By Rebecca Waters
When her 8-year-old son was the victim of a neighborhood bully, Linda wanted to tell her son to “beat the kid up the next time.” But as a new believer in Christ, Linda knew there had to be a better way.
When faced with a crisis, many parents tend to rely on what their parents did, or they allow themselves to be guided by their emotions. For those who are first generation Christians, the worldview they once knew may not align with biblical principles. So how do parents go about establishing a Christ-centered home? Where do new believers start in building a legacy of faith?
Here are five tools parents can use to build a Christian home. Let’s examine them one at a time.
Read God’s Words
The apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
A young woman enrolled in the Christian college where I was teaching. She attended classes and chapel services where references were made to Bible stories. Most of the students had heard these stories from childhood. Kay had not been raised in a Christian home. Stories about David and Goliath and Daniel in the lions’ den held little meaning to her. She wisely purchased a children’s Bible from a local bookstore and read it from cover to cover. This initial survey of the Bible provided Kay with a foundational understanding of the scope and sequence of biblical truths. She came to understand that from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is the story of salvation.
You can do the same with your children. Reading through the Bible together as a family teaches your children to value God’s Word. Use your own copy of the Scripture to enhance your understanding. And if you come to something you don’t understand or a name you can’t pronounce, that’s OK. Many believers who have studied the Scripture for years will tell you they continue to learn something new every day. It is through the Scriptures we learn how to respond to the world with a Christlike attitude. Later, as you and your family mature, you will want to memorize verses from the Bible together.
Meet With Other Believers
Acts 2:42 gives us a glimpse of life in the first church: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They met together, ate together, and praised God together.
The church community offers families a resource for building friendships with like-minded believers. Connecting with a local church gives parents the opportunity to learn from more mature Christians and reinforces biblical truths for children.
For example, I was grateful when another mother in our church gave me insight about how to talk with my oldest daughter about purity as she approached her teen years. When my 9-year-old asked me what the book of Revelation was about, I turned to a more experienced Sunday school teacher for guidance.
A boy in our church had been bullied by two boys on the school bus. When his mother brought up the incident in our adult Sunday school class, a more mature believer met with her and counseled her to begin dealing with the issue by first praying with her son and for the boys doing the bullying. “Pray for the bullies?” She was astonished, but through a careful review of the Scripture, this is exactly what she began to do. Through prayer and Scripture she was able to teach her son how to love his enemies, to be assertive without being aggressive, and to forgive.
Honor God in Your Home
“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14).
Raising your children in a Christian home is not just about having a daily Bible reading together or praying before meals. Prayer and the study of Scripture are important, but what will speak most to your children is everything else you do (or don’t do) in your home.
Purge your home of movies, books, and games that do not honor God. It’s harder than it sounds. Turn off the television or walk out of a movie that contradicts biblical truth. And when you find yourself in the middle of a program you thought would be harmless, remember you are in control of what goes into the minds of your children. Turn the offensive program off and, if your children are old enough, talk through your decision from a Christian viewpoint.
Make Your Story His Story
Consider what Jesus told the man who had once been possessed by demons. “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19, NIV, 1984).
My husband and I have friends who came to Christ when their children were in grade school. They are transparent about the problems they have faced, continue to face, and the sins they have committed. They are equally vocal about the way God has led them through those tough times. The result? Their children run to God when they are facing problems. Their children have witnessed with their own eyes God’s power and grace.
Another couple we know became Christians when their children were preschoolers. Their children, now grown and married, continue to tell the story of how their family came to Christ. It is part of their family history, the beginning of their legacy of faith.
Don’t hide your story. Celebrate it. Sometimes new believers are so ashamed of the life they once lived, they are fearful of telling their children about it. The truth is, sharing what God has done for you will help your children as they face similar challenges in life.
Talk About the Saving Grace of Jesus
Consider Paul’s words to Titus: “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). The Israelites were told to impress upon their children all that God had done.
We expect our children to learn to read or to understand a math concept in school through direct instruction. We would be appalled to walk into a first-grade classroom to see the teacher sitting silently at her desk working on a sheet of math problems while the students watched.
Teachers don’t expect children to learn through osmosis. Yet often I talk with parents who expect their children to accept Jesus and understand what his death, burial, and resurrection mean just because they live in a Christian home. We need to be dedicated to teaching our children the simple truths of God’s saving grace through the sacrifice of his Son. Our children have the right to know. They also have the right to make their own decisions about what they will do with that information. It is our job to make sure our children make an informed decision.
Use these tools regularly. As these practices become habits, yours will be a Christ-centered home, one that honors God and begins to build a legacy of faith.
Rebecca Waters is a freelance writer in Fairfield, Ohio.
A Plan for Parenting
Think about the main points the author makes in this article. Which do you model well for your children and encourage them to pursue? Which have you neglected?
Rather than focusing on your faults (We’ve all got ’em!), ask God to help you find ways to maximize the things you’re doing well and make progress in areas of weakness. Then set specific goals, make a plan, and seek the accountability you need to encourage your kids consistently in Christ.
• Read God’s Word.
• Meet with other believers.
• Honor God in your home.
• Teach your children about the saving grace of Jesus.