Deuteronomy 6 for 2017: How Churches Can Equip Parents
The command Moses presents in Deuteronomy 6 is pretty straightforward: teach your children to love God.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 6:5 - 7 ESV
As ministry leaders, you may see this command and think: “Yeah! More Jesus for our kids - let’s do it!”
The parents in your church may have a different reaction: “I really do want my children to know Jesus, but . . . that sounds like a lot. Our family is already on the edge of chaos, how can I find the time and energy to teach my kids about Jesus?”
In fact, research shows that 85 percent of parents with children under age 13 “believe they have the primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual matters.” The research goes on to report: “Parents generally rely upon their church to do all of the religious training their children will receive. Parents are not so much unwilling to provide more substantive training to their children as they are ill-equipped to do such work” (emphasis added).
Parents feel ill-equipped to teach their children the Christian faith. They don’t know what to say or where to start. They don’t know how to answer their children’s faith-based questions. They worry their own faith is far from perfect!
This is where ministry leaders step in. Churches today must make it a priority to equip parents with the confidence and resources they need to teach their children about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And the resources and ideas they give to parents must be applicable to today’s busy, stressed-out, nontraditional families. Don’t just tell them how to nurture faith; lead them, show them, train them.
- Lead families to nurture faith by hosting weekly dinners.
Open your church’s multipurpose room and host a potluck dinner for families on Friday nights. Family fellowship is a great way to get kids and adults talking about their faith. Kids will be much more receptive when they see their peers engaged in faith-building conversations. Plus, parents will appreciate the dedicated time they can spend developing relationships with other Christian families.
Print discussion starters for each table to use during dinner. For example, “How did you see God working in your life this week?” “Name a person in your life that needs our prayers right now.” “What frustrations have you faced this week and how are you asking Jesus to help the situation?”
When dinner is over, lead the families in a quick large-group devotion or a Christian discussion of a current event. Then, propose a few related questions that families can discuss on their way home.
- Show parents and children faith in action.
Parents can recite the Gospel story twenty different ways, but chances are their children are going to tune out after the third retelling. We are all much more likely to learn when we are actively participating.
How can you incorporate active faith to help parents teach their children? Try this:
- Provide ways that families of all ages can gather together in Christian service. Pack boxes for the food pantry. Rake leaves for homebound members. Host a diaper drive. Bake cookies and host a bake sale benefiting missionaries. Do your best to put a service event on the calendar every month. And mix up the participants so that kids aren’t always working beside their parents. When children hear other adult role models speak about their faith, it’s powerful!
- Invite a family-ministry expert to lead a workshop at your church. (Be sure to offer babysitting!) Include plenty of action - role-play parent-kid interactions, act out faith-based conflict resolution, let parents practice purposeful forgiveness.
- Train parents to nurture faith in their children at home.
The strategies listed above are intended to begin the process of nurturing faith in children, sowing the mustard seed of faith and giving parents a boost of confidence. But what happens when families can’t attend the weekly potlucks or you have to cancel the parenting workshop at your church? At various points in life, parents will be on their own when it comes to matters of faith in their children. The church can help prepare them for times like this.
- Send a monthly e-mail that addresses questions children might ask and a few responses parents can provide. (Here are a few basic tips to pass along to parents.) Base the questions and answers on both current events and biblical topics. Be sure to arrange the topics by age so that parents are providing developmentally appropriate answers for their children.
- Send each child home with a letter after Sunday school or children’s church. Keep it simple - include a brief synopsis of the lesson and provide three discussion-starter questions for parents to use at home.
- Reinforce the importance of the parents’ faith. Remind them that the simplest way to nurture faith in their children is to lead by example: have personal devotion time, say “I forgive you,” pray aloud, love your neighbor.
Being a parent is the hardest job any of us will ever have. As they say, kids don’t come with an instruction manual. But, thank God, life does. Use the Bible and hold up God’s Word as the ultimate resource for parents to use in teaching their children. As you lead, show, and train parents, remember also to encourage them.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22 - 23 ESV
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Don’t simplify grief
To the person experiencing loss, death is complicated. There may be feelings of relief if death comes after a long illness. There may be feelings of resentment when an estranged parent dies. There may be feelings of blame or anger in any case.
In the short term, the logistics can be overwhelming. A grief ministry team can help the mourner sort out the details, but don’t assume anything. A simple question like the place of burial or readings for the funeral service may have extremely important significance. Have a conversation and offer basic services - printing funeral bulletins, ordering flowers, setting up a memorial webpage, organizing meals from volunteers, or communicating prayer requests with church members.
In the long term, death rocks every part of the mourner's life - physical, emotional, psychological, behavioral, and spiritual. Adjusting to life without a loved one is complicated. Who will pay the bills? Who will take out the trash? Who will cook? Am I still a husband or wife? a mother or father? Acknowledge the validity of these questions, but use a Bible verse like 1 Peter 2:9 or Jeremiah 29:11 to remind those who grieve that they can still find hope in God’s plan.
Do realize that the second year is the hardest
It may seem counterintuitive, but the second year of grief is the most difficult for many people. As one expert puts it, “The first year is a time of learning to adjust and physically survive. . . . The emotional impact of the loss may dominate the subsequent year. . . . The meaning and significance of the loss emerges more clearly. The press of business has subsided and the bereaved person is left with the ‘now what do I do with the rest of my life’ questions and fears.”
How can a grief team help? Write down the date of the death and mark the day three months, six months, and one year later. Mark the birthday of the person who died and, for couples, the wedding anniversary. On each of these occasions, a member of the grief ministry team should send a card, make a phone call, or personally visit the family. Keep talking about the person who died and encourage the mourners to recall memories even years after the funeral. Let the grieving family know that you haven’t forgotten the loss or the life of the individual who is gone.
Do make a point to provide ongoing care
During the first month after death, there’s usually a large outpouring of support. After that, many people seem to forget it even happened. But for the mourner, it’s a daily struggle to keep up with work, responsibilities at home, and self-care. This is where the “doers” (those who may not be so good at providing words of comfort) of the grief ministry team can make their impact.
Your team can provide ongoing care by
- helping clean out the room or house of the one who has passed away;
- helping take care of the pets or children of the family;
- cleaning the house and keeping up with maintenance;
- bringing meals at least once each week;
- helping sort out bills, insurance claims, or final expenses; and
- providing rides to church.
As you implement a grief ministry team at your church, the most important “do” is to reaffirm the hope we have though faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No matter the depth of grief, the power of our Savior’s love will triumph. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV).
You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2016 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.