Pastors’ kids. You know the ones.
Stereotypically, they come in one of two forms. Either they’re sporting black finger nail polish, tattoos, and piercings making them look as holey as Swiss cheese, or they’re the other kind of holy. Perfect little angels who have the New Testament memorized and have a rainbow-colored collection of WWJD bracelets.
However, I AM a pastor’s kid. But I’m not a kid anymore. I’m grown up, married and have three kids of my own.
But the stereotypes never seem to go away. And since I don’t wear black finger nail polish and my only piercings are in my ears, people think I grew up speaking Hebrew at age 4, baptizing Barbie and Ken in the sink, and playing Beatitude BINGO at birthday parties.
I hate to burst your bubble, but I am fairly normal. In fact, I grew up like most any kid. I played hide and seek, needed help with my math homework, and competed in school sports. Now I help my kids with their math homework (if I can figure it out!), put meals on the table (why do they want to eat every day?!) do laundry, and shuttle people to sporting events and birthday parties.
We really are quite normal. See?
Being born into a pastor’s family doesn’t come with automatic Bible knowledge; you just have to spend more time at church.
So how did my parents teach me about the Bible?
I get asked this question a lot along with the follow-up question:
How do you and Kraig teach your children the Bible?
So I thought I’d take a minute on the blog today to share a few ideas. Please understand that these are simply suggestions. Scripture makes it clear that we should be teaching the next generation about God and His Word, but there is no perfect “formula” or mandated devotional book we must use. If anyone tries to tell you there is, they must not have been paying attention in church.
So look at these ideas and thoughts as you would a buffet.
Take what your family likes and what you think they’ll digest. And you can even add other ideas å la carte. The important thing is that God’s Word is being passed on to future generations.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 reads:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
I’ve always loved this passage (I can clearly remember being asked to memorize it the summer after 4th grade at Vacation Bible School by a teacher wearing a “priestly bath robe” and homemade Israeli headdress.)
Basically, this passage is encouraging the people of Israel to do two things.
1. Love God and keep His commandments.
2. Teach their children to do the same.
It’s pretty simple, really.
According to this passage, the instructions for teaching your children are to make loving God and talking about Him a natural part of your lives.
Do you notice it doesn’t say you must have a “family devotional” time each night at 7:30?
Instead, it stresses that you talk about God and His commandments as you go about your life. It should be as natural to share about your faith with your kids as it is to share about their homework, their chores, or what they want for Christmas.
Here are a few practical ideas.
“Talk about them when you sit at home…”
Our family loves to talk at the dinner table. We often end up laughing with (and sometimes at) each other. It’s a joy. Not every conversation is spiritual, by any means, but sometimes while we’re “sitting at home” we can use a teachable moment. If a child is struggling in a relationship at school, we may ask them what they think God would want them to do in that situation. If they’re not sure, we’ll make a suggestion based on the Bible. As we pray for our meal and mention someone who is ill or in need, we’ll talk about what we could do as a family to help them and why we think the Bible says it’s important to care for others.
Growing up my parents often talked to me about the Bible while at home. My dad might say,
You know how you are having to make a hard choice with your friendships at school right now? Well, Daniel also had to make a hard choice when he was taken as a captive into Babylon. Daniel resolved to do what pleased God and then God blessed him for it. I hope you can resolve to do what you think God would have you do in this situation as well.”
It was a 15-second statement probably followed by, “Want to go down to the basement and play Ping-Pong?” but it became a natural thing for me to base my decisions on God’s Word.
“When you walk along the road…”
I’ve told people that I believe some of my best Bible education did not happen in the classrooms of my Christian University, but instead in the middle seat of a white Toyota Previa minivan. Since our family preferred to drive down the road as opposed to walking as in the days of Deuteronomy, we used that car time to discuss many things. It wasn’t like we held official meetings or lessons, but we’d talk about God as we saw His beautiful creation out the window, or we’d play a game of Bible trivia where my parents would ask us questions and we’d make a game out of trying to shout out the answers.
The same is true today with my kids. We don’t do anything formal, but as we’re going along the road and pass an ambulance with its sirens blaring I’ll ask the kids if one of them would like to pray for the person who must be sick or hurt. We’ll pray aloud (I keep my eyes open while driving) and they each have taken turns lifting others up while heading down the highway.
