“I have no greater joy than to hear
that my children are walking in the truth.”
I think that most of us who are Christian parents hope to be able to echo these words written by the Apostle John about our own children someday. We want nothing more than for our children to find a vibrant relationship with God and for their faith to bring joy and peace to their lives.
But how can we pass along a heritage of faith?
Is it even possible these days?
Statistics show that the majority of children who grow up in Christian homes will not choose the faith of their parents once they leave home. These statistics may prompt us to set off on a desperate search for the perfect program that will ensure that our kids won’t be one of them.
Yes, our children are people. They will make their own choices. But that doesn’t mean that we are rendered helpless to make any impact on their spiritual journeys.
In this week’s chapter of The Lifegiving Home, Sarah Clarkson shares what it means to pass on a “heritage of faith”, drawing on her own experiences growing up in a solid Christian home.
I’ve been convinced, through watching other Christian families and from my own experiences growing up, that there is no magic formula for “producing” children who love the Lord.
A heritage of faith is not passed on by means of a program.
It begins in the very atmosphere that fills the home.
It is built in the small, everyday habits of devotion; in the love that is expressed; in the daily looking into the Word of truth that brings life.
When our lives center around God and His Word – when the Bible is the compass that directs our paths – how can we not pass on to our children the passion we have for this way of life? Even if we don’t know very much about God’s ways, but are learning every day, our enthusiasm will be evident to our children.
I don’t have to be a giant of faith or a Bible scholar to pass on a heritage of faith. Whenever I feel inadequate for the task, I can go back to the story of the loaves and fishes and rest in the thought that God can take whatever it is that I have to offer (my five little loaves and two small fish) and bless it in whatever way He chooses!
I believe that there are two vital areas that we need to be mindful of as we endeavor to pass on a heritage of faith.
1. We’ve got to be real
If our children are going to even consider the way of life that we have chosen, they will need to see it for what it really is – flaws and all.
Our faith must be apparent in our everyday life.
Here are some questions I can ask myself as I consider what impression my faith is making on my children. If passing on a heritage of faith is important to me, I need to be completely honest with myself to see if I’m being real about Christianity.
~ Am I presenting a true picture of what the Christian life is all about or am I striving to keep up a façade of perfection?
~ Am I real about the things I don’t fully understand or do I feel as though I need to present an image of knowing it all? Do my children realize that I struggle with certain concepts? When they come to me with a question that I can’t answer, how do I respond? Do my children know that it’s OK to ask hard questions?
~ Do I humbly acknowledge when I make mistakes? Do my children see that I’m not perfect? Am I modeling the rhythm of seeking the Lord, walking in His ways, struggling and failing, getting back up and returning to the path of life once again?
~ Do I have outgoing concern for people? Or do I complain and gossip behind their backs? Do I see the world with the compassionate eyes of Jesus or do I choose to wear the glasses of cynicism?
~ Am I still conformed to the world and all of the things it says are important (success, money, possessions, entertainment)? Am I more passionate about the latest and greatest holistic living product, my new phone or the latest comic book movie than I am about digging into God’s Word or immersing myself in His Creation? Am I saying that one thing is important to me while showing something entirely different with the way in which I live my everyday life?
Let love be without hypocrisy.
Abhor what is evil.
Cling to what is good.
~ Do I regularly share with my children the wonderful works that God has done for His people throughout history and the things He has done for me personally? Do I share with my children how God has answered my prayers?
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
We will not hide God’s works from our children,
showing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
and his strength, and his wonderful works that he has done…
That the generation to come might know them,
even the children which should be born;
who should arise and declare them to their children:
That they might set their hope in God,
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments.
The truth is, we can’t pass on a passion for something if we don’t have a passion for it ourselves. If my faith is not the top priority in my life, how can I really expect it to be one in my children’s lives?
All of our wonderful intentions of passing on our faith won’t mean amount to anything if we’re not real with our kids – and with ourselves.
The amazing thing about God’s grace is that we don’t have to be perfect in order to pass on a heritage of faith. We simply have to start by being real.
2. We’ve got to be diligent.
If we have come to the point where we believe that Bible is absolutely true, then we have to accept what God says about our job as parents.
We have a responsibility to educate our children in the Word of God.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
There is no getting around this responsibility, and we should take it seriously. It is not the job of pastors, Sabbath-school teachers, videos or cool Bible apps and games. It is ours.
We don’t need to search out a “super-cool” program for our elementary-aged kids or the latest in modern day apologetics materials for our high-schoolers. While these tools can be awesome add-ons, they aren’t necessary! What IS necessary is our diligence.
We don’t have to have all the answers for all of the difficult problems that exist today in order to begin teaching our children. We can learn and grow right along with them.
We simply need to grab on to our responsibility with both hands and be faithful to do it with diligence – day in and day out.
Remember what Paul said about Timothy’s upbringing?
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Timothy was trained in the Scriptures from very early childhood by his mother and grandmother. And it made a huge impact in his life!
But every child has to make their own choice as to which path to take! I can spend my entire life investing, training and teaching my children about God and His ways, and they may STILL chose other paths! God can’t possibly hold me responsible for that!!
I admit that I’ve asked this question, too. Why even bother? Why should I work so hard if there is no guarantee that the work will have the result I so desire?
(You can read my full response to this question here: “What Will You Reap?” – Blog post from 2013)
This line of reasoning really has nothing to do with our responsibility. *
It’s absolutely true that “God gives the increase” when it comes to the heart work in our children’s lives. But He often uses “real people” to do to His work – we are fellow workers with Him in how we sow the seeds and the water the seedlings!
Gathering ideas from other families about how to teach our children about God can be helpful.
This chapter provides many practical ways in which we can integrate faith into daily family life.
I’ve also shared some examples of what we do in our family in this post: “Introducing Our Children to God”.
We have the very humbling and amazing privilege of walking with our children on the road of faith!
“We do not travel alone. Christ is the first and ultimate guide for our journey, but each faithful person since has left a trail of footprints showing us how to walk and which paths to follow. None of us practices our faith in a vacuum. We watch the ones who go before. We mark their endurance, catch their passion, learn from their wisdom.
And the first pilgrims we meet in this world have a profound influence on how we journey. Ideally, these first companions on our spiritual journey will be members of the family household into which we are born. And the first stumbling baby steps of faith we manage will be taken in the confines of home.
Home is the place in which the great journey of faith begins.” (p. 103)
Let’s be real.
Let’s be diligent.
Let’s do our part to pass on a heritage of faith!
Note: In his article, “Will the Next Generation Know?” , John Piper thoroughly answers common objections that Christian parents give to teaching the Bible to their children. From the “I don’t want to prejudice them in religious matters” to the “I don’t know enough about the Bible myself to be able to teach them!”, he covers them all with wisdom. I highly recommend it!
This blog post is part of a series on the book The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally and Sarah Clarkson. If you would like to read the rest of the posts, click HERE.