Every boy loves a tool. One of the favorite gifts my two-year-old son received for Christmas this year was a toy drill. As soon as the gift was unwrapped, Klayton threw back his shoulders, announced that he had to “do work,” and went to secure the screws on his newly acquired train table. Only time will tell if this new drill surpasses the leaf blower my son received for his birthday last summer.
Tools can be fun, but more importantly, they’re useful. They allow us to accomplish things we could not otherwise have done (unless, of course, your tool is a toy like my son Klayton’s drill—but don’t tell him that). As a man, you may have a favorite power tool. What is your favorite parenting tool? The most important parenting tool is described in 2 Timothy 3:16–17.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
These verses are often referenced for their emphasis on inspiration. Verse 16 says that every word of Scripture comes directly from God with the implication being that all of it is completely without error. We call this doctrine “inerrancy,” and it is absolutely foundational.
However, believe it or not, Paul’s emphasis in these verses is not inspiration but another doctrine called “sufficiency.” Paul goes on to say that inspired Scripture is profitable—so profitable, in fact, that it is also sufficient to complete and fully equip the man of God for his work.
You don’t need a master’s degree in psychology or ten years’ managerial experience in the corporate world to be a good pastor (“man of God”). At the end of the day, the only tool you really need is your Bible. That truth has powerful implications for pastoring, but it also has also has powerful implications for parenting.
Dad, Read Your Bible
Christian dad, if you want to be effective, know your Bible. Read it. Listen to it. Study it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Pray it back to the Lord. Sing songs with biblically rich lyrics. As Paul said in Colossians 3, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Col 3:16).
However, just like with any tool, it’s not enough simply to know about all its parts. You also must learn how to use it.
One of my most effective ministry tools is a Bible study software called “Logos.” The program helps me to perform many otherwise laborious, time-intensive research tasks instantaneously. With the click of my mouse, I can parse any Hebrew word, or pull up an exhaustive list of every time a particular Greek word is used in the New Testament.
However, I haven’t always utilized Logos as effectively as I do now. Somewhere along the line, someone encouraged me to buy the set of training videos the company produces so that I would know how to get the most out of their software. Those videos were expensive, but boy were they worth it!
2 Timothy 3:16–17 is like an inspired instruction manual about how to use the Bible. It says that Scripture is profitable for… “doctrine,” “reproof,” “correction,” and “instruction in righteousness.” Paul uses these particular words intentionally.
- “Doctrine” is teaching true ideas about God and His world. (For example, “Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church.”)
- “Reproof” is rebuking false ideas about God and His world. (“Marriage is not the union of two men or two women.”)
- “Correction” is rebuking wrong behavior. (“Don’t yell at your wife. That’s not how Christ treats the church.”)
- “Instruction in righteousness” is teaching right behavior. (“Instead of yelling at your wife, honor her and be sensitive. Go on a date, ask questions, and listen. Then pray and point her to Jesus.”)
Items 1 and 4 on the list are about instilling what is good. Items 2 and 3 are about rebuking what is bad. Items 1–2 are about what you believe. Items 3–4 are about how you live your life. Put together, these words form a short, yet comprehensive list about how to use Scripture. In this post, I’d like to focus on the first use of Scripture: “doctrine.”
Use Scripture to instill a Christian worldview in your children.
I am currently reading a book called The Universe Next Door, by James Sire. The point of that book’s title is that everyone has a lens through which he or she views the world. That lens is called a “worldview,” and it radically shapes the way you interact with the world. Two people can be living next door to each other and yet be looking at essentially different worlds.
Your children must view the world through the lens of Scripture. If you asked your eight-year-old daughter, “What makes a human different from an animal?” would she know the answer? Does your five-year-old son know why Jesus died on the cross? How well would your teen do talking with an unbelieving friend at school about issues of faith?
How well do your kids know the content of the Bible? Can they say the books of the Bible in order? Have they memorized important biblical lists like the Ten Commandments or the six days of creation? Could they recite important passages like the Lord’s Prayer?
Doctrinal teaching is the most important use of the Bible because truth is our foundation. Therefore, every other use of Scripture derives from this one. Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
Improve Children Teaching
How can we improve at teaching our children doctrine? Here are three simple suggestions.