“When you lie down…”
What kid doesn’t suddenly want to talk when they’re being tucked into bed and Mom is flipping off the light? Bedtime can be a gold mine. I can remember talking to my Mom about all sorts of things when I was a little girl and she’d be tucking me in and sitting on the side of my bed. Those times are priceless and little hearts and ears can be tender as little eyes are getting heavy.
At our house, we do a Bible story every night before the kids go to bed.
I know what you’re thinking… I said earlier that the Bible does not mandate family devotions at 7:30 and yet that’s what we do. Am I a legalistic hypocrite?!
Let me explain.
The Bible does not mandate any particular method for teaching your children. BUT, it does indicate that it should be a natural part of your daily life. SO, it seems wise to put some habits in place for your family to help you get into a routine and practice of passing on God’s Word. It doesn’t matter what these routines look like or what time you do them. You need to choose what works best for YOUR FAMILY.
We’ve chosen bedtime because it works for us. Here’s how we do the Bible story each evening.
We sit in the family room with the kids sprawled out on the floor or snuggled in one of our laps. My husband will read a Bible story out of a Children’s Bible and then we’ll ask the kids one or two questions about what we’ve just read to make sure they understood and were paying attention (they’re not perfect, sometimes they have no clue! Other times they surprise us by saying something profound.) Then we’ll read a Bible verse (our Children’s Bible provides a verse a week), and we’ll have the kids repeat it after us and try to memorize it by the end of the seven days. We add silly hand motions to help with memorization.
We started doing this about 8 years ago and we’ve now read through the entire Children’s Bible about 8 times. The book we use is called Every Day with God by Zondervan Press, but like I said, find one that fits your family! There are many great resources out there!
We also try to mix things up seasonally, so for Christmas time we’ll read the Christmas story each night instead (one year our kids memorized the entire chapter of Luke 2 – I’m not saying that to brag, but to remind you that many kids are amazing at memorization if challenged. They can do it and you’ll find yourself memorizing right along with them!) In the summer we’ll take a few weeks and try to memorize the Fruit of the Spirit and then we’ll ask the kids to give us an example of what it looks like to have “Love” or “Peace.”
And, I love that some of the last thoughts our kids have each night are focused on God and His Word.
Oh, and sometimes we skip the Bible story at night. GASP! If it’s been a long day or we’re traveling we are ok with just putting the kids to bed without reading the Children’s Bible. We make sure that skipping it is the exception instead of the rule, but we don’t want to become legalistic about it. We want our kids to know that God is big on grace and He understands our weaknesses.
And incidentally, we’ve never been struck by lighting or hit with a plague of gnats when we skipped the Bible story.(We have found some large spiders in our basement, but I’m pretty sure they’re unrelated.)
“When you get up…”
The other day my son astutely observed, “Mom, you’re not a morning person, are you?” No son, I’m not. So maybe I’m not the best one to be telling you about impressing God’s commandment on your children as you get up. I’m happy just to get some breakfast in them before the bus comes. But I think the point with this one is that each day as you get up, loving God and teaching your kids His commandments should be something you do automatically –like brushing your teeth.
“Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…”
The Hebrew people actually did these things. They would literally tie Scripture to their foreheads and write it on their doorframes. I’m pretty sure my kids would balk at the idea of tying a Bible verse to their hairline, so again, I look at the principle of this point. What can we put in place in our family’s lives that reminds them about God and His Word?
We have Bible verses in frames and on walls that my kids can’t help but see as they walk though our home. Maybe they’re “accidently” memorizing these verses, and maybe someday when they’re struggling, they’ll call one of them to mind.
I can remember seeing my parents’ Bibles when I was a child and seeing where they’d highlighted and written in the margins. I figured it must be important to them. My kids now see us doing the same. Maybe now we read Scripture on our iPhone, but we want them to see us reading God’s Word and model for them what we feel is so vital.
There are so many methods and philosophies for teaching your children about God and His Word. I’m thankful that God has given us each unique personalities and unique children and that we have freedom to choose what works best for each of us.
Like I said, I’m pretty normal. Even growing up in a pastor’s home I’ve found that the best way to learn and teach God’s Word is just by living it. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
And thankfully you don’t even have to wear black nail polish or WWJD bracelets.