Friday, February 03, 2006

That the next generation might know them...

Psalm 78:4-7 (ESV):
4 will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
5 established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6 the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
When we were at our former church, I was asked to preach on the responsibility of parents to their children. Near the end, I warned parents that current trends will result in our children facing far more difficult days as Christians in this society than we could even imagine now. I urged that:

...if we are content now to just do the minimum, we will leave our kids underequipped to deal with this future. The Bible warns about those who have joy in the gospel but little understanding of it, and when the sun comes up and it gets hot, they are like little plants that wither because they have no roots. Or Jesus' parable of the wise and foolish builders. When the storm came, only the wise man, who knew God's word and obeyed it, had a house left standing. I think the storm is coming, and the dry times are coming, and we must ensure that our kids' roots run deep, and their houses are well-founded on the Rock of the Word of God.

Accordingly, my wife and I are always looking for ways to train up our children, whether that be through new traditions, recommended books, or changes to family devotions.

I'd love to know what others who read this blog (or even stumble across this article) are doing to train up their children. To "prime the pump," I'll start by sharing how we do family devotions.

Every evening, starting around 7:30, the whole family gathers on the couch. Our kids, who are 6 and 7, are already into their pyjamas and ready for bed.

We begin with singing. We have a binder of songs, mostly from Sovereign Grace Music, with the song sheets downloaded from their web site. Our church sings these songs, so the kids are familiar with them. My guitar playing is pretty awful, which matches my singing ability, but I have a patient wife with a great voice, so it works out.

After a song, we take a few minutes while I read the Bible to them. We started with picture-based children's Bibles, much like The Big Picture Bible recommended by my pastor. We worked through Bibles with ever-fewer pictures and more text, until they are now reading the ESV Bible. We work sequentially through the Bible (we're just into Exodus now), with the kids listening while I read to them. They are able to read it themselves, but I think it's important for them to hear Scripture as well as read it.

Next we move to the day's installment of the Shorter Catechism. We're using the book Training Hearts, Teaching Minds (which I've talked about in a previous blog entry). This is an excellent book for introducing children (and adults) to the terrific tools of the catechism. The kids use their own Bibles to look up and read out loud the passages referred to by this book. If they're looking sleepy at this point, we do "sword drills".

Then we sing another song.

Finally, we close with an extended reading (15-20 minutes) from another book. Currently we're reading a series of short biographies in a book called Heroes Who Changed the World (we skip Francis of Assisi). At other times we've worked through several pictoral or young reader editions of Pilgrim's Progress. In a year or two I think they'll be ready for the full version.

So, that's the basic outline of our family devotions. It takes about 45 minutes from start to end. I know that the one element we're missing in family prayer. We do pray separately with the children when putting them to bed, but we need to spend time praying as a family.

Any thoughts? Criticisms? Suggestions for incorporating prayer? What do other parents do for family devotions? Please share!

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