Often when we ask parents, “What’s your number one need?” Their most frequent answer is, “I want help in teaching the Christian life to my kids.”
We discussed that topic with Kay Arthur, who with her husband Jack founded Precept Ministries in 1970. Well over two million people have completed Precept Bible study courses since then. In the following excerpt from that interview, Kay discusses how parents can teach God’s Word to their kids.
What is the purpose of Precept Ministries?
Precept Ministries exists to establish God’s people in God’s Word so that we live lives of reverence toward Him. Our whole purpose is to teach people how to study God’s Word for themselves. We do this for children, for teenagers, and for adults. We’ve developed a number of tools for people to learn the Bible and then to teach their children how to study it.
You believe that’s our mandate—our assignment—as parents, don’t you?
It is. Deuteronomy 6 tells us that we should teach God’s Word to our children “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” But you cannot instruct your children in things that you don’t know. We’re living in a time when a great majority of people in the church really don’t know God’s Word for themselves.
When you say people in our churches today don’t know the Bible, what do you mean?
They could tell you basic things about Jesus Christ and about God. But they really don’t know what the Word of God says. They open the Bible and are lost; they read a few verses and that’s it. We live in a post-Christian era—we are a people who do not have a solid theology because we really don’t know God, and you can’t know God apart from getting into the Word.
Give us a picture of what that Deuteronomy 6 family looks like today as we attempt to teach spiritual truth to our kids.
First of all, I think there needs to be a time when the family gets together to study the Word. And you can study it in a way that’s not boring, where the child doesn’t passively sit but interacts with the Word of God and sees what it has to say.
How often should this be?
Ideally, it ought to be once a day. If it can’t be, it needs to be once a week. But I would not say once a month, because one of the things you want to teach the child is that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. They need to learn that every day you need to meet with God.
Many people seem to think they need to have some sort of professional training to really understand the Bible and then to teach it to their kids. But God gave parents that responsibility.
Try this with your children, and see if it works: Get a bunch of colored pencils. When you meet with your kids, either give everyone a typed copy of John 1:1-18 or give each person a Bible. Tell them to read through those verses, and every time they see the word, “Word,” there, color it yellow.
Then note that the first two verses indicate that the words, “He” and “Him” are also used as substitutes for “Word.” Have them go back through the passage and mark those words in yellow, too.
You might think all they’re doing is coloring, but for a kid, that’s discovery. When you train the eye you begin to see what it says. Normally a person reads the Bible and says, “I can’t understand that. What does it mean?” So he looks for a commentary, or asks his pastor. If you will take the time to observe it correctly, you’ll learn a lot.
So next make a list of everything you learn about the Word, and point out that the Word is, of course, Jesus Christ. When you get through with chapter one, you’ll see how that chapter teaches the incarnation, that God became flesh. It’s going to teach the deity of Jesus Christ.
What do you do with the older child who is sitting there yawning, saying he’s got a test to study for, and is not interested at all?
It’s not whether the kid likes it or not. The problem today is that we are not disciplining our children for the sake of godliness. My dad used to tell me … and I’m not talking about Bible study here … “Even if you hate me, I love you enough to do this for you.” It is our responsibility to teach them, it is God’s responsibility to bring them around, and it is their responsibility to cooperate with God.
Cry out in prayer to God to give you an idea to make that person interested. But I would not compromise. Make sure they know the Word of God.
What’s the next step in teaching our kids the Christian life?
The first thing you want is to make sure everything is biblically based. They need to see it for themselves in the Word. Kids have told me over and over that when they get to high school and college, [teachers and professors] make mincemeat out of them if they don’t know for themselves what the Word has to say. They can’t live off their parents’ religion. They’ve got to know things for themselves.
If they don’t respond the way you want them to, you need to pray that God would bring to remembrance the things in His Word. But He won’t bring those things to remembrance if you haven’t taught them.
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