How to Teach the Gospel to Your Children

How to Teach the Gospel to Your Children November 27, 2017

Parents face the great joy and burden of teaching the Gospel to our children. Paul’s command to raise our children up in the discipline and nurture of the Lord should ring in our ears every day. (Ephesians 6:1-4) The problem for many of us is that we simply don’t know how to talk to our children about the Gospel.

When we think about teaching the Gospel to our children, we shouldn’t focus on only one method for doing it. When I was younger, every time I thought about teaching my children I pictured family devotion. While this is a practice I recommend, it is not the only way we teach our children. Most of the conversations with our kids will take place in the manner Moses prescribes in Deuteronomy 6. He says we should talk of the things of God with our children when we sit down, rise up, or walk by the way. Every life situation offers the opportunity to talk to our children about God, human nature, Jesus, repentance, and faith.

Here are five ways we can teach our children in everyday life.

The Local Church

The church’s teaching is not the only way our children get exposed to the Gospel in the family of God. The local church is one of the few places where your kids will get to know people from different age brackets and observe their lives. To this day, I can tell you about people who never taught me in a Sunday School class, but their walk with Jesus made a significant impact on me.

The church’s teaching is not the only way our children get exposed to the Gospel in the family of God. The local church is one of the few places where your kids will get to know people from different age brackets and observe their lives. To this day, I can tell you about people who never taught me in a Sunday School class, but their walk with Jesus made a significant impact on me.

Since this is so formative, get involved in a group with your church so that your kids are around other adults who follow Jesus. Arrive at your worship gathering early so they can talk to the people who are sitting around them and linger afterward so they can interact with older saints. Eat lunch with people from your church or have friends over during the week. The exposure to conversations about God and the example they see from other people who follow Jesus will make a lasting impression on them.

Family Dinner

If you were to ask me to give you one mental image from my childhood, it would be my family sitting around the dinner table. I don’t remember how often our family ate together, but it happened enough that those moments shaped me in more ways than I knew at the time. At the table, we laughed together, talked about life, told stories, and received correction for our foolishness.

The unhurried pace of family dinner gives us time to talk as a family. In a culture where we could stay on the run every night of the week, family dinner stands as an opportunity to turn off our devices, forget about our to-do lists, and engage each other in conversation.

My parents often told us stories about when they were younger while we ate, and I’ve tried to do this with my kids as well. These stories allow me to narrate for my kids how Jesus has changed my life. I can tell them about my foolishness and how Jesus redeemed it. They get to hear about trying times when the promises of God sustained me. We reminisce about family members who have passed away and talk about the reality of the hope we have through Jesus. The family dinner table can be a beautiful place. Do not neglect it.

Ordinary Conversations

Conversations can be a means of grace that change our children’s lives. Especially when they are young, they ask questions, tell stories, and want to hear us tell stories. These ordinary talks present us with a tremendous opportunity for teaching our kids the Gospel.

Children think more deeply than we think they do and the questions they ask are golden opportunities. What kind of transformation do you think could happen if you stopped, gave your child your full attention, and gave them thoughtful answers rather than answering in a quick manner so you can get back to what you were doing? There may be something you say in that short conversation that makes a deeper impression on them than what they hear in family devotion.

I have always thought about how I’m called to teach my kids the Gospel, but I never thought about how our older children can teach the Gospel to our younger children.  When we faithfully teach our older kids, it helps to frame some of the conversations they have with their younger siblings. A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter was playing with one of her older sisters and I heard her ask, “Why did God create bad guys?” What I heard next thrilled my heart as her older sister told her about God’s perfect creation and our fall into sin. She told it more succinctly, naturally, and understandably than I could have. It helped me see how the conversations we have with our children influence the conversations they have with their siblings.

During Times of Discipline

God calls parents to be faithful in disciplining our children when they disobey and act foolishly. Too often, we only think of discipline as the handing out of a punishment and not also about the conversations we need to have with them when they disobey. Take the extra time to talk to your child about what he did wrong, why it is foolish, and how he can grow. Look for opportunities to speak words of grace and affirm your love for him.

Our children’s disobedience presents us with opportunities to teach them about sin, judgment, grace, forgiveness, and wisdom. When your children are small, teach them that disobeying their parents is disobeying God, then point them to Jesus who died for their disobedience. As your children get older, discipline them and don’t allow their disobedience to change your disposition towards them afterward. Don’t discipline her and then withhold love or continue to bring up what she did. Let it be over with and in this way, show how God loves his children even though they sin against him.

Another aspect of this we need to consider is what happens when we sin against our children. Even our parenting is tainted by our sin and sometimes we discipline our children in anger, speak to them harshly, or falsely accuse them. When this happens, go to your child, confess your sin against him, and ask him to forgive you. You first need to do this because there is a rupture in the relationship that you caused, so you must make it right. Also, in this, we model what it looks like to humble ourselves and repent.

Family Devotions

The Bible never commands, “thou shalt have family devotions,” but wisdom tells us that we need to set aside time to read the Bible, pray, and sing together as a family. Since we stand under the command to teach our children diligently, we should look for ways to make regular time for teaching our families. Every family is different, but I have found that when our family eats dinner together, we more naturally gravitate to the living room for devotion than if we don’t.

Family devotions don’t have to be long and usually can’t be when you have small children. Read a portion of Scripture or read from The Jesus Storybook Bible or The Big Picture Story Bible. Take some time to talk about what you read and look for ways to apply it to your children’s lives. After you read, sing a song together. Teach your children some of the good older hymns that will reinforce the Gospel message. Then, pray together as a family. Pray for other people, thank God for who he is and what he has done, and pray for specific needs that your family faces. (Advent, which begins Sunday, is a great time to focus on family devotions. If you aren’t sure where to start, we have benefitted from these family Advent devotions by Scott James and Nancy Guthrie. We also love this new Advent book by Scott James.)

Do not be discouraged if there are nights when family devotion does not go well. Instead, focus on faithfully reading the Bible with your children and teaching them over the long haul. One family devotion may not change their lives, but three times a week for the eighteen years they live at home will be a significant Gospel witness to them. Think about it, if you have family devotion three times a week, you will read Scripture with your children almost two thousand times before they leave home. What kind of difference do you think that might make in their lives?

Related Posts:

Five Parenting Myths I Used to Believe

How Can I Know if My Child has Become a Christian?

For Further Reading:

Exploring the Bible: A Reading Plan for Kids by David Murray

Family Worship by Donald Whitney

 

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