In honour of Father’s Day last Sunday, all this week we’re looking at Christian parenting. But not just for parents – for everyone. Our text is Psalm 78:1-8, which is the introduction to a very long Psalm that recites the great deeds of God in Israel’s history. But the introduction itself tells us a lot about teaching future generations about God. We’re using John Piper’s six key ideas as our “window” into the Psalm:
(1) God, the central reality in our lives, (2) has given us a fixed deposit of his truth (3) which we are to teach (4) so that our children might know that truth (5) and therefore put their trust in God (6) enabling them to live lives of loyal obedience.
We are to teach God’s truth
God, the central reality in our lives, has given us a fixed deposit of his truth. This, we are to teach.5b which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children,
And as I said on Monday, this teaching is a partnership between parents and church. Firstly, the church motivates and teaches the parents. We motivate parents by always keeping before them the big picture – a view of the world through God’s eyes. We teach them the Bible, so that they will know and do the will of God. You can’t bring up your children to walk closely with God unless you’re doing it yourself.
And parenthood – particularly when you have very young children – is a difficult time to stay strong spiritually. Especially for the parent who’s the primary carer. There’s often lack of sleep to deal with; a great drain of emotional energy in being with children all day. It’s not the most encouraging environment for regular spiritual disciplines: Bible reading, prayer times. (Hi to those young parents attempting to keep up with Coffee with the King in between feedings!) For a while there, regular attendance at a home bible study group can be almost impossible. And when you get to church, particularly in the first 12 months at least one of you won’t get to hear the sermon, or maybe hear it in short grabs from the foyer. (When our kids were tiny – and I was “on duty” as pastoral staff every Sunday – my wife realised she’d once gone about 6 months without hearing an entire sermon from start to finish!)
And so this means that we need to see our Sunday children’s programmes – especially the crèche – not just as an hour of free childminding for parents. Far from it! First and foremost it’s an investment in the spiritual health of those who are at the front line of teaching the next generation about God. It’s the church – together – building into the lives of parents, to ensure they get the spiritual input they need.
But as well as the spiritual growth of the parents themselves, we also need to ensure the next generation is taught about God. So we firstly equip parents with the knowledge, skills, and resources to explain the gospel to their children. And secondly, we provide other sources of teaching. Places where God’s word is taught in a more formal way than in the home.
(I know that despite having a Dad who’s a pastor, my kids seemed to learn most of their theology from Kids’ Church and school scripture teachers. I think they listened more to them. Many years ago, my younger son asked something about God and so the older one ran off to his room to get some paper and pencil, then came back and drew him the bridge-to-life illustration. They’d taught it the previous week in Kids’ Church.)
And of course this teaching is immeasurably more important for the children associated with your church who don’t have Christian parents.
So to all of you reading this who are involved in crèche or in children’s ministry or our youth programme: you’re doing one of the most important jobs in your church. You’re partnering with parents in raising kids who know God, who know his word. If you’re missing out on church services in order to be on crèche – you’re not just filling a place on a roster, you’re helping to produce healthy parents. If you’re giving up your Sunday morning sleep-in to teach children, or your Friday night social time to lead youth group – you’re not just minding kids, you’re obeying a command of God several thousand years old to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.”
And as well as being a part of that big picture, you yourself will probably learn something. Particularly young adults – when you’re entrusted with other people’s children, you’ll learn things that will come in handy if ever you have kids. Or even some things about yourself.
To think about
How are you be part of this “village-wide” process in your community of faith, helping to teach the next generation?