Raising Children of FaithAugust 10, 2004
Family advocates, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, give timely advice on raising children of faith.
Family advocates, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, give timely advice on raising children of faith.
Raising Children of Faith
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. If you're with a group of parents, and you're talking about spiritual activity with your children, and you want the room to get really quiet, ask a question like this.
Man: How would you evaluate the spiritual training environment in your home? What are some specific things you have done in your home to create an environment in which your children are encouraged to grow in their knowledge of God?
Man: When our kids were much younger, we'd read and I especially remember with Caleb, getting to an exciting part, and then I'd stop, and I'd go "Dun dun dunn – we'll pick up tomorrow." And close the book – you know, just trying to create that hunger. What he would do is, he'd get it opened up and read ahead, anyway, so he would know what the end of the story was, but that was kind of one of the things that we would do to get them interested in spiritual things. One of the things that we try to do now with the kids, as they're older, is take them out to breakfast and just talk with them.
Woman: Especially with teenagers – if you feed them, they will come.
Man: That's true.
Woman: It's more so with boys than girls.
Woman: If you shop, they will come.
Bob: You know, I think that's a common challenge for parents. The thing we want most for our children is for their spiritual training and development, and yet it may be the thing that's hardest for us to keep at the center of our home. I know Mary Ann has cheered me on in those times when I've led in that direction even though at the end of my leadership I feel like, "That was worthless. That didn't do anything."
Dennis: Has Mary Ann ever booed?
Bob: I haven't had that happen. Did you have that happen?
Dennis: I did.
Barbara: Oh, you did not.
Bob: From your wife?
Barbara: I've never booed. The kids may have booed, but I didn't. I've done the same thing as Mary Ann. I've cheered him on because I wouldn't want to be the one trying to lead devotions with the kids when they were all sitting there rolling their eyes and going to sleep.
Dennis: I'll tell you, I've spoken at our Rekindling the Romance events to 15,000, 16,000 people …
Bob: … big crowds …
Dennis: … big crowds – Texas Stadium, 60,000 for PromiseKeepers.
Dennis: Nothing, nothing is more challenging than keeping the attention at the dinner table after the meal is finished and moving the discussion to some spiritual matters.
Bob: And you say, "Let me just read this to you and get some interaction," and the kids push back …
Dennis: … they crawl under the table, they're flipping peas across at the brother or sister.
Bob: "How long is this going to last?"
Bob: "How long is this going to last? I've got stuff I've got to do." All of a sudden, homework is …
Barbara: … homework is very important.
Bob: You haven't heard about homework for a week. You start talking about spiritual stuff, and the homework comes out.
Dennis: "We'll play the homework card, Dad."
Bob: "It always works. I can get out of anything spiritual if I bring up homework." We want to talk today about this critical, important issue of passing on faith to our children, training them to be followers of Christ, and if we're going to do it right, we dare not try to do it alone. And that's part of our theme this week, Dennis. We're encouraging parents to band together with other parents in small battalions of like-minded parents and sharpen iron with each other around the Scriptures so that we build a parenting revolution in this country.
Dennis: Because we all know it takes …
Bob: … a community. Isn't that the word you were looking for?
Dennis: To raise a child. It really does take a …
Barbara: … there's choice to it.
Dennis: A community of faith, and my wife Barbara joins us on FamilyLife Today, and it's always good to have her here, although it's difficult because she was an eyewitness to what I …
Bob: … to most of your illustrations.
Dennis: Well, that, and what I did do and didn't do as we raised our kids and, well, I was just thinking as we started this broadcast, our listeners have accused us of a lot of things over the years. They've never accused us of a lack of authenticity. We are real. You know, we are talking about the new HomeBuilders Parenting Series, and many of our listeners know that HomeBuilders is a small group study, anywhere from three, four, five couples, maybe as many as six or seven, joining together in a home, maybe in a Sunday school class. Although I think it works best in a home, where you have a little more time – 90 minutes, maybe, for the discussion. Some of the groups go for a couple of hours in the evening.
But after a tremendous success on the marriage side of HomeBuilders, where we sold more than 1.5 million copies of HomeBuilders, we now have launched and are really thrilled to present to our listeners and parents everywhere, the HomeBuilders Parenting Series.
Bob: The marriage studies are still in print and still in wide use, but for years we've had people come to us and say, "Do you have any material on parenting? Do you have resources that you can recommend to us on parenting?" And these six new studies that make up the HomeBuilders Parenting Series at this point are an opportunity for moms and dads to interact together with other couples around the Scriptures and to develop a game plan for how we are going to effectively raise the next generation.
