As I have been thinking about the awesomely huge responsibility parents have to be the primary faith trainers of their children, the question keeps coming up where to begin. The task is huge and eternity is at stake. The task seems monumental, well beyond the ability of first time parents (or any parent for that matter). To make matters worse, parents are given the responsibility without the benefit of an instruction manual. This is one of those jobs we learn on the fly. With each new child comes equally unique things to learn about them. Where do we go for help? There are 2 resources that believers have at their disposal, that can answer the toughest questions any parent can have.
1. The Bible As we read the Bible, we see examples of parents teaching (or not teaching) their children about God. We can learn from both their good and bad examples; what to do and what not to do. How is this done? By living out our faith right in front of our children. Deut. 6 reminds us that spiritual conversations can happen anywhere and at any time. We need to be ready (in season and out of season) to give them an answer for the hope we have, just like those outside the church (1 Peter 3:15 & 16).
Our children need to see us: A. Reading our Bibles. B. Praying (with & for them, for God to be at work with & for us). C. Confessing sin, especially when it is against them. The reason they need to see this is because things are caught, not taught. Our kids will learn more from our actions than they ever will from our words.
Remember what the whole point of this exercise is. To introduce our kids to the God that created them, the Savior who loves them, and the Spirit who guides them. To get them to have in an intimate encounter with the Gospel! Our job is to be faithful in proclaiming the message of salvation and let God do His work of changing their hearts. It's not going to be a one time conversation that produces change in our children, but a life devoted to our Lord and Savior. Our kids need to see our daily devotion to our God, not just on Sundays, not just when it's convenient for parents, but all the time.
2. Each Other - the Local Church The Christian life and experience is meant to be lived in community. We were created for community. God, who Himself lives in community (Father, Son, Spirit), created us in His image, to live in community. The bottom line is we need each other. We need each other for strength, encouragement, and wisdom.
Part of our responsibility to each other is to teach/learn from each other. For those who have gone before, the older generation of parents, have the responsibility to teach new parents. New parents need to be open and willing to learn what others have learned. This relationship by definition requires all of us to be involved in other people's lives. This is part of what it means to be in community (or church membership if you prefer) with each other.
Parents can't, and weren't designed to tackle this job alone. We need each other. New parents need the wisdom their church family provides; and the church family can serve by being faithful witnesses to the children of the congregation of what real faith looks like in practice.
Yes, our faith and the faith of our children, is personal; but it is not (supposed) to be private. Parents, children, believers need others speaking into our personal lives, challenging us where we are weak, and encouraging us where we are strong. This is what healthy families do.
Parenting it tough, no doubt about it. But with the help of God (through His Word) and other believers (the local church) we can all do this. We are not alone.