“And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road,, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Long, long ago when our son Andy was born, our church’s nursery had an area where moms and babies were always welcome. But, before we could leave Andy in the nursery while we attended worship or Sunday school sans kiddo, we were required to take a class called First Teachers. We met one hour a week for 2 weeks during Sunday school.
During week one the instructor said we parents are the first teachers for our kids in spiritual matters. She said the church was there to support us and walk with us, but the first and primary responsibility of teaching our kids belonged to us.
She was the expert. So we believed her. Turns out God said some very similar things in Deuteronomy 6. (I think our instructor knew that.)
When we left Indianapolis for Southern Indiana, we tried nearly all of the protestant churches in town. We weren’t really sold on any of them at the time because they were uncomfortably small.
(I’ll wait while you go back and read that sentence again.)
Yes, they were too small. We came from a large church in Indy, and the small churches here were, well… outside
our my comfort zone.
I come across as an extrovert. I’m really and extroverted introvert. Or maybe I’m and introverted extrovert. Hmmm…. Whichever way it is, we stood out in these smaller churches a bit more than I liked. Is it possible to be welcomed too much at a new church? (I need to move on before church hospitality committees panic.)
About a month after we moved here, as we drove to a different town, we were compelled to stop at a church we saw, because, they had exactly what we were looking for — a huge, beautiful playground for kids in the side yard.
Gary: Look at the size of that playground.
Me: Wow! You know what that means.
Gary: Yeah, that church has young families and spends money on them.
(Isn’t that how everyone picks a church?)
For the record, we were familiar with the denomination and comfortable with their theology. I’m not minimizing those points. But…we were CRAZY about their playground.
Turns out they had families with kids to use that beautiful playground. Turns out they had a good children’s program. That was simply a bonus, because, Gary and I were Andy’s and Caitlyn’s primary spiritual teachers — not the church. The church was there to support us.
While our kids certainly took part in their program, we didn’t NEED a great children’s program. We needed friends for our kids and other parents we could compare notes with as we all helped our kids grow spiritually.
Side note: I am completely aware that churches often have an opportunity to minister to kids whose parents are not involved, at all, in the process. I am in favor of good programming for kids. And teenagers for that matter.
But I do not condone parents IN the church who look TO the church to do all the right programming so Johnny and Susie grow up to love Jesus. I am calling parents to step up and lead your families spiritually.
Our kids certainly need other adults in their lives loving them with Christ’s love. But, that doesn’t remove the responsibility from us, the parents.
When we stand before God, are we willing (or gutsy enough) to say, “Sorry about my kids not loving you. Our church did not have very good programming for kids or youth.”
We are the first teachers. We are the ones who are with them at home and on the road. We are with them when we are going to bed and when we are getting up.
What does this type of parenting look like? I’m glad you asked. 🙂 We’re going to look at that in the next few weeks.
Is there something specific you’d like discussed? Do you have questions you’d like answered? I don’t have all the answers, but I know some really smart people.
Ask your questions by leaving a comment below. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I read every comment and email. Eagerly. I LOVE receiving comments and emails about my blog. Please leave a comment or send an email. (I’ll stop begging now.)
This post may seem a bit “in your face”. If it does, please forgive me. I’m not here to intentionally offend. The posts in the coming weeks will be instructional in nature. And I’m hoping after dinner conversation happens in the comments section. I’m a teacher at heart. And this is a subject I’m passionate about. The teaching can be gentle and encouraging, but only after establishing ground rule #1: parents are the most important teacher in a kid’s life 99.9% of the time. (I actually think that’s true 100% of the time. If it’s negative teaching, God’s grace can overcome it. I’ve seen that happen. God is good. Can I get an amen?)
Do you know other parents or grandparents or pastors who would be interested in this conversation? Please share this post with them.
Let’s talk parenting.
P.S. If your kids are older, it’s not too late. If you’re an empty nester. I’m counting on your sharing your wisdom — the things that worked, and the things you wish you would have known. We need you at the table.
See you next week!