In Part 1 we investigated some biblical and practical foundations that will help us dads guide our elementary-age children through the cultural pitfalls opening up all around them. Now let’s investigate how we can put these foundations into practice day in and day out! We’ll do that by looking at two specific true to life examples—opportunities (planned or unplanned) you and your kids could encounter as you live life together in this amazing but challenging world.
As we said in Part 1, the world in which we are raising our children is a mess. The “perilous times of difficulty” Paul mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:1 have very much arrived! The moral decay and blatant crusade against truth are more stark than ever.
Our children are presented with those increasing trends more and more as they grow. As parents it’s impossible not to notice how much they are starting to notice about their godless surroundings. They don’t miss much anymore. They’re seeing the mess, and they’re wondering about it. As dads we can’t miss this equipping opportunity!
Our purpose as dads is to help our children know the Lord (Eph. 6:4) and be holy like him (1 Pet. 1:13–16). We must help our children develop readiness, sober-mindedness, and discernment.
Speaking of our kids being like their God… holiness isn’t the only divine attribute that must be developed in them! During his formative years, God the Son, grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52). This process we’re discussing is an exercise in wisdom development—the skill of taking the truth of God’s Word and plugging it into daily life.
Developing and guiding the habit of thinking biblically and acting wisely about what they face now will go a long way to ensuring they will think and act that way down the road—when you’re no longer right there by their side.
A Little Review
Last time we discussed a three-part foundational strategy for helping equip our elementary-age kids to think and respond biblically and wisely to godless aspects of their culture. There is nothing magical about the plan, wording, or order here. There’s no one text of Scripture that says “this is how you ought to do it!” But I trust that this structure helps organize our thoughts into a practical approach that might be easy to remember.
1. Truth Saturation
Develop Scripture’s impact on your kids. Show them its priority in your own life, and creatively help them develop their own intake (through personal time and the opportunities afforded through your church). Look to promote and establish self-exposure rather than simply listening to mom and dad tell them about what the Bible says.
2. Intentional Exposure
Expose them to their surroundings–carefully and intentionally! Experience their culture with them—including the problematic parts. Oversee those opportunities directly and deliberately. Bring them up in the instruction of the Lord by providing practical opportunities to think about and practice their holiness.
3. Strategic Discussion
Promote opportunities for discussion during and after those exposure opportunities. Be approachable, initiate by regularly asking open-ended strategic questions, and anticipate chances to debrief. Don’t react. And pray for lots of wisdom.
With this strategy in mind, let’s look at two specific, true to life opportunities in which we can put it into practice. Note that we’re applying this strategy to both planned opportunities and unplanned encounters.
Example 1: Distortions of Marriage or Gender
My daughter loves to send (extremely long) text messages made up exclusively of emojis to friends and relatives from my phone. Several weeks ago, while composing such a message, she discovered the male bride emoji—an option I did not know was a thing!
Whether it’s the conspicuous couple in a public place, a gender-neutral Santa at Christmastime, the trans pride flag waving on the street, or via interactions with neighborhood children, your kids will be exposed to this aspect of our culture—if they haven’t been already. It is no longer subtle; it’s impossible to avoid. In fact, our culture intentionally pushes it and presents it as normal and admirable. Our kids will see it, and they will think about it. How we lead them is crucial.
A Scripture-centered home day in and day out is the only way to prepare for such exposure. Saturate them in the simple concept of marriage from the Bible. Teach them the biblical foundation for marriage from Genesis 2. Show them the simple Gospel concept that marriage is designed to picture Christ and the church (Eph. 5). This can be basic instruction; it doesn’t have to be a detailed exposition of every nuanced passage in Scripture that addresses this sin or that lifestyle. In today’s culture, the biblical teaching on marriage must be something we emphasize. However, don’t just teach your children these truths. Live them out in the home so that they can see them.Show them God’s plan for marriage by how you love and care for their mom and how you interact with her.1
Don’t be afraid of them seeing such examples in public or being exposed in other ways to this growing reality in our culture. In this case it may not be worth actively seeking out such opportunities,but don’t avoid outings downtown or instinctively turn them away when you encounter a situation where they may observe.
