Thoughts of a Country Preacher

The Monday morning ruminations of a pastor.

Monday, June 04, 2007

On the Theological Education of Our Children

There are not a lot of things in life that truly scare me. I’ve almost drowned (twice), I’ve been shot at, and I’ve had I don’t know how many near misses on the highways. Admittedly, I really don’t want to go through those things again, but I wasn’t super scared either. However, for the past several months, there has been a twenty-pound terror living in my house, my son, "baby" Jack. It’s not that he’s scary in and of himself – he’s actually a very mild mannered and well-behaved child. What’s scary is that I am responsible for him, responsible for his upbringing, and most of all, his spiritual education, and when I think of that, it scares me to the point of tears.
While I greatly appreciate how God has worked in my life, I do not want my son to grow up like I did. My faith tells me my life was providence, but to the casual observer it was a craps shoot. I accepted Christ when I was 5, and since neither of my parents were Christians, my spiritual growth was very hit and miss.

Parents should be very deliberate about their children’s spiritual training, and as I look at the years ahead, I honestly have very little idea about how to train up my child in "the way he should go." Since this topic has been on my mind lately, I’m hoping to share what I have come up with so far – and if anyone has any suggestions – by all means share them.

Stay Centered on the Bible
One aspect of my childhood that helped me tremendously was the fact that my Sunday School classes focused upon Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments. As such, later in life when I began to study the Bible deeper, I had a foundation of Bible knowledge and a healthy respect for its authority. Right now, I want to give Jack that same foundation. So, when I do my quiet times, I do them with him. In addition, when I do my studies for my sermons, I take Jack into my office and do them with him. It is my hopes that as time progresses, he learns important Biblical lessons. And most importantly, learn how to study the Bible himself.

Teach Them Theology
When I went to college, I had more than a few friends who grew up in church, only to abandon their faith after a short time in school. Why did this happen? Because in college their faith was challenged, and they were unable to answer those challenges. I don’t just want Jack to know the truth; I want him to know why it is the truth. Right now I’m reading Grudem’s Bible Doctrine to him. When I was younger I remember my father reading the Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tales to me, and to this day – despite the fact that it has been decades since last reading them – I still vividly remember how Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood really went. Despite Walt Disney’s best attempts to make them as "G" as possible. Hopefully in the same way, young Jack will also recall Mr. Grudem’s lessons years from now, even if he strays from studying them himself.
I also plan on teaching him one of the old Baptist catechisms. I haven’t figured out which one I’ll use yet, or how exactly I’ll do it, but I do know that one must be careful with catechisms. I met a fellow once who taught his 3-year-old a catechism, and would often put him in front of crowds to recite it from memory. At first I was impressed, but then I realized that this kid was just parroting what his parents taught him – he very likely didn’t have a clue what it all meant. And that is the last thing I want for Jack, I want him to understand theology, not just repeat it.

The call to train a child in the ways of the Lord is a high calling, and many times I wonder if I am truly up to it. To further complicate things, I am the pastor of a small church with about a half dozen young families – all with children under the age of 5. These parents are looking to me for help in raising their children. To help them, I’m hoping to have a "Parenting 101" class in the next several weeks, but I will admit that I need help myself. If anyone out there has any good materials or ideas, please let me know.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 4 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up.

Disclaimer: I had a pastor who said that when he started pastoring, he had 4 sermons on raising kids & no kids himself. Today, he has 4 kids and no sermons on raising kids. As such, I reserve the right to amend, add to, and do whatever else as I learn more about parenting myself.


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