Encouraging parents in their efforts to raise their children to be enthusiastic servants of the Lord.
Author: Thereasa Winnett
Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking. Their daughter Katrina, who has been an integral part of their service adventures, attends Pepperdine University.
If I am truly trying to parent like Hannah, I will often make decisions that seem strange to other people. As someone who has dedicated my child to God, my priorities should always be making choices that help my child become closer to God. Sometimes making those choices means I ignore or even reject what the world considers important.
I live in a very competitive community. The majority of the parents have college educations and most of the mothers stay at home at least until their children are teenagers. These parents want the best for their children. I have watched many of these parents hold their children back a year in school so they can appear more advanced academically and athletically than other children in their grade. These children have parents who make sure they have lessons in music, sports, foreign languages and even extra academic classes to give them the competitive edge in life. Yet many of these same parents will do almost nothing to make sure their children know God’s words.
My daughter is currently on a campaign to move mealtime prayers to the end of meals. She actually has a very valid point. In her opinion, no one really pays attention to the prayer before a meal because they are so hungry or are worried about the food getting cold (ouch!). We have had several light-hearted discussions on the pros and cons of her campaign.
In reality, I am just glad she thinks about prayer. We have family prayer times, but I have always tried to encourage our daughter to have her own private conversations with God. I don’t force her to pray out loud in front of us (and never have) any more than I would listen in on one of her private telephone conversations. I often wonder how she talks to God and I am happy when she occasionally gives me glimpses into her prayer life.
My husband and I have taught Sunday School numerous times during our marriage. We love trying to make the Bible stories come alive for the children. No matter how hands-on and interactive our lessons are, we always seem to have one or two children that are basically falling asleep on the table. It always concerned us that these children were getting nothing from one of the valuable hours of Bible study in their young lives.
Then one quarter, we stumbled across the answer by accident. We had written a fun unit on the Jewish holidays and how they connect to the New Testament and Jesus. As a part of each lesson, I would bring in a traditional food that was eaten when celebrating the holiday. Suddenly, my two sleepy heads perked up and participated better than almost anyone else. We had taught these two before, so we knew the difference was the food.
Children love to hear family stories. They are fascinated to hear about your life as a child or stories about colorful relatives they may have never met. Even at my age (nearly as old as dirt!), I still ask my dad to retell my favorite stories from his very colorful family.
Recently, I have tried to add some of our family’s faith stories to my repertoire. One of my favorite stories is how my grandmother found the church. She was pushing my infant mother in her carriage and stopped to rest in front of the church building. Someone came out to invite her in and she became a Christian shortly thereafter. Some stories are more humorous, although I won’t retell them here for fear my parents might be reading this. (What is the statute of limitations on parental punishment anyway?)
When I try to analyze Hannah’s decision to leave Samuel at the temple, I always wonder if she thought about who would train her child as he grew. She could have been tempted to dedicate Samuel to God without leaving him at such a young age. Even though we know Eli wasn’t exactly a great parent (at least if you judge him by his children), I have to think Hannah was comforted that Eli would encourage Samuel to follow God’s ways. Perhaps she thought Eli would mentor her young son. The one time we see Samuel turning to Eli for advice as a boy, Eli tells him to listen to God. I am sure that was what Hannah wanted Eli to do for her precious son.
When my daughter was born, I decided to make sure I had some influence on the adults she might turn to for advice or counsel. From infancy, she has had several “aunties”. They are friends of mine who I know love God and won’t undermine what we are trying to teach at home. These “aunties” have all been wonderful about giving our daughter special times and attention. Most of then have probably even put on a few pounds from all of the Girl Scout cookies they have bought from her over the years.