Dennis: And this one we're talking about today, "Raising Children of Faith," really hits on the issue of how a group of parents can band together or – we don't talk about this often, Bob – but this HomeBuilders, right here, could be used by a couple, just in terms of taking us out on a date night and just interacting around the questions. But as you mentioned at the beginning of the broadcast, when you get together with other parents, there is something that takes place there – that iron-sharpening-iron process that you really miss if it's just you two. But this HomeBuilders for parents, "Raising Children of Faith," has six sessions, and the first one is on your job as a parent. The second one is introducing your children to God, and we know, from our research, Bob, this is a huge issue for parents. They want to know how do I take my child's hand in mine and place the child's hand in God's hand? How do we introduce them to Him?
Session Three is on helping your children walk with God after they get to know Him; Session Four – "Building Character in Your Children." Then the next two sessions are "Training Your Children to Love Others," that's Session Five; and the last one is "Imparting a Sense of Purpose to Your Child."
And what these six sessions do, Bob, is they take parents, a mom and a dad together, and they give them a clear spiritual goal for raising their children, and they're both singing off the same song sheet together, as a couple.
Bob: And, Barbara, we know, parents have told us this is the most important issue we face as parents. We can do a lot of things right, but if this doesn't get done right, then we really haven't done the job. We can do a lot of things wrong, and if this gets done right, then everything else will work out with our kids. This faith issue is the key issue, and you don't wait until a child is 9 or 10 or 12 or 13 or 15 to begin dealing with this. I know some parents think, "Well, I'll wait until my child is old enough to make a decision on his or her own, and then I'll expose them to options and just let them decide." We shouldn't do it that way, should we?
Barbara: No, I agree with you. Children need to start hearing, from their earliest days, about God and who He is. You can sing lullabies, sing hymns to them when they're tiny, and they don't have a concept of God. They can't even talk to you yet, but if children are raised in that environment, where discussions about God and who He is and His characteristic and about prayer and about His working in our lives – if they're raised in that kind of an environment, then they're going to be more receptive when they are of an age to make a decision. And many children make decisions when they're four, five, and six years old. So waiting until they're old is probably not the safest way to do it, because then they're going to be exposed to other value systems, and it might be more confusing and difficult for them.
Dennis: You know, I reflect back on how we started the broadcast, and we were laughing and talking about what we did wrong and what we failed to do and how inconsistent we were in terms of family devotions and all the things that you think of when you think of spiritually leading your children. I was over at our grandchildren's house the other day, to Ashley and Michael's home, and I walked in, and Michael, Ashley's husband, said, "Hey, James and Samuel" – my two grandsons – "Why don't you say your memory verses for Papa?" That's me.
And so there on the wall were three or four letters of the alphabet – A, B, C, D – yeah, and they both began to spout these Bible verses they were learning, and the Scriptures they were hiding in their hearts. And, truthfully, that was a great moment. I just can't describe it, but it was a very simple thing. It wasn't any recital or any great applause, but both the boys just kind of stood there in their underwear and the toys that were scattered all over the living room, and they quoted their verses. Not perfectly – that didn't matter, either, but they quoted their verses. And it was the idea that our daughter and our new son that we drafted in, with Michael, were both attempting to introduce our grandchildren to who God is.
Bob: Now, Barbara, these kids aren't old enough to even understand the words they're saying, are they?
Barbara: No, they're not, but it's amazing how, as they hear these verses, Ashley will say, when there's a little squabble between the two of them, and they're fighting over the same toy or whatever, she'll say, "Now, remember what we learned in our verse. You're supposed to prefer one another." So even the words that came from that verse, she's reminding them of the words that come straight out of Scripture and helping them begin to think biblically. And so, yeah, they can't enter into a discussion about it, but if you train them with the words of Scripture, that becomes a part of their thinking process.
Dennis: One of the things that I like so much about this small group Bible study, "Raising Children of Faith," is that it takes the most fundamental elements of faith and who God is, and it equips a mom and a dad to be able to introduce their children to God.
Now, you think about that, think, "Well, that shouldn't be that difficult." Oh, really? Where do you start about who God is and how do you do that? And this Bible study will not only put you in touch with Scriptures that will equip you to do that, but it will also put you in touch with other people who are in the process of doing this with their children. And some of those folks in that small group are likely to be ahead of you in the race, and so their children may be a little older, and they may say, by way of reflection, "You know, when our children were little we did" – this.
I think sometimes we make this out to be more difficult than we should, but we do need to be equipped to do it and not just drop our children off at Sunday school to introduce our children to God. I don't think – well, I know this – God did not give children to the Sunday school to introduce them to who God is and to build them up spiritually. God gave children to parents, and He called us with the responsibility. That's the message of Deuteronomy, chapter 6 – "These words, which I have commanded you today, shall be on your hearts." As a mom and a dad, you have to teach your children who God is and how they learn to love Him.
