If you have children, they are your primary disciples. These disciples will truly follow you wherever you go. For every hour our children attend church on the weekend, parents have them for 100 hours. Read that again. It would be crazy to think that in one hour, once a week the church could teach your child all they need to know in order to love the Lord.
One day we will stand before the Lord to give an account for how we raised our children. Not how well the kids ministry implemented the monthly memory verse, or how well the church communicated the best parenting strategies and books to read. It will be us before God with our parenting lives on full display.
If that’s true, then it’s wise to parent with a goal in mind. But we have to make sure our goal aligns with God’s, otherwise we won’t end up where we hope to. So what is God’s goal for parenting? What’s the goal of discipling our children?
The goal in parenting
The goal of parenting is the same as the goal with any disciple of Jesus. We see see this laid out in Deuteronomy 6:5, known as the Shema:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV)
The goal of parenting, then, is to raise children who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, might and mind (as Jesus later added). As parents, we are to equip our children with what they need to know, love, and serve the Lord. No pressure!
That’s a pretty big task. So how do we do it? The verses following the Shema show us God’s template for how we should teach our children to love the Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9 ESV)
Go back and read that again. What word was used the most?
Your parenting begins with you
The word “you” was almost every other word in that passage. If we’re paying attention to the context, that has drastic implications for how we parent. And we can’t talk about the specifics of God’s plan without discussing this first.
We parents so easily fall into the trap of “drop-off parenting.” We drop kids off at art class to learn art, music class to learn music, sports practice to learn sports, and many times church is no different. It’s a tempting way to parent because it takes the pressure off of us. If my kid doesn’t do well in art, then I can blame the art teacher, then just find another one.
But we can’t fall into this trap when it comes to their relationship with Christ. If our children are going to learn to love the Lord, we are going to have to own that happening. That means we don’t drop them off at church once a week to get their Jesus-fix. It means we weave God throughout all of life, as we’ll see in a minute. It means we worship in our homes, serve in our communities, and work to make Jesus known among the nations – as a family.
Once we get that, then we’re prepared to follow God’s method for teaching our children to love Him. Now let’s see what Deuteronomy 6 has to teach us.
The 3-part parenting method from Deuteronomy 6
1. Teach diligently
The Lord made it very clear in verse 7 that you shall teach the Lord’s commands to your children: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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.”
A great Bible study practice is to define words that stick out to you in Scripture, or perhaps words you don’t understand. In this verse, the word “diligently” lept off the page. Parents are commanded to teach their children God’s Laws, but we’re specifically told to teach them diligently.
If you look up “diligently” you’ll see that one of the definitions is “to take delight in.” Now, plug that back in to verse 7 and we see that we should be teaching them with delight. Not out of duty or as a way to check off a box, but taking delight in teaching my children the ways of the Lord.
This is challenging in our own lives as we asked ourselves, Do we take delight in teaching our two year-old to flee from sin and pursue righteousness when she grabs the train from one of our other kids? Do I take delight in helping my 4-year old understand that he’s valuing toys over people and it’s causing him to treat people as less than that?
If we’re being honest, a lot of time we don’t. We do it with grumbling because it’s taking us away from whatever we wanted to do in that moment. That’s not “taking delight” in teaching our children. And if you have kids then you know they sense that immediately.
What these verses help us see is that in those times when we’re not teaching our children with delight it’s because we’re not taking delight in the Lord and His grace. We’re not relishing in His favor and reveling in His gospel at that particular moment. If we’re going to show our children how to love the Lord, it starts with us loving Him first. If we don’t delight in Him, we surely won’t be able to teach our children to.
2. Teach continuously
We are to take delight in teaching our children the ways of the Lord, and we are to do it continuously: “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.”
Whether we’re in the comfort of our home, out at the park, at night or in the morning, we are to be talking about the Lord with our children. What the Bible does not say is to only talk about God on Sunday morning and you’re all set for the week. No, This is an everyday, continuous thing.
At first this can feel overwhelming and we can get caught up in what that looks like and wondering how exactly we do that. But when we feel that way, maybe we’re missing what the Lord is saying. Remember that in verse 5 and 6 we are told to love the Lord with all our heart. If we love someone with our whole heart, isn’t it easy to talk about them? And talk to them? If we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then conversations about Him will happen with our children simply because we love Him and we love them.
To implement this in our family, we have family worship time daily that is integral to shepherding our children, but we also talk about God as we’re living our lives. When we’re at the grocery store we thank Him for the food He made and providing us money to buy it. When we we hear fire trucks and ambulances we pray with our children for whoever they’re headed to help.
But let’s slow down for a moment. Many of you may be like Maggie and you weren’t raised in a Christian home. Or maybe you were, but your parents walk with the Lord didn’t permeate past the doors of the church. So what does this look like and where do you begin? These three things can help get you started.
- Volunteer in your churches children ministry. You get a peek into what is going on in those rooms so you can then expand on it at home.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to fellow parents trying to navigate the waters of Christian parenting. Most of our best ideas came from conversations with friends or books and podcasts we’ve read or listened to. Become students of parenting.
- Finally, never underestimate the power of prayer. As James 1:5 says, “ If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all.” There have been so many times we’ve had no idea how to handle something within our home, but the Lord has provided an answer. But that answer only came after much prayer.
3. Treasuring His Word
So we are taking delight in teaching the ways of the Lord to our children. We are doing this continually. The final point Moses has for us from Deuteronomy 6 comes in verse 8 and 9 when he says,
“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
The language here is a bit odd, right? Like what is a frontlet? And do I need to run out and get a tattoo on my hand? This is when Bible literacy is important. We need to ask ourselves who were the original hearers of these words? When we dig into that question we discover they had very few written copies of the Law available to them. Today we have multiple copies of the Bible on our book shelves, maybe even various translations, and we can even have it as an app on our phone. But for these first hearers this wasn’t the case.
They would write select sentences of the Law on their walls and wear them on their wrists simply to make the Word of God familiar to them. They would write it on their gates so people passing by would read it and know that they believed in the God of Israel. They would surround themselves with the Word of God for the same reasons you surround yourselves with pictures of your children – because you treasure them.
While the applications of this command will look different today, we should still take this same principle of treasuring God’s word and strive to make the word of God familiar to us. In a time and country where we have the freedom to read, study, and talk about the Bible so freely, we should be surrounded by God’s Word.
But few of us actually prioritize this. We wait for Sunday morning to hear from the Lord when in fact we could be hearing from him everyday. As Francis Chan has written, we wait to hear from God through Moses instead of realizing that we could be hearing from Him ourselves. We miss out on hearing from God daily by missing the treasures of His Word.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” And then in Romans 15:4 Paul says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
If we want to raise children that fear the Lord, we have to believe these verses are true in the core of our being. We have to treasure God’s Word, seeing it as pure and righteous and true. Once it becomes as sweet as honey to us, we’ll surround ourselves with it. Our children will see us read it in the morning. They’ll see it on our walls. They’ll hear about it when they wake up and when we read them books before bed.