I want my children to have a well-rounded education. I want them to be able to read & write. I want them to be able to think critically and find solutions. Above all, I want them to know God. I want them to choose to walk with Him as I am endeavoring to do. I want them to follow my example, but I'm not merely leading by example. I'm investing time to formally teach my children. It's my duty as a parent and especially as their father (cf. Eph. 6:4). In addition to personal example and formal teaching, I must also pursue:
3. INFORMAL CONVERSATIONS
"And shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." (Deut. 6:7b).
It's easy to fail at any points we've discussed thus far. If I'm a hypocrite, my family will know & my children are likely to be lost to the world. If I limit my role to that of a taxi driver who takes my kids to church weekly and does nothing else to actively instruct them in Bible knowledge, the wisdom of God, or the path of righteousness, my children are likely to be lost to the culture around them. Opportunities abound to discourse about spiritual matters. Yes, I'm encouraging actually talking face to face & heart to heart about things that really matter.
Any time is a good time to talk with children about life and our purpose on Earth: when we get up in the morning, when we travel together, when we sit down for a meal together, when we go to bed, & every time in between! Of course, it's so much easier to squander these precious opportunities with ceaseless distractions (e.g., the exceedingly strong pull of a cell phone & social media where we interact best with those who aren't with us in person, watching numerous movies, sports, & TV shows with little engagement with those we share the couch with, putting on headphones to escape with music, immersing oneself in video games, tuning out the world with a book or magazine, tending to work e-mail when we don't really have to, etc.). On and on we could go. Our generation has perfected the art of amusing ourselves to death. We can be so busy with so much that doesn't really matter in the big picture. And what is the cost? We pay the price in the shallowness of our relationships and dialogue with the ones we claim to love the most! Our children grow up in the blink of an eye and we don't know them as we could & we don't mold them as we should.
I'm not about to say that any of the distractions above are intrinsically wrong, but I will say categorically that any form of entertainment is dangerous. The danger is in distracting us from what really matters. If no parameters are established by the parents, technology may become a weed (for the entire family!) that Jesus warned of in the parable of the sower (cf. Matt. 13:22). Instead of automatically turning on the radio in the car or the TV at home or using a spare moment to see what's happening on social media, pause and think: How can I use this moment for the good of my children? How can we dialogue together on the commandments of the Lord? How can I better lead them in His ways?
Admittedly, informal conversations of this nature may seem forced at times, but that alone might be a warning to us that we're not talking the talk nearly enough with our families. Conversations on spiritual matters should flow freely between parents and children (in both directions, ideally). When a genuine love is shared for something, dialogue blooms naturally. And so it needs to be with our faith. It's been said that our religion needs to be at the table as well as at the temple. Such is true, and therein lies a great step I want to challenge you to take if you aren't already: Eat at least one meal together daily as a family around a table & forbid distractions (e.g., no phone calls, no texting, no TV, no video games, no headphones, etc. and no leaving the table until dismissed). This is a precious time for families. If you're having few if any important conversations with your children, here is where you start and work to expand from there. Having each person share about their day will open doors for teaching, encouragement, and growing closer together. Parents should be prepared to ask questions and guide the dialogue productively.
In addition to eating and talking together, I cannot overestimate the importance of what we discussed previously: the necessity of having a daily period of devotion to God as a family. Select a time that works for your family. Right after dinner or before bed might be the best for many families, although others may find a time early in the morning to be more conducive.
We will continue this study in our next lesson.