Parents and leaders of children, did you know you have small cameras and microphones placed around your homes and ministry spaces? No, the GCSB has not bugged you (I think); I am referring to the eyes and ears of the children in your care. Children are behavioural sponges, constantly observing and absorbing what those around them are doing and saying. How many parents have heard their children say something undesirable only to realise they were the original source?
I am relatively new to children’s ministry, but I have come to see how my own home can be a test plot for the discipleship practices I seek to encourage in the parents of our church. My wife and I have established family prayer rhythms, and look for teachable moments and opportunities for spiritual conversations. But when it comes to Bible reading habits we’ve had to be patient, given that our eldest daughter has just learned to read in the past year. Of course we have looked at stories from children’s Bibles together, but I’ve been excited for the stage my daughters can explore the Word for themselves.
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21, NIV).
This was what Moses said to Israel before they entered the Promised Land. He wanted desperately for them to remember who they were, to whom they belonged and how they were called to live, in light of that belonging. Moses wanted the revelation and instruction of the Lord to be ever before them as a reminder. They were to be a nation fluent in the story of their formation as the people of God. Their identity as those welcomed to the living God was not an accessory; it was the main thing! As such, it was to be what they dwelled on, what they discussed, and what they impressed on their children. And notice why Moses directed the people in this way: so that their lives and the lives of their children (and therefore of their descendants also) would be long and flourishing. The dynamic presence of God’s Word among them was to create a vibrantly faithful nation and a legacy of living faith for generations to come.
I have a habit of reading the Bible over breakfast, formed before I had children. I like how I can receive spiritual kai along with my physical kai. This has been a little trickier with the advent of children but I’ve largely managed to stick at it, and a recent development made me glad for it.
I recently sat down for breakfast with my girls, who as usual were eating their porridge. But on this day, when they saw me open my Bible, they got up and went to the book case. The eldest came back with a pocket CEV, asking, “What should I read, Daddy?” I was caught off guard at her sudden enthusiasm but suggested she start in Mark’s gospel. The youngest found a leather-bound devotional book that looks as good as a Bible to her and began thumbing through it, imitating her sister. I later saw that my eldest had started a collection of notes, recording her observations and questions just like I do when I read the scriptures. I wonder, how can we actively model the spiritual practices we wish to see developing in the children in our care? We can teach the how of these practices, and we are right to do so, but are we demonstrating the importance of such practices through our own example? It might be unplanned, like in my example, but what do children see of how we live out our faith in God? What are the metaphorical hands, foreheads, doorframes and gates that will speak to your ‘village’ of your identity in Christ?
Story: Gareth Davies
Associate Pastor, Kumeu Baptist Church
This article was originally published in the Baptist Children and Family Ministries Connect magazine May-June 2019 issue and is used with their permission.
Scripture: Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™