One way to plant gospel seeds in the conversations you have with your kids is to explain to them why you do what you do. Listen to Kurt Gebhards:
When a parent makes important decisions in life, he should explain to his children how the gospel influenced that decision…explain why you do not buy certain things, do certain things, and constantly point back to the gospel as the motivation (taken from Evangelism: How to Share the Gospel Faithfully).
Now, in order for this to be genuine, you must actually make decisions because you have been influenced by the gospel. So, I think the point is that planting gospel seeds in conversation with your kids will not be difficult if, in fact, you are living a life that is focused on the gospel. Gospel conversations will take place simply because you are answering the question, “Why?”
What do you think is the value of the children’s ministry at your church? In your estimation is it a ministry that simply keeps the kids from tearing each other apart for an hour so parents can hear the sermon? Is it just baby-sitting or something more?
Here’s what John MacArthur said to his Children’s Ministry workers at one of their events last year:
…you (Children’s Ministry) are doing the greatest and most consistent evangelistic ministry this church has. This is the primary evangelistic emphasis in this church…You (Children’s Ministry) are an evangelistic force and in my mind you are the greatest evangelistic force we have at Grace Community Church.
This morning I am thinking about Romans 5:8 in reference to my parenting. This familiar verse says, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What strikes me about this verse is that God loved us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still in our rebellion against him. God loved us first. In fact, God had to love us first or else we would never have escaped our rebellion. Romans 3:11 states “…no one seeks for God”, so it was necessary that He seek us if were ever going to experience salvation and serve Him at all. God had to initiate our relationship with him.
So, what does this have to do with parenting? As redeemed people who have been made in the image of God, our calling is to show the world what God is like… this includes our children. Therefore, I want my children to see me seeking them out as God has sought me out. I do not want to be a father who only relates to my children when they come to me first, asking me to play with them or answer their questions. On the contrary, I want them to expect that Dad is going to come after them in love – initiating talks, play-time, and the giving of help.
This past weekend Keri and I took our kids to see a Slugs and Bugs kids’ concert at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX. Randall Goodgame, the driving force behind the music of Slugs and Bugs, performed a lot of the songs our family has been rockin’ in the minivan over the past year. One song he performed that stuck with me was Jesus Loves Me with two new verses he added. These two verses are a great tool for helping parents teach their kids the doctrine of justification – when we trust in Christ alone to save us from sin, God declares us righteous on the basis of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death, and, therefore, loves us as he loves Jesus. This means that for those kids who trust in Jesus, he loves them when they do the right thing and when they do the wrong thing (see 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 4:5-8). Here are the lyrics, old and new (the new verses are in bold print):
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong
Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so
Jesus loves me when I’m good
When I act just like I should
When I say thank you and please
Brush my teeth and wash my knees
Jesus loves me when I’m bad
When I talk back to my dad
When I stomp and whine and pout
(And) poke my bottom lip right out
What happens when we bow our heads to pray with our kids? As we’re expressing our hearts to God, what are they doing? We may stress to them the importance of praying along with Daddy or Mommy in their hearts, being still, keeping their eyes closed, and staying quiet, but how much of that are they really doing?
The reality for them is that prayer time is a time when their parents aren’t talking to them. You’re not giving them instruction or asking them questions, so more often than not (at least for my kids) this means giving some semblance of quiet and control for thirty seconds whilst traveling to another world in their own imaginations.
I want my kids to understand that they need God and I want them to understand what it is they need from him, so where does that leave me when I’m pretty sure they’re not listening to a word of what I’m bringing to the ears of God? It’s simple, and I don’t know why I haven’t been doing it before now: I just tell my kids what I’m going to pray before I actually pray. This way I’ve got their attention and they begin to see the wide expanse of ways in which we need God (both spiritual and physical).
I know that Where the Wild Things Are is a classic of children’s literature, but I only just read it to my boys last night for the first time. You probably remember the story: Max, a young imaginative boy, is making mischief one night and when his mother catches him she calls him “Wild Thing”, to which Max replies, “I’ll eat you up!” His mother then sends him to bed with no dinner and that’s when Max uses his imagination to sail to a distant land where the wild things are. He quickly gains the respect of the monsters there and they make him their king. They have a lot of fun together, but soon Max wants to be “where someone loved him best of all.”
When I can, I try and use the stories I read to my kids as a way to point them to greatest of stories; the true story of God sending his Son to rescue his people from their sins. So, last night after we read the end of the story where Max returns home and finds a hot meal waiting for him in his room, I asked the boys, “Who do you think brought him that food?” To which they replied, “His mommy.” We then proceeded to discuss the reality that Max did not deserve the food that was waiting for him, but that his mommy had mercy on him. I asked them if their mommy ever gave them something good when they didn’t deserve it, to which they answered “yes”. Then I asked them why Mommy showed them mercy. There was no answer, so I explained that Mommy shows them mercy because God showed her mercy when he sent Jesus to die for her sins.
Where the Wild Things Are has unique, eye-catching illustrations and it’s fun for boys to pretend that they are monsters, but I really think the appeal of the story for me is the mercy of a loving mother. Having said that, it would be really easy to just end the story and appreciate the love Max’s mother has for him, and there wouldn’t be anything inherently wrong with that. But if there is One whose mercy far exceeds any mercy we find in this world (and there is), then parents, let us tell them of God who “being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).