Those in the Middle East and Central Asia from what I observe tend to this very well: Train your children by passing on faith from one generation to the next.
“These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deut 6:6-9
Now the Jews took this quite literally, oftentimes attaching phalacteries or little boxes filled with Scripture to their foreheads. Yet what this Scripture is talking about is always be about talking about the things of God with your children. Let the Word be an every present part of your life.
Sometimes I hear parents and their main way of “training their children” is when they disobey to tell them, “don’t do this because God says…” Personally I think such a method embitters children against God. They only see God as the meanie who won’t let them do anything. Perhaps a better way is for the parent to say “because I don’t want you to do this” and take the heat, because the love of a parent can then be present and visible within that situation. When they are older they will translate that to God.
But instead, all the stories of God’s faithfulness in the Bible and in the ways of God in the life of a parent should be told. The great stories of faith should be shared from one generation to the next so that faith, hope and love are built up. The Scriptures should be a part of every household and even times of gathering together to discuss the Word–both children and parents alike. Children love stories and they are rich in the Bible. But it isn’t just the stories that should be emphasized but God’s faithfulness within them. Regardless, children need to be intentionally and voluminously taught the Word.
- I have one friend who as a child, her family would get into such great discussions in the Word that they would have to pull the car off the road so as to fully engage the discussion.
- Another person whom I worked for had family devotions for he and his wife and four children. It was terrible. Until he started included them, letting them pick out a song, engage and be part of the discussion.
- And even on a ministry level, the “fathers and mothers of the faith” have often passed down the stories of God’s faithfulness in the mission I’ve worked with, causing greater hunger, greater risk-taking, and greater desire to hear from the Lord. These stories and exhortations matter.
The point is that it’s a must that the stories and truths of the Word be passed to the next generation. If not, they will be forgotten and children may drift. And even if they drift with them, sometimes it’s the message of God’s faithfulness taught in youth that brings them back.
In essence it comes down to this: the way of faith should be the dialect of the home.