“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9
God’s Mandate for Parent and Child
It is difficult to imagine any relationship as strong as the relationship between a parent and a child. It is natural for parents to want to give what is best to their children. Jesus spoke about His father desiring to give His children good gifts (Matthew 7:9-11). What is the most important gift you can give your child? I believe the best gift we can give as parents, is teaching our children to love God with all their heart, soul and strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is known in the Jewish tradition as the Shema, which means “to hear.” The Shema is an important daily confession of faith and is typically recited twice per day in the Jewish home. Did you catch that? The practice of training children daily in the “great things that God has done.” The scripture commands parents to “impress them on your children.”
For us to know what is meant by the word “them” we need to look at Deuteronomy 6: 1-3. We find that we are to “fear the Lord and keep His commandments” all the days of our lives. This fear is less about being afraid that God’s wrath might fall upon us, although that is a valid concern, and more about having a holy awe of who God is and what He can do. There are a couple of promises thrown in these verses as well, “that your days may be prolonged,” and “that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly.”
The Shema states that we talk to our children about God when you “sit at home,” when you “walk along the road,” when you “lie down and when you get up.” Based on these verses, it is difficult to imagine a time when we are not teaching about the wonders of God’s works and His love. We also are encouraged to write God’s commands and His statues on the “doorframes” of our homes and on the city “gates.” What our children learn at home should impact our community for the gospel.
Where to start
People ask me how often they should do a family devotion. The prescription is to start slow, maybe once a week, then a few times per week, and eventually work up to being in the Word daily with your children. Our family did a morning devotion Monday through Friday at breakfast, then on Saturdays the kids did their own private Bible study, and on Sunday we went to church to received God’s Word. The outcome was seven days a week our family was in the Word.
What to teach
Parents ask me which resource to use as they begin to instruct their children. I know my answer sounds a little blunt, but it is simply — the Bible. I often hear, “I don’t have a Bible degree” or “my children might ask me a question that I can’t answer.” I realize the importance of supplying resources to parents who wanted to equip their families through discipling at home. I recommend that parents find a good Study Bible and a daily devotional book and keep it simple; no more than ten minutes of reading and praying, then out the door to tackle the day.
What are the outcomes?
Christian parents were asked in a survey to list out what were the most important things for their children to learn and know in discipling at home (Allen, 2021). Here is a list of the results:
- To know God.
- To believe in God.
- To know Christ and His forgiveness of sin.
- To love and serve their neighbor.
- To know how to pray.
- To know the Master’s story — creation, fall, redemption and consummation.
- To worship God.
- To know how to share the Gospel.
- To grow in compassion, humility, love and mercy.
- To know their identity is in Christ.
This certainly is not an exhaustive list of what parents want their children to know, but it is a good start. Other doctrinal items that can be included are Creation, the Fall, Redemption, The Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, The Apostle’s Creed, the Word and the Sacraments/Ordinances of the Church. With the list of surveyed items and the doctrinal truths listed above you have endless teaching opportunities. My encouragement is to redeem the time and have fun equipping your children through family devotionals.
Brad Boyette is an Adjunct Professor at Trinity International University, Florida (tiu.edu/florida)
Survey taken from Holly Allen, “Curriculum and Children’s Ministry,” in Mapping Out Curriculum in Your Church: Cartography for Christian Pilgrims, ed. James Estep, Roger White, and Karen Estep (Nashville: B&H, 2021), 240.
Excerpts taken from Equipping Fathers at Parkridge Church in Coral Springs, Florida to Lead in the Discipleship of their Children, Bradley B. Boyette, Dissertation (ProQuest LLC, 2017).
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