‘From Generation to Generation’ – Parents Nurturing Their Children’s Faith
We’re always passing the baton of faith — sharing the promise — to the next generation.
It’s been compared to a relay race. The most critical moment is when both runners are in the passing zone, and the baton is firmly placed in the hand of the next runner.
As a church, we’re in a perpetual passing zone. We’re always passing the baton of faith — sharing the promise — from generation to generation.
That baton, God said, had to be held in plain view. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts,” he said in Deuteronomy 6. “Impress them on your children. Talk 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 door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
Parents Impress Them On Their Children
Families like the Yahrs and Ninmans, members of St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis., may not have Scripture passages on their door frames, but they make sure God’s words are talked about in their homes as well as out.
Devotions and prayers — sometimes in the kitchen at snacktime, sometimes in a child’s room at bedtime — have been a normal part of the day since their children were toddlers. Discussions of Sunday’s sermon on the way home from church and finding applications for confirmation class lessons are ways these families impress God’s words on their children.
“We don’t want to give kids the impression that God is only for Sundays and he doesn’t fit in anywhere else,” says Todd Ninman. Steve Yahr adds, “We want to be sure God’s presence is recognized as an everyday thing.”
The Church Is Responsible Too
Parents don’t carry the responsibility alone to nurture their children. The church as a whole is responsible too. Most congregations reach children through elementary and Sunday schools. Some also provide family ministry.
They offer Bible study for moms or dads, Bible-centered parenting classes, Bible story/playtime for moms and tots, and resource centers with parenting books and tapes members can borrow.
“The Spirit will do his job,” says Pastor Randy Hunter of St. Andrew, “but we have to keep getting families into the Word.”
Bethany, Manitowoc, Wis., offers Bible study opportunities specifically for parents. Parents of kindergarten-age children are invited to a doctrine review class. Pastor Bruce McKenney says, “If we’re going to work together to bring their children up in the nurture and training of the Lord, then we have to be on the same page.”
Parents of fourth graders attend a Family Life in Christ class that includes parenting assistance. Then, when children begin formal confirmation instruction, the parents take a catechism review class.
McKenney sees increased participation in all regular Bible classes and a closer relationship with parents. “They’re not so hesitant to come to the church when problems arise,” he says, “because we’ve talked about these issues in class.”
Children have the most to gain, as family and church work together to share the promise. “Parents assist us as we assist them,” says McKenney.
Church and Home Work Together
The religion curriculum, ChristLight, which went into publication in 1998, builds on that cooperative spirit. It involves parents at every level of instruction. After children learn the lessons in elementary or Sunday school, parents read, review, and discuss them with their children. Assignments can be done together. The easy-to-use materials “will give willing parents an opportunity to review as they help teach their own children,” says Gerald Kastens, project directorand former youth discipleship administrator.
Luther emphasized parents teaching their children: “As the head of the family should teach them in the simplest way to those in his household.” The Yahrs, Ninmans, and other parents of confirmation class students at St. Andrew pay more than lip service to those words.
In the “Parents Equipped to Teach” program, they meet with Hunter once a month to learn three lessons. Then they teach those lessons to their children.
At the end of the month, the pastor and the children meet, have a meal, and discuss the lessons they’ve learned. He also hears recitation of their memory work, gives a review test, and writes up six-part evaluations to send home to parents.
“The Bible speaks very clearly to parents about their responsibility to teach their children,” says Hunter. “The Bible also speaks very clearly to the church about its responsibility.
“There’s really nothing renegade or innovative about this method. It’s biblical. It might not work everywhere, but here we can do it.”
Hunter adds, “I hope that when these kids start having kids themselves, they’ll remember Mom and Dad opening the Bible at the kitchen table, talking about God, and praying with them. And then they’ll think, I should be doing this too.”
So the baton of faith is passed on again and again. As parents — and as a church — we continue to share the promise of Jesus Christ from generation to generation.
7 Simple Ideas for Parents to Nurture Young Children’s Faith
1. Teach hymns and spiritual songs.
Start with “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb” (CW 432), or play Bible song tapes at naptime.
2. Share a Bible story every day.
After dinner read a simplified version from a children’s Bible, or tell the story in your own words. Refer to the story later: “Look at that big, bright star. Do you remember who followed a bright star right to Jesus’ house?”
3. Make prayer a priority in your home.
Pray regularly. Children can easily memorize mealtime, morning, and bedtime prayers. Pray for others. Post pictures of family and friends who need their prayers. Pray spontaneously. There’s no need to stop and fold hands. Just talk together to God. Thank him for helping them play nicely with the neighbors. Help them ask for forgiveness when they’ve done something naughty — then assure them they’re forgiven.
4. Memorize short Bible passages.
Write simple ones like “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12) on flashcards and keep them on the refrigerator or in a dresser drawer.
5. Share stories about your family’s life in Christ.
Tell how Grandpa and Grandma met at Bible class when they were 16. Remind them of the day everyone came to church to see them baptized. Relate how God answered a particular prayer for you last week.
6. Read your Bible where your children can see you.
7. Go to church and Sunday school