A couple of weeks back I wrote about the need for parents to help their children mature spiritually so that their faith is not something they cast off as soon as they leave the home. Of course, there are lots of scriptural principles for our teaching our children to love God in word and deed. Two of my favorites are from Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 6. The first is a promise of generational blessing to those who love God and keep His commandments; the second is a command to parents to teach our children God’s words and ways every minute of every day. Perhaps the most often quoted of these kinds of passages is Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” It is abundantly clear to me that even though we are supported in our work by the church and (if we are so blessed) the Christian school, the responsibility for training our children in the faith still rests with us as parents.
It can be difficult, however, for parents to know where to start in this training, so let’s start at the beginning. From children’s first ability to comprehend, it is important for them to see dad and mom walking steadfast in the faith: praying, reading the Bible, going to Church every Sunday. All of those things are important, yes, but also children need to see dad and mom making everyday decisions based on God’s word. They need to see that dad and mom’s way of thinking about and doing everything is founded on pleasing God. Children need to see dad and mom loving God and loving neighbor, not only in word, but also in deed. What I am describing is what the Greeks would have called paideia—a culture that educates toward a way of being.
In order to raise Christian children to be practicing Christians, we need to create in our homes a paideia of God. In addition to the passages mentioned earlier, Paul writes in Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” One way of provoking our children to wrath is by expecting them to become mature, faithful, lifelong Christians based solely on what they get at church and school. Not only is that outcome unlikely, it is actually the perfect recipe for a half-baked hypocrite. Children will worship what dad and mom worship, whether it is money, fame, leisure, fill in the blank; the children will bow down to whatever the parents bow down to. The parents cannot, for example, worship their careers and expect their children to worship something different.
The best way to be sure our children will carry on in the faith is for us to carry on in the faith as a witness to them every minute of every day. We could discuss practical training—how to teach your children to pray, for example—but all of that put together will be at best a half-measure without a paideia of God in the home. I said earlier that training children in the faith must begin at the beginning. We are that beginning, and we cannot hand down a faith to our children that we ourselves do not possess. I have said before, but it bears repeating, that we are not the Holy Spirit; we do not save our children. God does the saving. But the way we as parents live before our children is the premiere human influence upon how they will view the faith and eventually live it out for themselves. If parents live their faith every minute of every day in both word and deed, if they put the One True God at the head of all they do in theory and practice, then there will be a paideia of God in the home. Everything else will flow from that, for that is the true beginning of training children in the faith.