This may be the first phrase our children have learned to repeat: “in Jesus’ name, Amen.” Quite often, family prayers involve my leading in prayer but concluding with a chorus, albeit in varying degrees of enunciation, of: “in Jesus’ name, Amen”! Though there’s a well of meaning yet to impart, it is a hopeful beginning for our children to utter their Amen through Jesus.
What must children learn?
The reason why the safest answer to any question Sunday School is Jesus is because all of God’s promises are Yes in Christ (2 Cor 1:20). There is no “yes and no” in Jesus (vv. 18-19), but all the anticipated promises (e.g., Gen 3:15), acted powers (e.g., Gen 1:1; cf. Col 1:16), and assured pardons (e.g., Exod 34:7; Micah 7:19) of God are wholly affirmed in Jesus Christ. And this explains why Christian worship is responding with our Amen through Christ to the glory of the Father (cf. Eph 2:18).
As we exemplify the rhythm of responding to God’s “Yes” in Jesus with our “Amen” through Jesus, we want our families to learn the same. But it won’t happen by accident.
We recognize this in other areas of training. Our children do not learn practical wisdom and skill by accident. My son will not learn how to throw a spiral, change a tire, or shake a hand by osmosis. We teach our children also the stories of the Bible for they do not learn that Noah comes before Abraham who comes before Jacob who comes before Moses by intuition.
Do children need more than stories with a lesson in morality?
Of course, our children need far more than tidbits of wisdom or even the Bible’s narratives. That latter area has been the real Achilles’ heel for much (most?) Sunday School curricula and children’s material in recent decades. The Flood (Gen 6-8) has been turned into a lesson of how much God likes our pets and a “clean world,” like the theological motivation for the EPA. But what’s ignored is the holocaust of holy wrath and continuation of His promise-plan to save.
Or the twisting of David and Goliath into how God uses little people to tackle big tasks! While God’s salvation of sinners without human effort, confounding their pride and increasing His glory is bypassed (1 Sam 17:47; cf. 1 Cor 1:28-31). Even the Parable of the Good Samaritan is made about how to be nice on the playground, when Jesus’ point to the self-justifying (and rude) lawyer is that he can never “do” enough nice things to inherit heaven (Luke 10:25-29ff).
It’s quite easy to turn the oracles of the Lord’s power into another collection of Aesop’s fables – good morals for good little boys and girls. But our goal, if we areChristian parents, is not good little boys and girls, but faithful Christians, who know the Yes of Jesus and the Amen of worship.
How can I teach my children what they must learn?
Christian parenting must involve passing on that pattern of sound doctrine (2 Tim 1:13) that explicitly shows Gods Yes in Jesus Christ. So we want to revive the art of catechizing (instructing) in our homes and our church. For practical help, Id utilize A Catechism for Boys and Girls. Sojourn Kids has a revised edition with questions divided by age. And, yes, it’s possible to teach children the doctrine of God’s Triunity by the age of 3 – they can already count that high!
To help ease young ones into the practice of doctrinal Q&A, a dear friend of my wife and I, Donna Drion, has written and illustrated the Stop and Look! series. These 3 books have engaging drawings and rhymes about Gods World, Ourselves, and God’s Word (treating general and special revelation, respectively). And at the end of each book are questions from A Catechism for Girls and Boys that form a natural conclusion to the previous story. Aunty Donnas books are some of our childrens favorites.
Teaching them diligently to love the Lord our God (Deut 6:4-7) does necessitate indoctrinating children thoroughly. And catechizing is a tried and true method to do just that. Tomorrow, I’ll try to briefly address a couple common questions about catechisms.