to this rule, especially for parents and leaders of a multi-hour time with kids (like during long adult events). Kids do need unstructured play time. It fosters creativity and problem solving. I don't know about you, but I go nuts if my whole day is scheduled to a T and there is absolutely no down time. I've tried that. I last about a day and a half before I seriously consider throwing my plans (and computer, and phone, and any other object on "the list") out the window. God designed people to need rest time. Time to rest our bodies. Time to rest our minds. Time to play. God even modeled it for us and told us of it's importance.
"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." Genesis 2:2-3 (NIV)Play with you kids. It strengthens relationships. Give kids time to be creative and problem solve. You don't have to tell them how to do everything. One day you won't be there to solve all their problems. Kids need to learn it little by little by facing age-appropriate challenges. The problems only get harder with age. Ok. I'm getting off my soapbox now.
- Pray. Pray for your family to learn and grow in Christ.
- Set a good example. Are you regularly taking time during the week to grow in your relationship with the Lord?
- Do not reward inappropriate behavior. Look for "teachable moments" to direct heart-change.
- Be prepared for structured teaching times. Be flexible. Don't forget to give kids unstructured play time.
Looking for a family Bible study to begin your own family worship times? Check out The Answer Book: A Devotional for Busy Families.