Thursday, May 08, 2008

Children and Spiritual Disciplines

Cheri and I try to read Scripture (and memorize) and pray with our kids regularly. A friend asked us recently whether or not we would force our kids to memorize Scripture if they were resisting it. I thought the issue helped me clarify some of my parenting philosophy, and here are some thoughts as a result:

I would have to say that if one of our children (or more than one) were resisting our efforts to memorize Scripture as a family, I would:

1) Not force them, but since it is a family activity I would require them to sit quietly so as not to distract others.

2) I would continue to lay before them why we do it. I did this just the other night when talking to them about Psalm 1. I reminded them that we memorize because Scripture is treasure.

3) I make sure that I often expand on the Bible memorization with teaching questions; after we work on memorizing together, I often ask, "now what does that mean?" I want to make sure they are actually thinking about the content of what we are memorizing.

This question speaks to the larger issue of how we engage our children in family worship, our expectations of them in the spiritual disciplines, how we want to present the "Christian life" to our kids, etc. In expecting them to engage in the disciplines are we assuming they are Christians? Whether it's a child or an adult, I wouldn't expect engagement in disciplines without them presupposing their value in some way.

I want to strongly avoid putting external pressure upon my children to mimic Christianity. I would rather them be honest with where they are and not participate (yet still expecting them to respect my authority and our family time). My goal as a dad is to lay before them the beauty and desirability of following Christ, and trust the Spirit to give them hearts that desire Him. All teaching, spiritual disciplines and spiritual conversations are to serve this end. I want to go after their hearts, romancing them with truth through biblical imagery and story that will engage their minds and imaginations.

Another example of this is with my 9 1/2 year old son and Bible-reading. As far as I can tell, he doesn't read his Bible on his own out of a desire that is his own. He hears it and reads it as part of homeschool assignments, kids ministry, and at our family time that I already mentioned. I would like to see him desire his own time though. I will not force that upon him however. To do so seems problematic.

We have to be careful, as much as possible, not to allow negative emotional attachments to be placed in our kids' minds and hearts regarding the disciplines or Christian living in general. I would rather my children not engage in the disciplines if it means they will associate resentment with such practices, or the cold hardness that can come from empty mimicry.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


A good word. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.