Bob: If a mom and a dad want to make their home a spiritually rich environment, the kind of environment where kids are going to – are just going to grow up hearing, knowing, experiencing God – what kinds of things can they do, should they do, Barbara?
Barbara: Well, I think there are a lot of things that can be done. This is one of the benefits of being in a small group, because you can get ideas from other people – things that you might not have thought of. I know I did that when we were raising our kids. I was getting ideas all the time from my friends, and I watch Ashley do the same thing. She got this idea for the memory verses from a friend of hers.
One of the things that I did a lot with our children is we read Bible stories, we played a lot of Christian music around the house, because I wanted them to become familiar with the words of hymns and choruses. We prayed together at meals, we prayed together after they were disciplined, we prayed together when there were squabbles between kids, prayed together every night before they went to bed. So we were bringing God into our daily activity in as many ways as we could think of throughout the day.
Dennis: In fact, it was as a result of teaching, as Deuteronomy talks about, "As you walk by the way," that I created what I called "sandbox theology." Now, what's a sandbox? Well, when I was a kid, and when our children were smaller, it was the place where children played. It was where they created their make-believe world and where they lived, and it was kind of a common ground of their lives. And I think for us, as parents, and we can get down on one knee and meet them in that sandbox, and begin to instruct them in the ways of God and issues they face I life, where they've lost their teddy bear or they've lost their blanket or they've hurt their brother, and you may be correcting them, you may be loving them, you may be teaching them – all of those things are about a process, I believe, that Scripture lays out for us that we're shaping the moral conscience and the heart of a young person so they know right from wrong, they know how to love, they know who they are, and they have a sense of that spiritual mission, a purpose and a reason to be here.
Bob: And it should go without saying, but maybe not, in this culture, if we're going to impress these ideas on the hearts of our children, we've got to be modeling them. They've got to see it in us more than just hear it from our lips. Although I sometimes think that, as parents, we can be inconsistent and say, "These are the standards we have for you, but we don't necessarily model those same standards in our own behavior.
Barbara: But, see, that's one of the great benefits of having children, is that it presses you to question, "What do I really believe?" And so in the real practical things of our lives, when a blanket or a teddy bear is lost, if you really believe that God is sovereign, and He knows all things, then why not stop and ask him to help you find it. And as you do that with your child, and then it's found later on, then you can teach your child to give thanks in all things, and so it's those kinds of little practical things, where you have to say, "Do I really believe this?" And if I really do, then when my car keys are lost or when I have need of something else, am I going to ask God to help me in those areas, too, and am I going to depend on Him in the same way I'm trying to teach my child.
But it isn't just that we are teaching our children and trying to raise them to know God but that God uses our children and those circumstances where we're trying to teach them to grow our faith, because our faith has grown so much because of the things we thought we were going to be teaching our children, and God turns it around and says, "Yes, I've got a lesson for you, too."
Dennis: We used to have a prayer manual, and, I confess, we were horribly inconsistent in this, but we'd actually write out a prayer request when we needed something. And, I mean …
Bob: … wait and see what God would do, right?
Dennis: Absolutely, I mean, for more than 34 years, Barbara and I have lived by faith. Our support is dependent upon people who give to our ministry, and we don't take a penny from FamilyLife Today or FamilyLife. We raise our own support to work here, and it's interesting to go back – I wish we had done this more consistently.
Barbara: I do, too.
Dennis: We wrote down one time we needed $1,650 to be able to participate in this one ministry opportunity. And we prayed in, like, March, and 60 days later we wrote down, "$1,658 came in." Now, the children were a witness to that. They were younger; they probably don't remember that, but those are all little building blocks that we're placing in their lives so that they learn to really trust God with their lives.
Bob: How can you tell when your kids are getting it? How can you tell when what you're trying to teach them is actually making a difference; that it's sinking in?
Dennis: Well, there's really three ways. One is when they make a choice, and they don't think you're watching. I'll never forget, at high school one time, and this is years in the process of building our son, Samuel's, faith. A speaker came, and there was an assembly, and he asked all the young men who wanted to be virgins when they got married to stand. And Samuel didn't know we were in the back. And I remember watching him be one of …
Barbara: … very few …
Dennis: … three or four young men out of a couple hundred. So it's when they make a choice based on Scripture on their own when you're not looking. I think a second way we can know we've made an impact is when they begin to invest their life in others. This past weekend our daughter, Laura, who is now 19 years of age, spent the entire weekend with high school young people investing in their lives spiritually. That was her choice. We didn't tell her she should go be a part of that conference and be a counselor, but she used her free weekend to build spiritually into the lives of others. And the last thing that I thought about when you asked me how I could know they've got it is when they become adults. And when we go over to their house, as we did at Ashley's house the other night, and the grandson are quoting Scripture then, you know what? We know that didn't just happen. They caught the picture on their own.
