Many churches are live streaming and people are worshipping at home. Children’s ministries are suspended, some indefinitely. While this may seem a bad thing, perhaps it could be a blessing in disguise.
For a couple of centuries the evangelical Sunday School movement has been trying to teach Proverb 22:6 – “train up a child…when he is old he will not depart from it.”
As I Christian Educator I am all for that; but when I read the Scriptures, I see several reminders of parental responsibility.
i.Personal response to the love of God (v5). God’s people were commanded as individuals to love God with “all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.” Jesus affirmed this as “the great commandment” (Matt 22:37-38). Love for God must begin with the individual and permeate the whole person. Love for God must be lived, emulated, not just told.
ii.Personal response to the Word of God (v6). When one truly “love God…” lives are changed. In the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) Jesus commanded “…teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded you….” When someone puts into practice what God has taught, that person’s life is changed. This will help children (and others) see God’s truth in action. We can’t tell someone to believe something if we only talk about and not apply.
iii.Personal participation in the life of the next generation (v7). Parents in a devote Jewish home take advantage of the daily happenings like:
a) when you sit in your house;
b) when you walk by the way;
c) when you lie down;
d) when you rise up; to talk to their children about God.
It’s like Jesus saying to the disciples, “As you are going…make disciple.”
It is not a matter of “setting aside time” for a concentrated period. It is optimizing the teachable moments which occur naturally when you are together.
So during this time when you are home with your child on Sundays I offer these practical suggestions to spend the extra time.
a) Make it a point to eat with the family – keeping of course social distancing! Table talk is good for the body, the mind, and you can make it good for the soul.
b) For older children, watch the live streaming together. Afterwards discuss the lesson taught. Share how you can apply the lessons to your life and ask how too can apply those lessons.
For younger children, while the live streaming is going on, keep them occupied with some activities related to the Bible story of the day. Afterwards, go through the lesson with them. Talk about how they can apply the lessons.
a) The newspaper may provide a map of the world for you to pray for the world, those infected, and their need for Jesus.
b) Make deliberate plans to “walk by the way.” Not only will it be good exercise, it also gives you a chance to connect with your family. Looking at nature opens great opportunities to talk about God.
c) Unlike the Hebrew family, today’s social order promotes the luxury of separate bedrooms which robs us of relaxed time together. If your everyone in your family is healthy, perhaps take a family nap and having some “pillow talk” before “sleeping” and after “waking” allows the opportunity to do more talking.
These Sunday routines can spark off more quality time, even as you battle with the limited quantity time.
iv.Personal symbols used to teach the next generation. The phylactery (v8) became a literal Jewish custom. It indicates total subjection of their conduct and contemplation to God. The Mezuzah (v9) reminds us that God’s Word is their guard and their guide as they leave and enter their house. In our day when the digital Bible and Power Point slides have replaced the “old,” perhaps bringing out the physical Bible can trigger significant discussions of the importance of God’s Word, as well as the book Bible. Maybe reclaim what has been lost in technology?
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 was addressed to a particular people in a particular place at a particular time. But, as with all of Scripture, the principles may be applied to all the people of God, whatever their circumstances, in the 21st century.
Parents take this opportunity to reclaim your responsibility for your children. The church has been teaching for you. Make use of this COVID-19 time to teach your children. Show them your love for God in a new way. Talk to them in whatever opportunity you have. Don’t let the glitzy images of the world bombard those teachable minds. By your total example, determine to stimulate them to love and good works.