Teaching is a wonderful, but also a daunting thing. If it is done well, it can change someones life forever, if it is done badly it can cause them to dislike that topic forever. Teaching is tricky, but it is also vitally important!
This is the case with people of all ages and with a vast range of topics, but there is not more important topic than the good news of Jesus and an understanding of God and the Bible. Teaching this topic is absolutely important to children.
Whether we like to admit it or not, children are being taught things almost every minute of every hour that they are awake. Hence, as Christians, we have an even bigger job now of teaching children well. If we do not teach children what relationships should look like in the home, then they will get their ideas and understandings from their friends and from what the media portrays as ‘healthy and normal’ relationships. If we do not teach our children at home about identity and gender then our schools and society will teach them what they deem to be ‘inclusive and loving’. If we do not teach children at home about the importance of understanding what and why we believe what we do, then when they get into the world they could be baffled by a wave of questions that they might never have thought of.
Therefore, there is a huge responsibility on adults (both parents and congregation members) to teach and prepare children for the world that they live in. But how do you do that, how can you prepare children for the ocean of worldviews that surround them the minute they step out the door, pick up their phone, or turn on the TV?
Personally I don’t have children, I know many people who do and many people who don’t, but just because we don’t have them ourselves doesn’t mean that we don’t play a role in teaching them about God through our lives. Here are a few thoughts on how to teach children, from conversations I’ve had with parents, from testimonies I’ve heard of how older people have influenced and taught younger people and a few things that I’ve been mulling over for a wee while now. If we want to teach children well, then here are 5 little things that can help us on the way.
- Be praying
This is a given, every parent should be praying for their child (here is a little guide to help), but often the church can neglect their responsibility to pray for the little ones that run around on a Sunday morning. For people like myself, who don’t have children, it can be really easy to forget about praying for children. But often children are on the front lines as they walk into schools and they are in one of the hardest places to be Christians. Therefore, they need so much prayer to stand firm in their faith, to grow in their understanding and to know how to engage well with culture. Whether you have children or not, pray for them. Ask your church for a list of the children in your congregation and pray for them by name and ask the parents how you can best be praying for the children.
- Be asking questions
Everyone has been a child, everyone knows how annoying it can be when parents or other ask children questions about school, or what they get up to and things. But, if we engage well with children and build a good relationship with them, then they might be more open to answering questions. I’ve seen this happen in church before, a child (or teenager) has listened to a youth talk on the topic of marriage and purity in which pornography was discussed briefly. After that particular service the parents asked their child about what they were learning and they were able to have a good in-depth conversation about pornography and sexual purity.But if we ask the questions then we need to be willing to say the words that everyone seems to dread, ‘I don’t know’. It is OK to not know the answer to every question on every topic under the sun! The conversations that I’ve been a part of, or that I’ve heard of that have been most beneficial to a child or a teenager have been the times where parents have been honest and vulnerable with them. Being honest and open about struggles will not make your child think that you are weak, but it will help them see that you might be wrestling with the same things that they.
Use wisdom, if you’re not the parent of a child make sure that a parent is present or make the parents aware of some of the questions that their child is asking.
- Be biblical
The Bible is our foundation, in it we have God’s revealed Will for this world, for His people and for humanity. Therefore, in all of our questions and in all of our answers, our first thought should always be ‘What does the Bible say about this?’
Getting asked questions that you haven’t had time to prepare for can be difficult and it is OK to say that you need to research what the Bible says. It is always better to give a succinct, easily understood and biblical response than to give a long, complicated and fuzzy response to a question.By answering according to what the Bible teaches you’re answering the questions, but you’re also teaching the child that you are not the fountain of all knowledge but that Scripture is your foundation. The Bible should influence our responses and we should always point children and teenagers to why we believe what we do. Answering questions in this way will help us teach the next generation who God is and what He has done.
- Be teaching
By teaching I don’t mean sitting around a table and doing an hour long seminar on a topic in the Bible, there may well be times for that, but I’m talking about always using opportunities as they present themselves to teach a biblical worldview.Teach children by not shying away from controversial topics, because whether you acknowledge it or not they’re going to be taught about them somewhere, the home is the best place to teach them about what we believe and why we believe it. This also means that the church should not be the primary place where our children and young people hear and learn about God. Yes, the church does have an important role to play in teaching the young people today, but that should not be at the neglect of teaching them at home.
- Sunday school programmes are not teaching machines where you send a child and then out comes a Christian. Sunday school is not the place where the child is simply entertained so that the parents can learn about the real meat of the Bible. Sunday school, and other church activities, are places that should compliment teaching that already goes on in the home of Christians. Sunday school should be a place where children are taught the Bible but then go home and continue to have conversations with parents, and so the teaching continues.
- Practically this can mean praying with children, reading them Bible stories, having family devotional times together, meeting other families and talking about God and the Bible, talking with them about what you’re reading at the moment in the Bible… the list goes on. It isn’t easy, but it will help to encourage a stronger and more rooted generation of Christians.
- Be examples
Last, but by no means least, be examples of what it means to be Christian to children. So often I have heard testimonies of people who have become Christians because they watched their parents, and others in the church, live out their faith. Let children see you read your Bible, let them see you pray, let them see you reading Christian books, let them see you laugh with other believers and weep with those who mourn. Children imitate what they see their parents and other adults doing, if we want to see them grow up to be strong believers whose desire is to serve God and glorify Him then that is exactly what we need to live out in front of them.
Teaching children is not easy, but it is hugely important.