How do you talk to your children about the gospel? That's the question I was asked just recently by a good friend of mine. Let me begin by telling you I don't consider myself to be an expert on the subject! I have three children now, and with each child I am humbled, realizing that whenever I get it right it's purely by the grace of God. So rather than striving for greatness, I've learned over time the power of weakness in parenting. Like Jehosophat in 2 Chronicles 20, I often cry out to God, "I don't know what to do, but my eyes are on You." This is the starting point as parents--humbly depending on God.
Having said that, my wife and I aren't sitting back passively as parents hoping our children will come to Christ. We want to do whatever we can in the strength of the Spirit to bring our children up in the Lord. We want to be intentional and very practical in our parenting. There are many books that have helped us in this pursuit, but ultimately the Bible is our foundation. One verse that I keep running back to as a guide and a goal in parenting is 2 Timothy 3:14-15.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
From this passage I've learned that Christian parenting basically consists of two things: modeling and teaching the gospel. These two things, when combined together, are a powerful means of making our children "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
So, what does that look like in the Wolter home? Here's some practical things we do--keeping in mind we fail often! If you could watch us for a day or two, I am sure you would observe something close to Super Nanny on ABC. But, by the grace of God, we keep growing as parents.
Modeling -- What are your children observing?
- Seeing God in everything -- we try to see God throughout the day and point our kids to Him (e.g. as we take a walk, we remind our children of God's beautiful creation; as we watch a TV show or movie we try to talk about how it either supports or goes against a biblical worldview of life)
- Praying at all times -- we try to stop and pray throughout the day, thanking God and acknowledging our need for God (i.e. trying not to make prayer just a dinner table experience!)
- Not hiding our emotions -- we try to be real with our kids and let them know when we are feeling happy or sad (if it's appropriate) and then going to God together as a family in those times
- Admitting our sins to them -- many times I have messed up and needed to go and ask my girls to forgive me for my sin (this inevitably creates another opportunity for me to let them know how much "daddy" needs Jesus too)
- Inviting others into our home -- this has gotten somewhat more difficult with three kids, but Jaime and I want to model for our kids an atmosphere of love and openness to others
Teaching -- What are your children learning?
- To Begin the Day -- I usually get up and get the girls breakfast (Jaime does so much, I try to serve her in this way -- plus I'm a morning person and she's not!). During breakfast, I read from a couple different devotional materials (Big Book of Quesions and Answers by Sinclair Ferguson and A Faith to Grow On by John MacArthur) and we talk about them. It only takes about 5 minutes, but it's one way I start the day teaching them about the gospel.
- Sometimes at Supper -- Although we're less consistent with this routine, we've found that it's fun to pray for someone in our family by having each person take a picture off the fridge and pray for that person before we eat. After we eat, sometimes I'll pull out My First Book of Questions by Carine MacKenzie and "quiz" the girls for fun.
- To End the Day -- Nearly every night we try to read from The Jesus StoryBook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones and pray with our girls. We like them to pray with us as I believe it's good to have children learn to pray as they hear us pray. We're also teaching them the Lord's Prayer.
- Listening to Music as we drive -- Jaime likes to put in CD's for the girls to listen to. Here's one that our girls really like: Seeds of Faith
- Reading Good Books Together -- There are so many books I could mention here. I'll just mention two: Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers by Joey Allen, and The Priest With Dirty Clothes by R.C. Sproul.
These are some practical ideas we have tried to implement in modeling and teaching the gospel to our children. But above all, Jaime and I try to pray for our children on a daily basis. We know that God is the only one who can extend grace to our children to save them and sanctify them just as He has with us.
How about you? We would love to hear from you and learn from you as we "do life together" as weak parents.