Writing this post was not on my “soon in the future” list. That is until God brought so many clear and direct instructions that we, as parents, have to address this issue. I was honored to spend last week attending a conference for children’s leaders. I went with one of my very dear friends, and on the way, we discussed what we wanted to gain from going. I clearly told her that I wanted to find a tangible way to invest in parents so that they felt equipped to lead their children to know Jesus. Little did I know that the entire conference would be hinged on that exact concept. How do we as parents, myself included, take up the calling God gave his people in Deuteronomy to teach the next generation? How do we set a tangible path for those parents who are just beginning their own walk with Christ? Let me give you a hint: it isn’t going to church. Yep, I just said that.
In American culture, church revolves around this deep-rooted routine that while the parents have their “serious” time in church listening to the preacher, children are to attend their own special class, popularly known as Sunday School. The history and origin of Sunday School dates back to the late 1700s in England when Robert Raikes began these classes for poor working children or orphans. Children who were living in poverty, working a minimum of 12-hour days. Sunday was a day set aside to teach these children not only about Jesus, but simple educational things such as counting and reading. Sunday School has greatly evolved over the years but one thing is certain, it has greatly changed its role in a current family’s life.
If your family attends Sunday church just 3 times each month, your churches impact on your child is an average of 45 hours a year. A year! On the reverse side, if you take out the time your children are at school, time spent with your children is an average of 3,500 hours a year. It does not take a rocket scientist to see where the greater impact is from. Are they both important? Absolutely. What we need to keep in mind is where is the command given and the blessing received?
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
Joshua exhorted the next generation to teach their children about all that God had done. He exhorted the Israelite parents to watch themselves closely and to not forget all that God had done for them. This was a time when the Israelites had come into the Promised Land. They had SEEN first-hand God’s deliverance and guidance. Joshua knew that if the parents did not teach their children all they themselves had seen God do, the next generation would fail. All throughout the Old Testament, we read about the generations that had failed to teach their children. It was not the leaders responsibility to do this. There was a promise and blessing given to this obedience. Just one book later, in Judges 2:10 we read, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” This is the generation right after Joshua’s death!!! The same children whose parents Joshua had implored to teach their children about God! Parents, God has given us a command to teach our children His mighty name and wonders. He has commanded, over and over, the importance of our children not just hearing from us, but seeing us seek after God. We do not just lose a generation of kids. We lose a generation of parents who have disobeyed their calling to teach their children of Jesus.
We do not just lose a generation of kids. We lose a generation of parents who have disobeyed their calling to teach their children of Jesus.
So how do we do this? How do we as parents intentionally teach our children about God and His marvelous works, so that they in turn will follow Him? I believe there are three main ways we can do this: Time, Truth, Tribe.
First, let’s discuss time. We live in a world and culture, where busyness has been glorified as productivity. If you are running around going to every activity and event, then you are clearly doing something right. If you follow me on Instagram, you know how the book Present over Perfect has rocked me to my core. For so long, I have believed that busyness, especially in ministry, meant productivity. Until God brought me to my knees with my children falling apart emotionally, my marriage in disarray, and my health spiralling out of control. I was sacrificing myself and my family on the altar of being everything to everyone. An expectation I had given to myself. It has often been quoted, “Children spell love T-I-M-E.” Our children just want our time. They do not want another toy that in a few weeks will be broken or lost. They do not want another activity away from you to fill their emptiness.
God spoke to me so clearly, “Jess, there are other people I can call to do all these things you find so important. But there is only one person I have appointed to be the mother to your children and the wife to your husband. Just be.” Y’all, I’m going to let my Southern come out right here — bless my heart. He had to break me until I would finally listen and say, “Yes God! Whatever you say!” This hamster wheel I was on was not working for anyone. We, as a family, have made the drastic decision to homeschool our children next year. Not because their school is not amazing, because it is one of the finest private schools in our community. But because we realize we have lost so much time on the merry-go-round of busyness that if we do not make intentional steps to stop, we will remain on it. Now, I am not saying you have to do something that drastic! It may be simple things like a family walk after dinner, a special movie night on Friday where the kids get to choose the movie, a weekend camping trip. Ask God what that intentionality looks like in your family and I promise, He will tell you. He LOVES when parents win!
Next, is truth. We cannot give what we do not have. This past spring I did a wonderful moms’ Bible study based off of the book Shepherding A Child’s Heart. I began the study for other mommas, but also for myself! I wanted the step by step of “Follow these 5 easy steps to raise a great kid.” How dumb was I?
Quickly into the study, I began to see how vital my relationship with God is if I can even begin to pour into my children what God has called me to. One of my favorite passages is Psalm 78:6. I have it in my home as a constant reminder to me of what God has called me to do! It says, “So the next generation might know. Even the children not yet born- and they in turn will teach their own children.” God is thinking so far ahead to babies who have not even been born. He is commanding us to take His truth, His Word, to our children! How is your walk with God? Are you meeting with Him, learning about Him, studying His word? It is such a beautiful promise of what God gives us. Just today I was having a conversation with the sweetest of mommas. We were discussing just simple ways to teach God to our little 3-year-old boys. She shared how every time they see a rainbow, she is intentional to say, “Thank you God for the rainbow!” Then the other day her sweet little one saw a rainbow, and all on his own he said, “Thanks God for that rainbow!” This is it, parents. Simple, tangible ways that you can speak of God as you go through your day. Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “Impress them (truths) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” It is a constant, intentional journey of pointing out God’s amazing love and power as you go throughout your life. But here is the key, God wants to use you to tell His truths to your children. So we have to be plugged into God’s Truths ourselves.
Lastly, the tribe. Earlier I talked about how parents have become so reliant on Sunday School that they have lost their true God-given calling to teach their children. They have believed the lie of “I send my kids to school to learn about reading and math and to church to learn about Jesus.” While that is not how God has called us to live, don’t miss this- we are also not called do this journey of parenthood alone! Let me just say, when my daughter reaches middle school, you better believe I am going to be looking to “my tribe” to help me navigate these new waters. I am so thankful for the tribe of like-minded parents God has put in my path. They have been a solid foundation of truth for both my husband and I as we strive to live this calling. And that tribe is made up of Sunday School teachers, small group friends, childhood friends. It reminds me of the story of Nehemiah. In chapter 4, the Israelites are busy building up the walls when Sanballat and the Ammonites become angry and plan to attack the Israelites. In verse 13, we see how Nehemiah stationed the people BY FAMILIES in the gaps of the walls. Standing together, prepared for battle, to fight to protect their home and family against the enemy. Essentially saying, no more! You will not take our home anymore, you will not take our children to be slaves to your evil ways! Arm in arm, FAMILIES stood together and in verse 15 we see how when the enemies heard how they were standing ready to fight, and they fled. It is time for parents to stand arm in arm with other believers and say “No More!” We will not sacrifice our children to the entrapment of this world, because, wouldn’t Satan love nothing more? We need our tribes. We need those mentors in our children’s lives who they can trust to go to. We need those Sunday School leaders who stand arm in arm with us and fight for the hearts of our children. We as parents need those adults in our lives to say, “Are you good? Are you ready for battle? Are you ready to take the unpopular stand for the sake of your child?” We are at war for our children’s hearts. You can turn on the news at any moment and see how Satan is using government, school legislators and many other establishments to say what our children’s hearts should be following. We as parents must stand firm on the Word of God and His truths. Truth is from God and established by God. Him alone.
So what do we gain? Blessing. We gain the blessing of seeing our children follow a God who created them, who knows them better than we could ever begin to. And we equip “even the children not yet born” to hear the truths of God. Because when parents win, kids win.