5 Ways to Start Training Your Children in Biblical Truth
by Charlie & Kristina MatzOne of the most helpful truths for us to consider as parents is that our children are a stewardship. They are good gifts from our Heavenly Father, given to us in order that we might “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4b). We have been tasked, by the God of the universe, to train our precious children according to His good commandments. This reality brings us hope and clarity in understanding that we have a very specific task to do, but it can also bring a lot of fear and insecurity when we appreciate the full weight of our task. Our greatest desire for ourselves is that we would lean heavily into the hope and clarity, while moving completely away from any lurking fear and insecurity. We’ve put together five “helps” to get us started on doing just that. We pray that you would join us on our journey of biblical parenting and we pray that these “helps” are a blessing to you and your family as well!
1. Train Ourselves
It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to train our children effectively if we are not being diligent to train ourselves. And even if we feel as though we are “pulling it off”, our children are bound to spot our hypocrisy at some point in their lives and we will end up worse off then when we started. But do you ever feel like you have all of the right desires, but you simply don’t know where to start? Here are a few areas of our life that we can all look at to make sure we are appropriately setting the pace for biblical training in our homes.
Attend a biblically sound church.
For some of us, it seems like the list of neighborhood churches is endless. The number of options can overwhelm us and make the decision of which one to attend even harder! But if we aren’t careful to make our priorities line up with the Lord’s priorities we can end up feeling more like we’re buying a new couch than finding the right church. And while it’s helpful to consider things like how much our children enjoy the Children’s Ministry or how much we like the sound of the worship music, our greatest concern should always come back to the biblical accuracy of the teaching and operation of the church. C.S. Lewis so aptly put it when he said:
Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.
Be in the Word of God daily.
I can remember that early in my Christian walk, year after year went by while I viewed my Bible reading like a Sizzler buffet. I was glad that it was there when I needed it and I would often find myself going to whatever “sounded good” on any given day. I definitely did not see my time in the Word the way that Scripture clearly describes it. Psalm 1 tells us that a man is blessed when “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (v. 2). Psalm 19 tells us that God’s Word should be desired more than gold, is sweeter than honey, warns us, revives us, provides wisdom, and rejoices our hearts! We need God’s Word and we need it every day. And we need to read all of it. We don’t miss a single aspect of God’s perfect wisdom, especially as we aim to biblically direct our children.
Learn how to pray and do it daily.
The kids and I just finished reading through one of my most beloved verses in Scripture as it relates to prayer. Mark 1:35 says, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Wow! Jesus Christ, God incarnate, rose early to spend time in prayer with the Father. If this was the habit of Christ, then we cannot ignore our own need for the daily habit of prayer. These two books have proven to be a benefit as we’ve continued to develop healthy prayer lives. The first is The Power of Prayer by R.A. Torrey and the second is Prayer by Timothy Keller.
Learn how to talk to our kids about God and the Bible.
While I trust that we all agree on the importance of talking to our children about God and the Bible, I imagine that we can also all agree on how difficult that can be. Where do we start? And how do we naturally bring these super important things into our everyday conversations? One thing that has been a blessing to our family is continually learning from other families! Even as this has become a natural activity in our home, we are always eager to look for new and more helpful ways to do it. We pray that the following resources will be a huge blessing to you and your family!
I am currently reading a book called Keeping Your Kids on God's Side by Natasha Crain. It's a great guide, suggesting 40 different conversations to have with your children.
Here's a resource that guides our kids through biblical conversations, teaching them to make wise decisions based completely on Scripture. View the Choose Wisely Cards.
2. Encourage Questions
If we’re a parent, we’re used to questions. So. Many. Questions. But some questions are more important than others. That being said, some questions are much scarier than others! Questions about God and the Bible can be daunting. It’s possible we won’t know the answer. It’s possible that our children won’t like or understand the answer. But we need to make sure that our fear about the “what if’s” of our children’s questions doesn't keep us from encouraging them to ask. For one, it’s a good thing for our children to see that dad and mom don’t know everything. Our humility and honesty in the “I don’t know,” moments shows our children that we’re still learning too and teaches them the gift of pastors and teachers to seek help from. And second, we need to be totally okay with our children not liking some of what the Bible has to say. If we’re honest, sometimes we don’t like what it has to say. But we uphold a high view of God and His Word when we maintain that all of Scripture is God-breathed and, therefore, must be obeyed… like it or not. And when it comes to things they may not yet understand, we love what Tedd Tripp says in Shepherding a Child’s Heart; “Give your children big truths they will grow into rather than light explanations they will grow out of.” We need to show our children that we’re not afraid of their questions because we are absolutely certain that God’s Word has the answer.
