Prayer Time at Mealtime; Thoughts on Parenting and the Role of the Church
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6: 5-9
Why are so many families within the church struggling these days? One reason is the fact that many parents have not taken seriously the God-given mandate to teach their children the principles of God’s Word and to train them in becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Instead, many parents have passed the parenting baton over to their local church, expecting the “professionals” to be the primary caretakers of their children’s souls. But this is not how God designed spiritual discipleship within the family. Obviously the church does play a major role in a child’s spiritual growth and development. But the church’s role is not as primary spiritual caretaker. That responsibility belongs to the parents.
Where does the church fit in the equation? An old Chinese proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The wisdom found in this pithy saying accurately depicts the role of the local church. The church should come alongside and assist parents in teaching children the Word of God. The local church is only a resource and a spiritual family to glean from. To be sure, one of the responsibilities a church family has is to partner with parents in the great endeavor of teaching children about God. Yet even so, parents are to be the primary spiritual teachers.
This means that the primary classroom for children to be taught the word of God is the home. Fathers and Mothers must be about the business of teaching their children God’s Word. They should talk about Bible verses with their children. They should pray with their children. Mealtime should begin with prayer time. In other words, teaching children to love God with all of their heart must be done so by the parents through the example they set, and done so within the home. A parent cannot expect their child to love and serve God wholeheartedly if they themselves do not.
In Hebrew culture, our passage above was a portion of scripture known as the “shema.” It was recited by Hebrew families on a daily basis. Who was to be the primary teacher of spiritual matters in the life of children was never a question. It was automatically accepted and understood that it was the parent’s responsibility, and primarily the father’s responsibility. Yes, the synagogue was there to help, but it was only a resource, not the primarily classroom that that the home was to be. This principle applies today. Your home ought to be the primary classroom for your children to hear and learn about God, not the church. The church is simply there to help you in this important task. Parents must understand this God given call upon their life.
How ludicrous it is for Christian parents to expect ministers of the church to do what they ought to be doing. Parents cannot “pass the buck” to someone else. Teaching children about God is not something that can be delegated. Unfortunately, some parents justify this lackadaisical approach by saying, “I’m just not trained enough in God’s word to teach my children. I will let the professionals at the church do it.” But the task of training your children to be dedicated followers of Jesus is too great a task to let someone else do, even if the ministers of the church are “professionals.” I close with the following illustration; what if I told my wife Sarah that I wanted her to go on a date with her this weekend, and that I had hired a professional “dater” to take her out. How well would that set with her? Not well at all. The truth is, there are some things that cannot be delegated off to the professionals, and teaching your children about God is one of them!
– Pastor Eric