Barbara: And the thing that's interesting about what you just shared is that all of those situations were adult situations, and I think we hope, as parents, that our kids are getting it when they're in elementary school, and we see them do sweet things and say prayers for people, but – and as much as that counts, and that is very important, it really is when they are teenagers and older teenagers, and they start making these decisions that you can really begin to hope that they get it, because it has to be their own decision. And when – so often when they're in elementary school, it's not really their own decision because they're still wanting to please Mom and Dad. So, really, the payoff comes in the older teenage years – which is a long wait.
Dennis: And there's one other thing I want to add here, because after our listeners hear me use three illustrations that sound like a perfect family, they immediately go, "I can't relate to that, because our kids are making horrible mistakes." And I think another way you can know that your child is beginning to get it is when they do make a sinful choice – I mean a bad one, one that may mess up his or her life – and you watch them repent. And you watch them deal with their sin and grieve their wrong choice. That's when you can know that what you have taught them has begun to sprout.
Bob: And in the midst of those times when you're wondering if there's anything there, to be in community with other parents; to have that group that's getting together regularly and going through the Scriptures and answering these kinds of questions and walking through these issues together – that's why we're so committed to the idea of a HomeBuilders parenting group – not just a curriculum. We think that in addition to the information, you need the community to make this happen. And we're hoping that parents all across the country will band together with other parents and start a parenting revolution.
In fact, that's the reason that this month, Dennis, we're offering 25 percent off all HomeBuilders purchases – whether you're buying the parenting material or the marriage studies – anything you buy from us that's a HomeBuilders study between now and the end of August, you'll save 25 percent when you call 1-800-FLTODAY or when you go online at FamilyLife.com. And we're doing it to try to encourage as many parents as possible involved with other parents in launching a parenting revolution.
Dennis: Yes, and I have a letter here from a HomeBuilder leader by the name of Larry.
Bob: A fellow revolutionary.
Dennis: He is a revolutionary. He lives in Coweta, Oklahoma.
Dennis: Sound familiar, Bob?
Bob: Dr. Bill Bright and his wife Vonette grew up Coweta.
Dennis: That's exactly right. Well, Larry write this – he said, "For a number of years, I've led HomeBuilders in the marriage side of things, and I've had anywhere from 26 in my HomeBuilders to 50." Well, in my opinion, you've gotten too large when you have 50 people in your small group. Let's multiply this revolution out and have some other small group leaders. But he said this, he said, "We started the "Children of Faith" series three weeks ago, and we're about halfway through the first session on your job description as a parent. Usually, I cover a lesson per week and sometimes it may take two, but this 'Building Children of Faith' series may take a year to get through. Most of the couples have children, and I think this probably is the most important HomeBuilders we've done so far. This is the sixth in the series, so we have laid a lot of groundwork for this one. I hope that by the time I get through the whole series of HomeBuilders, you have come up with something new to continue with. Thank you for your great work. Larry."
Well, I think what he's discovered, Bob, is people want to talk about how you raise children of faith today, and Christians need to share their defeats and their successes and what they're doing right and what they're not doing right and encourage one another, because these are difficult days to raise children of faith.
Bob: Yes, parents are hungry for help. We're all hungry for help in this area, and we're hoping that the HomeBuilders parenting series can provide some of that help. There are six titles, as you mentioned, including this one on "Raising Children of Faith." If you'd like information on any of the six titles, you can go to our website at FamilyLife.com or to the title that would be best for you and your friends to begin going through.
Let me just say a word – you don't have to be a trained, seminary-equipped Bible scholar to lead these groups.
Dennis: I'm glad you added that, Bob, because these are very simple to lead. All you have to be able to do is carry on a conversation.
Bob: In fact, pass the book around and let a different person lead it each time, and that way everybody participates in the leadership of the group, and anyone can lead a HomeBuilders study.
Call us for more information at 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com. Join Larry, become a parenting revolutionary, and let's see if we can get a movement going here, all right?
Now, tomorrow we're going to talk about one of the most critical things we need to do if we're going to raise the next generation, and that is to be relationally connected with our children and to build a stronger relationship with them when they're little, when they're in elementary school and all the way through the teenage years. We'll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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