|© John Mark Ministries
Model Christian living
Whether we like it or not we will model something. The question is will it be a godly example or not? Our values and priorities will show through. We can say all we like about how important our kids are and how important church is or reading the Bible, however if our actions reveal something else, they will speak more loudly than our empty words. Reading the Bible regularly, being quick to pray when facing different situations, saying sorry and showing true repentance, treating our spouse with love, gentleness and respect, will all set an example and reinforce lessons learnt in family Bible reading and Sunday School.
Model prayer and forgiveness
Two important areas of modelling are in prayer and in forgiveness. What we pray for and how we pray will become models for our kids. Do we pray broadly for the salvation of others, for missionaries, for peace in the world, for our leaders in government, for our church leaders, for brothers and sisters at church to grow as Christians? Or are the prayers we pray with our children only about material things, our safety, our pleasures, our problems? Do we confess our sins and say sorry ourselves and show the importance of confession and forgiveness? It can be hard to admit fault and ask for forgiveness from our children (or our spouse in front of the children), as we are sinful and proud. We can mistakenly believe it might compromise our leadership and authority in some way. The very opposite is the case--modelling humility, repentance and forgiveness will be powerful lessons for our children.
Teach and instruct our children
This cannot be left to Sunday School teachers and youth leaders alone. We are the principle teachers of our children! It is not just formal times of reading after dinner or before bed, but involves making the most of any and every opportunity to speak of Christian things and give a biblical perspective on life events. As we walk along the road, as we drive to soccer training, as we watch a movie together or discuss an issue from school, we have opportunity and responsibility to teach (see Deut 11:18-21). So often 'quality time' happens in the midst of 'quantity time'.
Discipline and correct This is part of spiritual leadership and we need to show we love our children by drawing the lines of right and wrong, and acceptable behaviour. This must, of course, be done carefully and consistently and be coupled with plenty of positive encouragement and commendation when they act in godly and right ways. Secure and loving relationships are the best context for learning, especially for learning hard lessons via discipline and correction. There will be times when we must learn to let our children fail and suffer the consequences of their actions because these can be the very best lessons (Heb 12:7-11), but to do this within a safe environment where the consequences will not be too hard.
SOME TIPS FROM OLD HANDS...
Extracted from an article in The Briefing, issue #286
- When it comes to family devotions, have realistic expectations and keep the program simple. Better ten minutes a few days per week than ambitious plans for daily hour long Bible studies that never happen!
- Be prepared. As with our own Bible reading and prayer, family devotions will not happen unless we plan for it. You may need to change other arrangements to ensure there is a time when the family can be together (eg. switch off the TV, or leave earlier for work so you can be home earlier for dinner, etc). Discuss with the family what they would like to read or do in devotions together.
- Accept failures. There will be good times and disasters. Kids are sinful. Some days they are just tired and ratty and it may be better to cut your losses, lead in prayer and put everyone to bed early. Don't give up. Investigate different ways or materials to use, or times to get together. Pray lots and keep at it.
- Variety is the spice of life. There are a host of good kids' Bibles, illustrated Bible story books, quiz games and workbooks for kids that you can try for a time to add some variety. Reading the Bible itself is obviously the most valuable thing to do, however reading a great Christian classic like Pilgrim's Progress (adapted for children) is worthwhile also. Remember, kids are often very visual and enjoy activities and challenges as much as just listening to stories. Their minds are like sponges, so take the time to teach memory verses (try using some of Colin Buchanan's songs), or teach the Lord's prayer, or a catechism.
- Remember their age and capacity to learn or concentrate. You will need to vary things as they grow. You may need to split the family and do one activity or book with the eldest, while your spouse reads a simpler Bible book to the youngest, if the age range is too wide. As they get older, give them more choice in what they read and the method of doing things.
- Give positive associations to church activities. Do some fun things together after church. Have an ice-cream on the way home. Have other families or your children's friends over for Sunday lunch. Be spontaneous. Be enthusiastic yourself about meeting with God's people and hearing from the Bible (remember you are modelling things all the time!)
- Make the most of Christian camps, Summer School, Conventions and fellowship or Sunday School activities. These are great for their teaching and input but they also help build long term friendships and a Christian peer group for our children. Godly youth leaders need to be encouraged and supported as they can play a very important modelling and mentoring role, especially when your children become teenagers.
- Make the most of some of the books around on parenting. You will not agree with everything in them, however they often stimulate you to action and provide new ideas which can re-energise weary hands. Take the time to talk to other parents and offer some encouragements to each other. We need support and help in this area as much as any other in the Christian life.
© John Mark Ministries
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