The longer I am in kids ministry the more I am struck by how kids seem to ‘know the answers’ a lot of the time, but they don’t put what they know into practise in their lives. This was highlighted a little while ago when we had a spate of stealing and some kids being really mean to each other (verging on bullying). These kids were not the ‘non-Christian’ kids or visitors. The instigators were our own churched kids who profess to be Christian.

So it stands to be considered, where are we going ‘wrong’? Admittedly children are sinners so we should expect them to sin, even if they are forgiven sinners, but where is the connect between bible knowledge and behaviour that we should be seeing too?  I suggest part of the problem lies with the lack of biblical modelling done in home life. Well meaning, genuine Christian parents do bible time with their children and think that is enough. They bring them to church for years where the children’s worker diligently grounds their children in  Bible knowledge. It comes as a horrific shock when their children suddenly decide to leave the church and abandon their faith in their teenage or post-high school years.

There is more to Bible teaching than just teaching the text. The problem seems to be the modelling of the application of the text. In order for Bible teaching to reach the heart it must be applied to lives and that is often where we fall short in teaching children. (I am in no way denying the sovereignty of God or the work of the Spirit here!) Children’s workers work hard to get the text ‘right’ but sometimes forget that the word is living and active and needs to go into hearts rather than heads.  As children’s workers we need to work hard to make the Bible relevant to children’s lives, but children’s workers are not enough! Children need their lives saturated with a biblical worldview and this can only come if the parents are on board.

We all have busy lives. Some parents have more time with their kids than others. Others have only snatched moments between soccer practise, showering and dinner time.  How can a parent maximise their time with their child and seek to teach the Bible ‘in action’? i.e apply the bible to their children’s lives while they are living it.

I can hear parents groaning… “but we don’t have time!” But that’s the point, maximize each minute with your child by being a living model of the Bible in action. This is the model the Bible presents – Deuteronomy 6:7says: “Impress them [God’s Words] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Again in Deuteronomy 11:19). Learning from God’s Word is a ‘whole life’ experience, not just 10 or 15 minutes of snatched Bible time before school or going to bed.

Let me give you an example of a family I knew in London. I often used to share breakfast with the family and then walk with them to school. One week we saw a dead bird. The Dad, by asking questions, got the kids to think about why death makes us sad and what God thinks about it. Basically a Genesis 3 conversation complete with a pointing forward to Jesus! Another time we saw the first daffodils of the season coming out in flower and the kids had a good chat about creation and the beauty of it and how God orders things like seasons and so on. These were not deep theological conversations but they were biblical conversations and each conversation was steered back to God and what his Word said.

We don’t really walk our kids to school in South Africa but we do drive a lot – in taxi’s or buses on the train or in cars. Take this time to talk to your kids! This is prime talking time. It is easy to pop in a CD, and there is a definite place for Colin Buchanan and Ben Pakkula and other good children’s CD’s that will teach and shape them, but don’t do it all the time. One day I was in the car with my niece. She was 5 at the time. I said, “Oops, I better slow down I’m over the speed limit”. This started a conversation about speed limits and breaking the law. She was quiet for a bit then she piped up “but Daniel didn’t obey the law”. She had been learning about Daniel at Sunday school. It led onto a good decision about how you obey the law unless it is against God. It was a great way to build into her life what she was learning from the bible. It would have been easy to keep the conversation on speed limits and leave it at that. Try to be INTENTIONAL in your discussions.  It is easy to tell a child off and to send them to their room. It is harder and takes more effort to get to the root of their sinful behaviour and to speak to them about it. E.g. what you did was selfish, what do you think God thinks of what the way you behaved? Etc. the child is not just punished he learns from the entire experience. (I have tried this as a children’s worker and it is hard!)

The point is see every day as a learning day and a day to soak children in a biblical worldview. As Christian parents take any opportunity to show your children ‘the Bible in action!’ As children’s workers who strive to reach children with the gospel we must encourage parents and remind them of the task that they have been given by God – all too often they see their children’s worker as ‘enough’ or just teaching head knowledge as ‘enough’. Growing godly children who are mature in Christ involves teaching them to live out the bible in their lives.

Here are some practical ideas on how could build the bible into you everyday life:

  • Talk to children about what they are learning in Sunday school
  • Talk to children about what you learned in church (in a child friendly way)
  • Use family discussion questions if your church provides them – children’s workers flag these questions and encourage their use)
  • Don’t just see Sunday school as ‘this is what my child learned on Sunday’ – rather think of it as ‘this is what I need to reinforce in my child’.
  • Talk to children and really hear them and respond to them intentionally! We often miss opportunities for meaningful conversation because we are busy or tired or we prioritise other things.
  • Remember children WATCH you! Your own attitude towards God’s Word cannot be hidden from your children. They will know how you act, and that will be far more influential than what you say.