- Go to church.
Aside from all the other good, biblical reasons to attend church, do it for the sake of your children. Your kids won’t know the Bible like they should if you don’t attend church weekly. That statement may be hard for some people to swallow, but it is biblical. God’s pattern has always been for His people to gather to worship Him weekly. I am consistently surprised at how much my children learn about God at church vs. how much they learn from me at home—and I have a master’s degree in Bible! There simply is no substitute for the regular, systematic teaching afforded by a solid local church.
- Add Sunday school or Wednesday night to your weekly routine.
If you already have a habit of Sunday morning church attendance, that’s great! Now, consider adding a service. Many churches offer age-graded instruction for children on Sunday mornings or on Wednesday night. What a perfect opportunity to enroll your kids in an additional Bible program led by gifted, experienced teachers! Sadly, many parents fail to take advantage of these opportunities.
- Strengthen family worship.
Your family worship (or “devotions”) time is the flagship Bible teaching time in your home. Therefore, one of the best ways to improve at instructing your children is to beef up family worship. (If your family doesn’t currently have a habit of regular family worship, I would encourage you to check out this article to learn more about it.)
How can you make your teaching time during family worship more valuable for your children? The answer will be different for every dad. Maybe you could tell the story instead of just reading it. Maybe you could ask your children more questions. Perhaps your family would enjoy role playing a Bible story. Maybe you want to include an object lesson. Some families may be able to handle a catechism memory program.
After working on writing this section, I approached family devotions differently last night. Instead of just reading the story of Jonah out of the book, I told it in my own words. I tried to be expressive and to “get into” the story. My four-year-old daughter Mollie is quiet and rarely volunteers input, so I tried to make eye contact with her and asked her questions. Then, at the end of the story, I made a couple brief applications to obeying God and loving other people.
It didn’t take much, but I’m pretty sure that was the most effective family worship time the Schaal family has had in a while! Today at lunch, I referenced the Lord’s Prayer, and none of my children knew it, so we are going to start memorizing that together this evening.
For many dads, the ideas I just shared will seem daunting. Don’t worry! You don’t need a degree in Bible to lead your family in worship! Just start small and try to be consistent. God will use you! In addition, there are many resources available to help.
Here are some of the resources I have used to teach my children the Bible:
- The New Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes and The Jesus Storybook Bible are two good Bible story books for young children. Although it’s more of a short overview, Kevin DeYoung’s The Biggest Story is another excellent resource for teaching children the storyline of the Bible.
- Leading Little Ones to God and The Ology address biblical truth topically. Leading Little Ones to God is geared more for young children, while The Ology is better for older elementary-aged children.
- One great way to inspire your kids to serve the Lord is to read them Christian biographies. The Christian Heroes: Then and Now series is a fast-paced adventure-style series of missionary biographies written for older children or teens.
- For hundreds of years, the book that had sold the most copies apart from the Bible was Pilgrim’s Progress—and this old classic is still a great tool for teaching kids! Try this modern English translation so you don’t have to wade through the “thee’s” and “thou’s.” Or, try this simplified version of Pilgrim’s Progress with pictures for young children. (See also Part 2 about Christianna’s journey.)
Of course, the most straightforward way to teach your children the Scriptures is simply to read them the Scriptures! Start with one of the gospels and read from a modern English version to aid their understanding.
In summary, the Bible is your best parenting power tool, but you must know how to use it. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that the Bible has four uses, the first of which is “doctrine.” We use the Bible for doctrine when we instill a Bible-based Christian worldview into our children.
Growing up, we used to sing a silly little song in family devotions. (The most memorable thing about the song was it had a ridiculously long phrase in it that you were supposed to sing all at once, without taking a breath.) I don’t remember the title, but a phrase from the chorus said, “Truth is the most important treasure in this world today.”
We live in a world in which truth is devalued. Many people even deny it exists! However, we as Christians believe that absolute truth is found in the Bible. Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your kids is teach them that truth. Use the Bible—your most powerful parenting tool—to give your children a Christian worldview.