Fatherhood has taught me a lot about God. Scripture’s imagery and sounds that were once dead to my dull mind have come alive through God’s school of life experience. By God’s grace, I have learned in this school and I am still learning. These days, I have been thinking a lot about what it means and looks like to raise kids as Christians. And this has brought me to consider both what Scripture teaches and what I have experienced from my parents, friends, and church.
My experiences give me hope, and this is not because my parents, friends, or church always did a great job. I didn’t memorize much Scripture. I wasn’t thoroughly catechized. Yet, through the years, my family, friends, and church taught me a lot of Christianity in ways they didn’t realize.
1. Teach them by singing.
The church exists as a worshiping community, and as Christians, we should be people of songs. Songs give words to our faith that involves our emotions as well as our minds. This is why the Psalter makes up such a large chunk of the Bible. God is calling us in the psalms to vocal praise, lament, and thanksgiving.
God wants us to sing. Judging by the emphasis of the psalms, God wants us to sing a lot of sad songs as well as uplifting ones. The psalms are filled with songs of sadness—songs about sorrow, despair, suffering, and depression. The psalms are also filled with songs of God’s deliverance from sadness. This creates a context for us to be a people of joy and thanksgiving. God is our God. He hears us. He loves us. He saves us.
As God’s people, the songs we sing during Sunday worship and through daily life will shape the imaginations of our children. The songs we sing will help them to feel and see our faith. Much of what I learned as kid, I learned through song. And because of this, I try to sing to my kids every day.
2. Teach them by dancing.
Both metaphorically and literally, dancing shows a healthy Christian approach to life. Physical dancing teaches us about humanity. It shows joy. It reveals that we were created to be creative and to love life. Kids who see their parents dance see their parents’ love for one another and their love of life.
We need to embrace challenges, embrace God, and dance through life. We need to cast off our worries and enjoy the goodness God has given us. We need to cast off despair and find friendship in the people God has placed before us. We need to live life without fear of death. And even though it’s difficult to do at times, we can dance because of Jesus.
Jesus has conquered sorrow and pain, suffering and oppression, sin and death. Jesus has also given us the Holy Spirit to help us. If you’re a Christian, keep dancing. Your kids are watching, and through watching they are learning. Through learning, they will likely believe. Through believing, they are imitating, and through imitating they are experiencing the goodness of a God who is with us.
3. Teach them by storytelling.
We all learn through stories. The words “once upon a time” have more power to influence the imaginations and thoughts and desires of your children than you or I realize. And for these reasons, we need to tell them the true story of God and his people.
We need to read Scripture to them. We need to soak their imaginations in the parables of Jesus. We need to defy their expectations with Christ’s unmerited forgiveness. We need to help them to see and experience the Christian faith through the Christian’s story—the story about God’s love, our rebellion, Christ’s sacrifice, and our restoration. This story has the power to change the way your children see the world, their friends, their life, their family, and their church.
4. Teach them by loving.
Love is better pictured than explained, and better felt than pictured. When children feel their parents’ love, they can feel what God is talking about in the Bible. The most important kind of love your kids need to see is unconditional love—love that forgives. When they experience your forgiveness, when they see you forgive others or receive forgiveness, they see evidence that Christianity is a true story.
Dear reader, just in case you wonder if this is in the Bible, I want to assure you that it is. Here is an awesome passage of Scripture I hope you read in a new light:
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:12–17)