How many things that you do in your home are a result of the culture of the world and how many are intentional culture changes that you have made because of your faith? Some people live as if saying grace before a meal and having Bibles on the bookshelf is enough, but the Bible calls Christians to live very distinct lives in the world and to always point people to God.
This topic is relevant for every area of family life but I’d like to focus on one of the ideas that seems to have permeated Christian homes and churches across the globe; teaching children. There seems to be an idea, at least in the West as I observe it, that children and teenagers shouldn’t be taught that much. We almost put bubble wrap around them and think that they can’t take in so much ‘teaching’ because they’re at school all day. But the reality is that they are being taught all day every day. Our world is surrounded by images and messages from the media and promotional companies, and the minds of children and teenagers are sponges that are taking all of that information in.
Christian parents, god-parents, aunts and uncles and friends of people with children need to be aware of this and stop believing the lie and teach them good solid spiritual food that will sustain them in a world of conflicting worldviews. It’s so easy for families and churches to teach the most basic of things and not want to ‘stretch’ children and teenagers beyond that. But if we do this then we aren’t setting them up well for the Christian life.
If we do not teach our children and young people the depths of truth that we can see in the Bible, if we don’t teach them about the wonderful character of God and His amazing plan of Salvation, how do we expect them to stand firm as their faith is attacked in the world?
I’m not saying that you need to read your child a copy of a Systematic Theology text book every night as they go to sleep, we wouldn’t expect adults to do that either. But I think that we expect far too little from our children and teenagers. We should create a culture in our homes where we speak about the seriousness of sin, the need for redemption, the cross, the resurrection, other worldviews and how Christianity stands up against them.
I recently spent time with a family and one of the things that I absolutely loved was that the parents used every opportunity they could as an opportunity to teach their children about the Christian life. In the 3-4 hours my wife and I spent with them the parents taught their children about the seriousness of sin, the identity of the Christian, the importance of the Bible and the Church, the need for evangelism and about the deceitfulness of other worldviews.
Here is why I think that we need to help children by giving them a bigger theological understanding than we currently do:
1. They need to know who they are!
Many people today base their understanding of God and their understanding of their own lives on their feelings, the problem with this is that our feeling often lie to us. Therefore, if we teach children from an early age about the deceitfulness of our own hearts but the truth of our identity in God then we will help them grow up into that knowledge. If Christians were taught from an early age that their hearts are sinful and therefore we should not base our lives on our feelings, but that the truth of God is sound and trustworthy then people might have a stronger foundation in God.
2. Solid teaches helps them get the bigger picture!
If we teach children short stories that we find dotted around the Bible they will learn truth and many helpful lessons that they can build their lives on. But that type of teaching means that they aren’t necessarily getting the whole counsel of God. I’m not saying that you sit and read from Genesis to Revelations with them in one year. But I think a more systematic approach to teaching them the Bible might help them get the bigger picture of God’s plan. Below are some recommendations of books that help you systematically teach the Word of God to children (both young and old) in a way that is fun and stretching.
3. They need to grow!
Children have the ability to take in and understand far more than we give them credit. But there will be times when we will teach them things that are a bit over their heads, and that is ok, because we want them to grow up wrestling with and trying to understand God and the Bible. So don’t be afraid to push the boundaries a little bit and teach them some hard things.
Obviously in all of this we must remember that we still need to make solid and hard theological truths understandable enough for children to understand. Therefore, as adults we need to wrestle with them ourselves and know how to shorten them and make them more accessible. You can’t teach a child sanctification, but you can teach them how the Holy Spirit works in Christians to make them more like Jesus every day.
If we start doing that we will see a culture change in our homes as we openly speak about the things of God, pray with others, sing with others and sit with our Bible open and discuss God’s Word together. That is a healthy culture in the home, isn’t that the kind of culture you want?
Here are a few book recommendations that can help you teach children about the things of God well:
Everything a Child Should Know About God by Kenneth N Taylor and Jenny Brake
The Biggest Story ABC by Kevin DeYoung
The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung
The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski
The New City Catechism for Kids by The Gospel Coalition