Remember, we have the opportunity to direct our children to truth now, while they are in the home; we won’t always have that chance. Of course, we need God’s wisdom here. Every child is different. We need to take considerations of age, maturity, and preparedness into account. But we have what they need; let’s not lose opportunities to provide it with God’s help!
When exposed, remember the weapon of open-ended questions that enable you to speak truth. Here are some possible questions that you might be able to use in such a situation:
- What do you think about that? What does God think about that? How do you know?
- Why do you think they feel that their actions are ok?
- How do you think God wants us to think about them? (This is a very important question as we seek to keep our kids biblically balanced in their thinking. They need to see one sinner as no different than another, including themselves and their dad!)
We can view these situations (though initially awkward and certainly not natural topics of discussion with our kids) as golden opportunities to instruct and to prepare them for action!
Example 2: The Primacy of Church Gatherings
In Part 1 we emphasized looking for opportunities to involve our children in the community. While the primary purpose for community involvement is evangelism, community involvement also gives opportunities for exposure! Interactions like this allow your children to rub shoulders with the lost in ways you can oversee and follow up on. Intentional exposure, right? Let’s use one possible scenario in this category as our next example.
Let’s say your elementary children are involved in community sports. If you choose to pursue this outlet for your children, you will invariably face the conflict between sports and the biblical priority of church attendance.
My point here is not to argue for one narrow approach to this issue. Each family must prayerfully consider how this will affect them. Some families decide to never miss a service under any circumstances; others land on allowing some leeway in certain situations or in relation to certain church gatherings. My point is that, no matter what you decide as a family, you will face this at some point in the context of youth sports. (The same could be said for music pursuits or other community involvement opportunities.) And when you do, how you instruct your child will be vital.
Few things are more important to teach our children than the primacy of their church. Worship, fellowship, and edification are vital to their growth in Christ and their future faithfulness as adults (Heb. 10:24–25). Just as the Israelite community played a supportive role in the development of Jewish kids’ love for God (Deut. 6:1–9), so does the church play that role for your kids. This is where they grow in their knowledge of God and in their love for him and others!
Teach them why we make church a priority. Instruct them to attend with the intent to learn things from God’s Word. We discussed some specific ways to do that last time. And remember, as parents we teach with what we say and with what we do. They need to see the primacy of church and its impact in dad’s life!
You make the choice to participate in community sports knowing that it may clash with your family’s spiritual priorities. And that’s not a bad thing! Tell your kids when there is a conflict. Expose them to each instance and talk through it (see below).
Your child may notice that their friends get more opportunities without church limitations. You may have to jump through some hoops (dad-joke pun alert) to switch teams because practice times for a certain team interfere with worship. Your child may lose playing time because he has to miss practice for church priorities. You may decide to leave halfway through a game in order to make it to midweek prayer meeting. Each of these is an opportunity to lead them to practice biblical priorities—to be holy and set apart!
These types of situations require parental decisions, but don’t miss the opportunities to discuss these challenges and decisions with your children in real time. Let them be active participants in those decisions through discussion. Walk them through the thought process, using that vital tool we keep bringing up: questions!
- What do you think is more important, the game or time with God’s people? How do we know?
- Is your commitment to your team important too? Why? How do you think we can accomplish both?
- What do you think our decision shows your unsaved teammates about our God?
This particular example presents an opportunity to address a broad spectrum of biblical principles to them, including the priority of evangelism. The primacy of church is only one angle—but it’s an important one! Scenarios like this present just one more opportunity to practice wisdom with your children. To live in the discipline and instruction of the Lord with them. To exercise holiness with them. That’s pretty awesome!
There are numerous additional examples we could tackle, including areas like entertainment (the exposure to which can be very strategic!) or interaction with unsaved family members. The opportunities are endless! And the potential for lifelong equipping is endless, too! What a privilege we have to reinforce this joyous truth to the growing precious ones God has placed in our charge: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).
Growing Fathers Team
Chris serve as an assistant pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, with a particular emphasis on the youth and on church-wide edification. He and his wife, Larua, have two children—Patrick and Kinley.View all posts by Chris