This is why we have a robust Next Generation Ministry, led ably and intentionally by Pastor Daniel Kinkade and Pat Johnson. Every day they are thinking of ways the church can come alongside parents to help pass on the Christian faith to every kid who enters our doors. We are thinking of our own children, who need good LifeGroup leaders, student ministry leaders, KREW teachers, and VBS teachers (if you are gifted in this area and sense a call to this kind of ministry, please let us know and we’d love to plug you in!). We are also thinking of those kids and students who are not blessed with believing parents, children from broken and troubled homes, and children who may be invited by a neighbor or relative or friend.
However, for those of us who are believers, the mission of passing on the faith to our kids is not solely or even primarily the job of the church. The Bible tells us that it is parents who are given the role, by God, to be the primary faith trainers of their children. Listen to the words of Moses, instructing God’s people in Deuteronomy:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD 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. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)
Notice the order of Moses’s instructions: First, Moses challenges parents on their own walk with God. You cannot teach what you do not live and do not know. One incentive (not the only) to studying the Bible is the ability to teach it to your kids. Second, Moses challenges parents to be intentional about teaching their children. To teach diligently is the opposite of being casual or flippant about passing the faith along to our children. Third, Moses encourages them to be spontaneous, to lean into daily moments of life as opportunities for further teaching.
This theme is repeated often throughout the Old Testament. Listen to the writer of Psalm 78:
He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; (Psalm 78:5-7 ESV)
You will notice, throughout the Old Testament, discussion of generational faith, from generation, to generation, to generation, from parents to children to grandchildren.
This is picked up in the New Testament as well. Paul expresses profound gratitude for Timothy’s faith, first learned at the knee of his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). To the Ephesians, Paul was more explicit, commanding fathers to “rear their children in the discipline and teaching of our Lord.”
Of course, we know, from Scripture that we cannot do the work of saving our children. We can present the gospel. We can instruct them in the ways of God. We can teach them the doctrines of the Christian faith. But it is the work of the Spirit in their hearts that will bring them to salvation (John 1:13). In this way, parenting is both evangelism and discipleship.
We don’t often look at our children as both lost people to be converted, but we should. We should preach the gospel to them as often as we can. And then once we are confident they have made a profession of faith, born out by the work of the Spirit in their lives, we should look at our children as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Parenting, then is discipleship. It’s up to us to “command and teach these things” (1 Timothy 4:11) so they may “grow up into him [Christ] (Ephesians 4:15).”
This seems like a daunting task, doesn’t it? How do we do this? Here are some helpful tips for parents:
- Remember we do this in community. We don’t parent in isolation, we parent in community with the body of Christ in our local church. The church is there to equip, strengthen, and resource parents. And parents should learn, grow, confess, repent, and laugh together as they raise their children to love Jesus.
- Rely on the Spirit of God. This job of parenting is bigger than we can handle. This is why we need Holy Spirit power and wisdom. Doing it alone will lead us to burn out or give up on the enterprise all together.
- Resources are our friends. There are many, incredible resources out there that make this job of passing the faith along that much easier. In a follow up blog post, I will highlight a few that have been enormously helpful to our family.
- Rigidity is our enemy. One family’s version of family worship may look different than the next family. What is important is not how you teach your kids, but that you teach them. Some families do this in a more formal way. Others are more spontaneous.
- Rejoice in the privilege of teaching our children. The story we are telling our kids, this beautiful story of the gospel, is the best news in the world. So passing this to our kids is a joy and a privilege.
Passing on the Faith to Your Kids Forum:
Be sure to join us Wednesday, June 22nd, at Green Hill Church for our Passing on the Faith to Your Kids Forum!
6:15pm - 7:30pm.