For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 1 Timothy 1:5-7
Before we begin the “why” or “how-to” of training children in the Christian faith, know that Timothy had one believing parent, one believing grandparent. The Book of Acts also makes mention of his mother being a believer, but not his father.
Timothy grew up, and a sincere faith dwelt in him.
The same faith his mama displayed; the same faith his grandma spoke of. This is the desire of all godly parents. This is also the desire of our Heavenly Father, who blessed us with our children. May it be our constant prayer to cling to Him in faith, and to see sincere faith dwelling in our children.
Lois and Eunice trained up Timothy–what curriculum did they use? What mega-church programs helped Timothy the most? What should the budget be for a church to replicate the sort of training Timothy received? What badges did Timothy aim for? Did Eunice bribe him with treats to get him to learn the Word? Who was it that counseled Lois and Eunice, helping them to see Timothy’s need for lots and lots of engaging, exciting programs?
Mothers, we don’t need a mega church full of fragmented groups. Our children do not need programs to come to faith, or grow in faith. Our children need relationships with their parents, at least one parent. One willing parent who will manifest the faith.
Manifest. To make known, by making visible.
Timothy’s mama and grandma spoke of their faith, lived out of their faith, and took Timothy to the synagogue. It was not entertainment or amusement that kept Timothy wanting to learn and grow. In the context of loving discipleship, Timothy grew.
You are Jesus’ program for training up the next generation.
Quarantine and state-of-emergency laws have made it impossible for most church programs to continue. No VBS. No “children’s church” or nursery. But we need not panic. We need not quit–we are not those who shrink back from the faith!
This time has been precious to many, helping them really feel their need for fellowship. A true Christian will feel the loss acutely. We miss the way we used to worship and fellowship together, but we know we are ok without elaborate expensive programs.
You, parent, pass on the faith, the doctrine, the theology. You do this in the context of love. Yes, all Christians ought to be Theologians! Mamas, and those they disciple (i.e. children). (To learn more of how to dig deep in the Word to do this, see here).
God’s people must gather as the church; this is why we miss each other. This season of living differently has been making most of us weary; but also grateful for true fellowship. And so as we can we meet together, we worship, we delight in the Word preached. But this does not negate the place of family, or the role of parents. As the church gathers, we recognize that we are the larger family of God; but in our homes, we do not abandon the responsibility of living in accordance with Deuteronomy 6 and 11.
Modernity has led Americans to give the government the right to train up our children. When those in high places claim that they give us parents the “privilege” to be a family, we don’t blink an eye. Modernity has also led the church to chase after comforts and comforters that are not Biblical; but apart from knowing the Word deeply, many try to bring these new ideas into line with their own personal beliefs. (For more on this, see No Place for Truth, by David Wells.)
Then on weekends, when we gather to worship corporately, we expect the spiritual training our children need will be from a Sunday School teacher, who is someone other than their parent. After all, parents need a break. Church ought to give me a break, and train up my “Timothy” (day of rest, right?).
I get it. When I had nursing babes, I struggled with the notion that these little one’s made it impossible for me to rest. I had to re-learn what rest was, and enjoy Church afresh.
Time for us to enjoy a little “post-modernism.”
Not the brand of postmodernism that believes there are no absolutes, and truth is what my friends let me get away with saying. No. Simply the kind that says “Modernity has led us astray. Please LORD JESUS lead us in Your ways! I am done with what Modernity has done to Your people’s faith and worship.” That kind of postmodernism.
Reading through Corrie Ten Boom’s book titled “The Hiding Place”, the first several chapters help you see a bit of her family life as she grew up. Family was the perfect atmosphere for her to learn, to hear the Word and ask questions and be discipled. Her father did not let the church services be the exclusive time of Bible teaching. They read together at meals. She prayed with her family, and by the age of five she remembers praying for her neighbors, by herself.
God designed families, and wants them to be communities that share fellowship, that train the next generation of believers in His Way, Truth and Life. If or when programming returns as part of “another new normal,” you are still God’s original theologian and teacher, meant to pass on the faith in sincerity to your children.
Keep it Simple.
I know, sometimes it helps to have a curriculum. For this reason, I love the Catechism. Modernity would have you turn your back on confessions–Jesus would have you hold fast, confess, and grow in your confession. Some denominations once led me to believe that we need to cut ties with ancient faith–forge ahead in our pride of “knowing better.” What a yucky phase of spirituality that was. (If you want a beautiful essay on this topic, try the introduction to Athenasius’ book “On the Incarnation” written by C.S. Lewis.)
Simply read Scripture.
We are not perfect, and certainly do not make any claim to have perfected this. Yet I see that our times in the Word as a family have impacted my children. We read after breakfast; one day from the Old Testament (though I admit, they are so young I leave out the parts about prostitution and other details they don’t need to ponder yet), and we read from the New Testament the next day. They follow the stories, they remember, they internalize even without me telling them which points are important. We do not outline, or fill in any blanks. We read, and talk. We focus on the Psalms on Sunday, or any day we see fit. As they grow, I am teaching them how to journal; and eventually will teach them to study the Word on their own.
They will soak it in.
I have seen it. While reading through 2 Kings, learning of all the kings who mostly did evil–I read the words “and he did was was right in the sight of the LORD” and my children’s faces began to beam with joy. As I smiled at them, sharing their joy, they cheered. They have referenced things we’ve read, weeks later. They have worked Scriptures into their prayers.
Read, Pray, and Internalize
We also memorize as a family. Verbally. I read a verse seven times, we then recite it together several times. Then for days we recite together. The next week, we add another verse. We don’t follow a program, we have chosen passages that we know are important to cling to.
A lot. Before meals, yes, but don’t let it stop there. We pray as we leave the driveway. We pray as we start our homeschool day. We pray through tantrums and wearisome moments. We pray when feelings are hurt. Also, sing. Hymns, a lot. And apologize.
Be bold enough to speak openly of your delight in God’s handiwork. Don’t just think a thought–share it. Live out loud.
The Pandemic Loss of Children’s Programming, is it really a loss? Or can it be a catalyst for moms and dads to train up their “Timothies” as Lois and Eunice did? Can we help our “timothies” know God, see the beauty of family, see their family as part of a local church, and all part of the Body of Christ, the Family of God?