“Jack doesn’t believe in God.”
My son’s words made me stop what I was doing. “Are you sure?” I asked my son worriedly.
“Yeah. He said he doesn’t believe in God even though he goes to church with his parents.”
This revelation had a profound effect on me. “Jack” (not his real name) is a good friend of my sixth grader. He’s been to our house multiple times before. He’s a good kid, one I don’t mind having over. My other children love it when Jack comes. When he’s here, he’s practically family. His parents are reasonable, likeable people who take their children to church every week. So why doesn’t their son believe in God? I tried to avoid the answer as long as I could, but it boils down to one simple fact. Church isn’t enough.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am a strong proponent of church attendance. My kids are expected to go to church every week. It’s a non-negotiable in our house. My three-year old can sing the liturgy with us and recite the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles’ Creed. Church is where we go to be spiritually fed and strengthened in the presence of fellow believers. We receive Holy Communion. We are assured of our forgiveness in Christ. Corporate worship is essential to the life of a believer. But it can’t stop there.
Church isn’t something that can be relegated only to Sunday mornings if you expect your children to grow in the fear and knowledge of the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us that “These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” It’s clear that God expects parents to actively teach the faith to the next generation. It’s to be a way of life, not just another obligatory activity.
Is this a daunting task for parents? Absolutely. It’s a huge responsibility. Maybe you don’t feel worthy of the task. Maybe you think you don’t know the Bible well enough to teach your kids. Perhaps you’re afraid you won’t have all the answers. These thoughts are tactics of the devil, who tries to plant seeds of doubt in your mind. He doesn’t want you passing along the faith. He knows that your teaching and example will make the biggest impression on your kids, so he will do anything to stop you from living out your faith at home.
So what can be done? If you feel unworthy or unlearned, use this as an opportunity to grow in your own knowledge. Get a Bible storybook and read through a lesson each day with your kids so you can learn along with them. When you or your kids have questions, ask your pastor or another trusted Christian. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to teach your children. But they do need to see that your faith means enough to you to teach it to them. Do not expect the church, pastor, or Sunday school teacher to do in one hour a week what you refuse to do the rest of the week.
Allow me to use an analogy. I have an 11-month old. He can only babble right now, but he’s learning to put sounds together, and soon enough, his babbling will turn into meaningful sounds. How does he learn? By listening to us at home every day. What would happen if I only spoke to him one hour a week and then kept him in utter silence the rest of the time? Ridiculous to even think of, isn’t it? Yet that’s what some people do to their children in terms of faith. Your children need to be exposed to the beauty of the salvation story as often as possible, especially at home. Build their knowledge of the Bible. Pray with them. Pose questions for them to prepare them for questions they may face someday. My sixth grade son talks about religion with his friends at his public school over lunch. He debates (yes, debates) with them about the origin of the universe and whether or not God even exists. If we never discussed such things at home, he wouldn’t have the knowledge or the courage to say anything to his friends. Prepare your own children for such potential encounters.
Parents, I know it can be overwhelming, but God has promised to bless your efforts. Look to Him for strength to carry out your task as Christian parents, and pray that He will cover over any shortcomings on your part. Take your kids to church, yes. But don’t stop there. Show them your faith in action in your daily life. And who knows? Maybe someday, God will even use your child to reach out to the “Jacks” in this world.