Raising small children is indeed a sticky endeavor. In this case, sticky refers to memorable experiences that “stick” with your child throughout life. What I want to talk about specifically is making God, worship, Church, service and faith sharing a part of the precious memories of your children’s childhood. What can you do to make those memories special, fond ones? How can you help imprint those memories so that if your children are ever tempted to leave God and the Church, those memories call them back?
Here’s where I think a lot of people make a huge mistake. I don’t think it is about showmanship and entertainment. Parents with grown children can tell you the amount of money and “flash” doesn’t necessarily make for the clearest memories. We recently asked our daughter about some early trips we had taken when she was very young. We knew at the time her memories would be sparse, but consoled ourselves with the knowledge it was “creating wrinkles in her brain” (code at the time for increasing a child’s ability to learn later by exposing them to enriching things at a young age).
Christianity is actually an interesting mix of grace and work. Step outside of any preconceived ideas and take a look at the New Testament with fresh eyes. When you do, it becomes obvious we cannot save ourselves and we are saved only by and through the grace of God.
On the other hand, Jesus and the disciples worked like crazy. Yes, they attended the occasional dinner party and fished from time to time, but they also worked hard. They were constantly traveling from place to place teaching, healing and serving others. The Apostle Paul even continued to run his tent making business while he preached. Even the early Christians were so busy working deacons were created to help handle some of the work load that had fallen on the elders.
The problem in life is that most people ride the pendulum. If they believed work was required too much when growing up, then they preach only grace – Christians can sit back and have fun – no work expected. If you grew up in an environment with too much grace, then your pendulum probably swung the other way. The truth lies in the balance. We are saved by God’s grace, but God wants and expects us to work in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons – for our own good and the good of the Kingdom.
I moved a lot during my twenties. Packing boxes is a pain. Then you either have to tape them closed or struggle to get them to do that criss-cross fold that keeps them shut. Imagine my excitement the other day when a store gave me this box! Some genius (worthy of a major prize or patent in my mind) came up with the idea of notching one flap. That’s it. Something really simple, but it makes a world of difference if you need to temporarily close a lot of boxes.
Christian parenting is the same way. We can get overwhelmed with the weight of the task and basically give up on even putting any effort into it. I can’t tell you how many blogs and posts I see from people who don’t want anyone to suggest a better way of doing anything – especially parenting. Those who have tips to make our job easier and the results better are obviously just judging us. Evidently, it is now even “cool” to be mediocre – those putting a lot of effort into almost anything are portrayed as uptight or neurotic and definitely worthy of scorn from those of us who are “average” and are happy to stay that way. Better to continue just taking our kids to church from time to time and hope it “sticks” like it seems to have with us than to put in extra effort and appear prudish, nerdy or judgmental.
Unfortunately, God makes it absolutely clear that is not at all what He expects from parents. Check out Deuteronomy 6:7 and Deuteronomy 11:19 if you don’t believe me. The sad part is many children will walk away from God because their parents didn’t put in that extra effort. And the good news is that it really isn’t all that hard. Just making a few tiny changes, can make a huge difference in the spiritual development of your child.
So what are some quick, simple things you can do to start your child in life with a well grounded faith? There are probably hundreds of things you can do, but try a few of these for starters:
Remember the command in Matthew 5:41? You know – the one when if someone asks you for one piece of clothing or to walk a mile, you give them twice what they asked from you? I think if I ever heard any sermons on it, they revolved around helping others or being nice to our enemies. How often though do we teach our children to actually go the extra mile in everything they are asked to do?
Unfortunately, it has become politically incorrect and “uncool” to do your best. Anyone expecting the best from us is judgmental, demanding, and even divisive. If we go the extra mile and give more than is asked from us – whether it is in church, service, work or school – we can be labeled “teacher’s pet” or much uglier things. Yet, I don’t find Jesus putting any limitations on his commands in those surrounding verses. Clearly, God expects us and our children to go that “extra mile”.
So how can you encourage your children to do their best without turning them into anxious perfectionists or rebellious slackers in the process? I think we can train our children to go the extra mile while also teaching them how to set healthy boundaries. There are probably a lot of ways to do it, but here are a few we tried:
If you have ever broken something that was precious to you, you know how horrible a mistake can make you feel. On the other hand, Satan can make sins feel fun and delay consequences until we are in so deep it feels impossible to get out of the mess our sins have created. If our children are going to be faithful Christians, it is so vitally important they understand the difference between sins and mistakes.
So what do our kids need to understand about sin and mistakes?