Friday, 16 May 2008

Building Boys and Growing Girls pt4

If you have not read pt1, pt2 and pt3 of this series, please read them first.


: What every child needs, regardless of their gender - a relationship with God!
It is vitally important for children, regardless of their gender, to have an opportunity to develop a relationship with God. The best place for them to learn first about God is from their parents, especially their father but also their mother.

Romans 3:22 teaches us, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Faith is the gift of God (Eph 2:8) so pray that your children may receive this gift from Him. However Romans 10:8b-10,14 explains, “the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. … How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

Circle Time
Children learn about God from hearing the Word - hearing Bible stories told and explained.

Remember, the father is the head of the family. A mother must not usurp his position of spiritual leadership. However, it is good for a mother to read the Bible to and with her children, to help them to know and learn the holy Scriptures, as Lois and Eunice taught Timothy (2 Tim 1:5).

In our family, with my toddlers I read a Bible story before their afternoon nap. Several days a week I (the mother) read a Bible story to the children, while they listen and colour a related picture. I also practice memory verses with them, chosen from the stories we have read, to reinforce the core truths about who God is and how He works. We also pray together and slowly learn to sing some of the songs our congregation sings on Sundays. This is part of our homeschool day and we call it Circle Time.

On the days which Jeff can stay later in the mornings, he leads Circle Time, although I still prepare the materials (eg story Bible, colouring pictures & pencil cases, memory verse card holder) for him to use, to make it easier for him. On the days he leaves early, I make sure that the kids talk to Jeff later about the stories they have heard, and tell him what they remember and show their pictures. In this conversation, he encourages them and adds any applications or doctrinal truths which he thinks are important from the story.

The important thing is to teach them what the Bible says happened and how that fits into (or points towards) God’s rescue plan through Jesus. It is best to read through the Bible stories chronologically, so that kids (and adults) can learn where each part of the story fits.

Impressing the gospel on the hearts of children
Often, our best discussions come when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up (see Deuteronomy 6:7); that is, when we are living our daily life. The kids might be out in the yard, and singing a snippet from a song they've heard at church when they suddenly stop to ask me, "Mummy, what does 'cornerstone' mean?" Or we might be driving home from church, listening to the Bible on CD, when someone pipes up, "Daddy, why did they think the Gentile Christians should be circumcised?" These are opportunities for parents to expand their child's understanding of the basic truths of the faith. Make sure their questions do not go unanswered!

One thing I have learnt is that, if I cannot give an adequate explanation, it is much better to say "I'm not sure. Let's remember to ask Dad when he gets home." (And then write down the question so we do remember to ask him.) If my husband is there, I bite my tongue. It is better for them to hear a partial answer from Dad (which is probably just as much as they are ready for) than to hear Mum butt in to Dad's answer with her fuller, more complete answer.

A few words on Bibles
I recommend using a Bible story book when the children are very young, with the intention of moving them on to a real Bible (translated, not paraphrased) as soon as possible. In our family, we read to toddlers from The Beginners Bible by Karyn Henley, which has around 100 stories. This is quite comprehensive compared to many Bible story books. We use The Children’s Bible by Anne de Graaf and The Golden Bible (sometimes called The Golden Children's Bible) with the older kids. Joshua received The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones from his godparents which he loves; it is very helpful in pointing out the way each part of the Bible points to Jesus as our Saviour. Anna received Bible Stories for Growing Kids by Francine Rivers and Shannon Rivers Coibion from her Uncle; it has devotional pointers after each story, and I like the way it follows one person through all their stories, which complements our mainly chronological readings.

As soon as our children can read with relative confidence and fluency, we will be giving them their own Bible. We have chosen the NIV as our family version, and they will all be getting the same version. This means that when we sit and read together, we can follow along easily in our own Bibles. We use the NIV wording for our memory verses. It gives consistency to the language that they are hearing as the same words are read over and over through the years, aiding their recall without them memorising deliberately.

Just the other day I heard Joshua and Anna singing (on the dining table, but that's another story), "After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go.' " They were singing it! They had their own tune worked out and everything. Acts 1:10-11 is not one of our memory verses - they have learnt it word-for-word from hearing Acts from the Bible on CD in the car several times a week. Because it is a narrative, they were able to learn it easily. When we began to learn Jesus words to Saul (on the road to Damascus) this past week, they already knew the first bit (Acts 9:4), " 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' ", from the same source.

In choosing the version, consider what your church congregation uses for its readings (the pew Bible). The NIV and similar Bibles are great translations. The KJV is old fashioned in its wording (and hence difficult to understand) but poetic which can aid memorisation. The Good News and The Message are not good choices for a Bible they will study from as they are paraphrases rather than literal translations, although this may make them good substitutes for story Bible when the kids are younger.

In choosing a Bible edition, I would ideally look for the inclusion of verse cross references, and a small concordance (as an appendix). Both of these will help children as they learn to study the Scriptures. I would not recommend an annotated Study Bible, as they make it too easy not to think, as well as being large and heavy and therefore inconvenient to carry around.

Any relationship works best when it goes both ways. Children meet God through His Son Jesus Christ whom they learn about from Bible stories. It is important that they spend time talking with God and consciously sharing their lives with Him also. They do this through prayer.

Mothers, and fathers, should pray with their children. Kids can be taught to pray at set times and situations (such as saying thanks before meals and also more individual prayers before bedtime). Mothers also have many opportunities to pray with their children as situations arise: a grazed knee, a letter ariving from far off friends or family, a child who is feeling sick, a beautiful flower that has opened in the garden. Praise God (admire His nature and character with joy); thank God (appreciate His work and provision gratefully); ask God (appeal to Him with specific requests for the good things which are desired).

When a mother observes a stubbornness of heart over a certain issue (of obedience - to the mother's instruction or God's holy expectations), it is wise for her to direct her child not just to take Time Out to consider what they are doing wrong or not doing right. The mother should also guide (or, for an older child, direct) the child to talk to God about it. Children need to learn how to say sorry to God (apologise) for their sinful action/inaction. This can help them to understand the nature of their sin and their need for a Saviour.

Two last quotes, the first from Lisa Whelchel, in her book Creative Correction “Remember, it’s God who ultimately does the molding. He uses our hands, but He touches their hearts.” As Paul put it (1 Corinthians 3:6,9), "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. ... For we are God's fellow workers..."


Mrs. Edwards said...

How'd your talk go?

Sharon said...

Thanks for asking! My talk went very well and the group came up with lots of questions. One thing we discussed in more detail than I thought we would is how to teach our kids to study the Bible on their own. I think I might write a post with some ideas for this soon.

~ Sharon

Mrs. Edwards said...

As you know, the BSF elementary program has been amazing in this regard for my daughters. It is a very exciting thing to see God speaking to them directly.

I mentioned before that I ordered a devotional to take the girls through the BSF summer break. Now that it has come and we are using it, I would recommend it for children who are comfortably reading. "A Faith to Grow On", by John MacArthur, has daily readings that are organized by key doctrinal points.

Have a great week!