One final thought on this, when we encourage questions, we teach our children to think critically. And all we have to do is look around to notice that we need more critical thinkers in the Church now than ever before. The culture is going to do a "full-court press" on our kid's soul as early as grade school (i.e. Evolution, Sexual Ethics, Naturalism, Pluralism, Atheism, etc.). One of our greatest desires should be to prepare them to take in the barrage of questions that their peers throw at them and have a biblical response. It’s super important for us to see that it's not the Church's job to do this alone. It's ours. We are the disciple-makers in our homes. May we raise families that are willing to talk through life's most important questions together.
3. Find Great Resources
Just as it’s important for our children to see that we don’t know everything, it’s also super important for us to remember that we don’t know everything. And while I think we’d all agree with that statement, sometimes we can act like we have nothing left to learn. We fail to take advantage of the incredible resources that we have access to. Let’s be honest, the journey of biblical parenting is hard and it requires a lot of help. Here are a few of the resources that have been a real blessing to us as we’ve navigated the first twelve years of our own journey.
What the Bible Says About Parenting by John MacArthur
Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
Raising Men, Not Boys by Mike Fabarez
The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thorton
A Week in the Word by Bear & Squirrel
Choose Wisely Cards by Bear & Squirrel
4. Create Family Habits
Deuteronomy 6:7 gives us a very clear picture of just how often we need to be bringing God and His Word into the conversation with our children. "You shall teach them [God’s commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." In order for us to do this successfully, we need to create some very intentional habits in our home that make God's Word, God's promises, and God's history of provision ever-present. By failing to do this, we risk forgetting these things, just like the Israelites did. Here are three key times during the day that we would suggest creating these biblical habits:
Start the day right with the Bible at breakfast.
Once dad or mom is done eating, we pull out our Bible and continue through whatever book we’re reading at that moment. We read a small passage, usually just a few passages, and then ask our kids questions about what we read. Super easy to do and it goes a long way. We have fun with it and try to engage each kid in a unique way, considering their age. The result is that they look forward to it… most of the time. (I promise that our kids aren’t any holier than yours!)
Make dinner a time to reflect on God's goodness.
We try to ask each other what we're thankful for that day, specific to what God did. This has been an important part of teaching our kids that even "difficult" situations give us something that we can be thankful for. We teach them to praise God for how He brought them through the hard situations and even have opportunities to look at how we can respond better in the future. A fun way to do this is also by “playing” a game of Hardest & Favorite. We talk about our hardest part of the day (and how God helped us in it) and our favorite part of the day (and praise God for it!).
Aim to never miss a Bible time.
We either begin or end our bedtime routine by reading the Bible together. Similar to our mornings together, we go through a book of the Bible at a time, one passage at a time. We go straight through entire books of the Bible this way. We just finished Acts and now we’re going through John. This has really helped the kids to fully soak up what’s going on in each book we’re covering and it also helps to keep us on track quickly without having to figure out what to read each night. The format is similar to our morning routine and once we’re done with the discussion, we’ll pray together, asking the Lord to help us practically implement what we just learned.
5. Remember Who They Are Becoming
The one single best piece of advice I received from my Pastor about child raising is this; "You're not raising children, you're raising adults." This profound statement short-wired my brain (in the best way possible) forever. It helped me to realize that I had been falling into the trap of two lies:
We own our kids.
It seems so natural to view our children as truly “ours”, but natural is not always biblical. The biblical truth is that our children are on "loan" from the Lord and we're responsible for stewarding over them, investing in their future, and seeing a return. This takes us all the way back to that first point of stewardship!
They'll always rely on us.
It feels good to be needed and this can be especially true with our children. But we need to remember that they are arrows (Psalm 127:4) meant to be “shot out” of our home one day. We need to prepare them to be adults so that they can be independent. Our greatest efforts being made to teach them the biblical Gospel so that they understand their need to repent and put their faith in Christ alone for salvation.
When we raise our kids with a biblically accurate perspective, it's so much easier to understand the “why” and get excited about the “how”. We can fight the temptation to "hide our kids under the mattress" in this scary world and rather train them up and send them out as a "Kingdom Investment", Lord willing delivering a 100x return.
One final encouragement... The job of "adult raising" is not easy and we cannot expect to do it well all on our own. However difficult it might be for us to open up and be vulnerable with others, we need to fight the temptation to isolate ourselves. Proverbs 18:1 teaches us that “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” So let’s make it a priority to get into a small group or a tight community with other Christian parents and then share with them our experiences and seek wise counsel. Let’s combat the prevalent lie that we’re the only ones struggling along this journey. The enemy is prowling around like a lion, seeking someone to devour. It's much easier to kill a sheep when it's alone.