I responded to a thread on an online group today and since I had managed to thread together two or three paragraph's I decided to make a blog post out of it. It seems that having grown up in the Institutional Church, many people feel inadequate to the job of passing their faith on to the next generation. Like so many other things, we feel we need the help of professionals. Anyhow...without any further aduiu...(as a certain school principal of my aquaintance liked frequently to say) here is my perspective on Christian education for children:
With regard to home-churched children, I think it is a good idea to make the Bible a “Subject” whether you are homeschooling or not. So many have given that job up to Sunday schools for so many generations that they no longer feel qualified for it themselves. Having come through SS as a child, the one thing I can say is that I heard the Bible stories and over the years gained a familiarity with those. I think that’s a good place to start with your babies…..keep reading the Bible stories with them and as they get older looking at scripture a little deeper….especially focusing on the teachings of Jesus. If parents did only this they would be doing better than 99% of institutional churches. But if you add to that, everyday demonstrations of the Christ life… kindness…caring….apologies for your own mistakes….and explaining the why’s and the why not’s in terms of Christ’s character and teaching, then WHAM! (I am taking some liberties in the spirit of Timothy’s “older women”.) Work out your faith visibly and audibly in front of your children…being candid and forthright about your weaknesses and failures and questions…. Make them feel free to ask Father their deepest and most difficult questions. Dig in to understand WITH them…rather than giving them the pat answer which is unsatisfying. Keep talking….keep praying with and for them. You are partnering with Father….and your children are His workmanship, not your own. He will ultimately and certainly be doing His part and when we pray for wisdom about our part….we must assume we have been given that wisdom.
Teach your children some of the great old hymns that have good theology (of course some of them have bad theology….so discriminate)
Have them memorize great passages of the Bible. There has been a tendency to discard the Bible with some branches of the un-church….in favor of following the spirit, but that’s crazy. Children will desperately need a good grounding in scripture to be able to think in the same terms as Christ. (I am working on memorizing the sermon on the mount. Three chapters well worth committing to memory.)
I have found youth groups (I went as a youth….and my kids went…and now some of my grandchildren do) to be a source of negative socialization and bad teaching. Also that generally, they divided the loyalties of the children often turning them against parents (who presumably didn’t understand their children better than a freshly minted “youth pastor.”) Dallas Willard (in The Divine Conspiracy) uses the term, “Mutual Condemnation Societies” which is an excellent term for this phenomenon.
Consequently, (rather than youth groups) I think we (*you*…haha…I’m at a later stage) should cultivate the friendship of families that seem to share your values and so you expose your children to children who might be on the same track as you. Practice hospitality and initiate joint social situations. When our kids were growing up they told us that they liked our friends better than their own. Exposing your children to other adults who demonstrate the Christ life(as opposed to just church attendance) is good for them….and for you. Two of our three children ended up marrying the children from families that we had deliberately cultivated as friends. Don’t worry whether they will be “over-sheltered”….that is impossible in our world where they are constantly bombarded with other perspectives whether good or bad.
The only other thing I can think of is that we need to constantly and consistently study and follow Christ’s teaching and example ourselves. We cannot pass on what we do not possess.