Parents pass on many things to their children -- sports, recipes, heirlooms -- but how does a parent pass on the most important thing, his or her faith? This is serious business as God shows us through Moses in Deuteronomy:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV.
This most important parenting task is not a once-a-week thing, but an every day, all-of-life thing as suggested by the two pairs of opposites "sit/walk," "lie down/rise" (ESV Study Bible).
So how does a parent carry out this passing on of the faith? Solomon gives us a clue in Proverbs 3:1.
Stop for just a moment and think about what Solomon said. It is a bit odd isn't it? I would think that Solomon would charge his son with these words, "let your heart keep God's commandments." But he doesn't do that. He admonishes, "keep my commandments." Commenting on this verse, John Kitchen notes:
[my commandments] refers specifically to what Solomon has given in these Proverbs as applications of the Law to daily living (Proverbs 1:8; 4:2; 6:20, 23). We might also apply this more generally to what parents pass on to their children about how to apply God's law to life today, though it certainly would not carry the same authority as Solomon's inspired Scripture.
My dad taught me how to work hard, how to take responsibility, how to throw a baseball, how to talk with people . . . but unlike Solomon, he never taught me anything about the things of God. I don't think I'm alone.
If there ever were a time for parents to be passing on (i.e. teaching) the faith, it is today. So in an effort to model to our kids -- whatever age they may be -- here are 7 Ways To Pass On The Faith.
- Read the Bible daily.
God's Word must be in our hearts before we can pass it to our children's hearts. We pass on the faith by reading the Bible for ourselves and with our children. Did you know you can read through the entire Bible in just 3 1/2 years by reading one chapter a day. Most families can do this at a shared meal or before bed.
- Affirm your children. Matthew 17:5
Children need our affirmation as much as our admonition. Parents need to point out what their children do well. It encourages them, it builds your relationship with them, and it helps them receive admonition later. Interestingly, God the Father publicly affirmed Jesus, God the Son.
- Model an honest walk with God. Proverbs 3:5-6
More is caught than taught! Let your children see you reading the Bible, or going to a small group. Let them hear your prayers of uncertainty, your apologies, and your need for the Lord. Tell them how God helps you walk through the highs and lows of life. They will learn a lot about following the Lord from this.
- Pray with and for your children. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray with your kids before they walk out the door, at meals, when they come to visit, or when they share a challenge over the phone. Don't say, "I'll pray for you." Stop right there and pray for them. It doesn't have to be long or eloquent.
- Let your children pray for you. James 5:16
I arrive to church early on Sunday mornings. So does my son. We meet briefly in my office and he prays for me. Our children grow and so do we when we ask them to pray for us.
- Serve in the church with your children. Romans 12:3-7
One of the great hallmarks of our church is the number of families who serve together . . . in children's ministry, on mission trips, at Upward Basketball, or during special events.
- Study the Bible with your children.Matthew 22:34-37
A friend of mine and I both have taken time to do long-distance studies with our sons. We pick a book or study guide, pick a time, and then spend 30 minutes by phone or Skype reviewing what we are learning.
Of course, one of the best ways we pass on the faith is by simply loving our children with the love God has given us.
Question: What have you found that helps to pass on the faith to your children? We could all benefit from hearing from you. You can leave a comment below.
"[my commandments] ... from John Kitchen. Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications. 2012. Page 73.