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?”
Last week The Village Church in Dallas, TX put out a FREE resource that families would do well to take advantage of. Their Summer Family Activity Book is full of creative ideas meant to bring families together and get them off the couch, but the best thing of all is that each activity includes a suggestion for how to bring it back to God and his Word. You’ll find a load of online family activity guides, but this is the only one I know about that combines family fun with God’s truth.
You can download it here.
And here’s a paragraph from the introduction:
We have put the Summer Family Activity Book together with this charge in mind. Whether you’re hanging out at home, traveling across the country or running errands around town, there is no shortage of opportunities to help your children see the things of the Lord. Our hope is to help you see and take advantage of these moments.
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If we’re going to point our kids to Jesus as the Savior of sinners, then it’s not enough to simply have regular family devotions (or family worship). Certainly those times are extremely important, but as believing parents, we need to create an environment of gospel-telling, and that doesn’t happen with just 15-20 minutes in the Word with them a few times a week. It happens when we combine family worship with the discipline of connecting everyday moments to the cross.
There are all kinds of gospel-connections in life just waiting for you to pounce on them. Last night as we were at the table eating dinner, one of my boys reached over to the fridge and pulled off a magnet we bought at the Houston Museum of Natural Science which had a butterfly printed on it. He asked, “What’s this?” “A butterfly”, I said, “Do you know what butterflies were before they were butterflies?” Both my boys said, “No”, so I went to their bedroom and grabbed a book off their shelf. If you’ve been to a public library in the last forty years you know about The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I moved quickly through the book until I reached the climax where the caterpillar, engorged by fruit, hot dogs, and chocolate cake, wraps himself in a cocoon. The next page reveals the drastic transformation the caterpillar made into a beautiful butterfly. What a sweet opportunity the Lord provided for me to explain to my kids the doctrine of regeneration – “When we run to Jesus to be saved from our sin, like the caterpillar, God transforms us into beautiful new creatures on the inside (2 Corinthians 5:17). He gives us new hearts that love him and want to serve him.”
If these kinds of gospel-connections aren’t obvious to you, they can be. The more you study the gospel, the more clearly you will understand it and love it, which will lead you to meditate on it more, which will open your eyes to connections you can make for yourself and your kids. Study the parables of Jesus and observe how he connected everyday life to the gospel and read books like What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper, and A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent.
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What can I say? I think VeggieTales is funny. The characters are talking vegetables who are masters of randomness and wholesome silliness. They have no hands yet they always seem to be holding something and they pull off cultural parodies without being tacky. How did creator Phil Vischer come up with a show as successful as VeggieTales when kids hate vegetables? The show is well done and entertaining, but an article in the latest issue of World Magazine shows that it has a real problem for Christian parents. Consider the following quote:
After Big Idea, the animation studio he started in his basement, went bankrupt, Phil Vischer had an epiphany. He looked back and realized that while his immensely entertaining VeggieTales characters delighted kids and sold by the millions, they only taught children how to behave Christianly—they didn’t teach them Christianity.
I’ve just started watching some episodes of VeggieTales with my boys and I’ve seen this to be true. Do the episodes teach valuable lessons of morality? Yes, but the lessons, if never supported by the Christian message, come up empty. Without the Gospel, lessons in humility, obeying your parents, and using your gifts become efficient ways to scrub up the outside of our kids so they look Christian without being Christian. It is true that parents can in no way save their kids, but we can give them the Gospel that is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Our kids need to know that the Gospel is what gives heart, power, and purpose to morality, and most importantly, that morality doesn’t make them Christian, but proves that Jesus made them Christian (if they believe).
So, what’s the lesson we need to take away? Is it that you trash all your VeggieTales DVD’s and tell your kids that Bob and Larry moved to Abu Dhabi? I don’t think so. Rather, the lesson is for us, as parents, to watch VeggieTales with our kids and supplement the material with the Gospel. Just because VeggieTales is sold in every Christian bookstore in the country does not mean that you can use the DVD’s as a babysitter and hope that your kids get saved. Watch the show with them and use the lessons as a starting point for Gospel conversations.
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