I’ve seen a few billboards around town that start with the words, “They learn from watching you.” One such billboard goes on to say, “Eat more fruits and veggies and they will too!’ Another says, “Be active and they will too!” The point is that your kids are watching you, and what you model for them in your behavior is what they will mimic. I would add another sign: “Live your faith and they will too.” If modeling exercise and good eating habits is important to their well being, how much more so is modeling for them an enduring faith. When it comes to faith, it’s not enough to bring them to church here and there. It’s not even enough to send them to a parochial school and assume they’re getting all they need from their instruction there. No, they learn from watching you.
I have a friend in the neighborhood who told me she loves when my second child goes over there to play because “he’s always talking about God.” I was surprised to hear this, but I really shouldn’t have been. After all, we talk about God a lot at our home as well. My son attends a Lutheran school, he’s in church every Sunday and goes to Sunday school whenever it’s offered. We have family devotions at home and memorize Bible verses and the catechism. Faith is very much a part of our everyday lives. It’s not something we relegate to an hour a week. It’s who we are as a family. So I really shouldn’t have been surprised to hear that his faith spills over into playtime with his friends.
Another friend of mine, a teacher, wrote a few months ago on Facebook that a Junior Achievement volunteer had been in her classroom and asked the kids to name three things they need to live. Their answers were “God,” “Forgiveness,” and “the Lord’s Supper.” These kids are first graders. What a witness! I’m sure the JA volunteer wasn’t quite expecting those answers. Most classes would name things like food, water, and air. How remarkable that these first graders knew the eternally important answers. You can bet those kids that gave those answers have parents who live their faith.
Parents, I cannot stress enough the importance of passing your faith on to your children. They learn more from watching you than you might realize. Your attitude towards church, Bible study, and faith will have more influence on them than anything else. If you skip church regularly to go to the lake, they will too. If you take summers off from worship, they will too. If you go to church but leave before Sunday school and Bible class, they will too. If you complain about church being too hot or too long or too boring or whatever, they will too. Do you see a pattern here? They mimic what you do. Kids are wired to learn by example. Think of how a baby learns to talk. They copy your sounds and eventually get it right. Speak your faith at home, too. If they learn by example, the positive aspects of that hold true as well. If you attend church on a regular basis, they will too. If you take advantage of Bible study both at church and at home, they will too. If you talk about Bible verses and lessons at home, they will too. If you live your faith, they will too.
I’ve heard the excuse before from parents whose children attend a parochial school, “They get religion all week long. I don’t want to overdo it. They don’t need to go to church or Sunday school.” The Bible is pretty clear that there’s no such thing as “too much religion.” Consider the words of Deuteronomy 6:6-9: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” The note in The Lutheran Study Bible says that the Hebrew word used for “teach them diligently” is the word shanan, a “verb for sharpening by repeatedly running the blade over a whetstone. Parents are to teach God’s Word faithfully and repeatedly to their offspring.” Faithfully and repeatedly. This isn’t a halfhearted thing, folks. Don’t be tricked into thinking that they’re getting too much religion. That’s like saying, “We don’t talk to our kids on Saturdays because they hear enough language throughout the rest of the week. They deserve a break so we aren’t shoving language down their throat.” That doesn’t even make sense. Just as an English speaking person naturally speaks English to communicate, so Christians should naturally speak their faith at all times.
Remember, parents, you have tremendous influence over your children. Your values are passed on to them just by the way you live. You are the first and most important teacher your children will have. Overwhelming? Yes, parenting certainly is. But we aren’t in this alone. Our own heavenly Father is there to strengthen and help us. We may not always get it right, but then we have the opportunity to model repentance and forgiveness for our children. And in the end, we should point our kids past us to the ultimate example, Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 admonishes us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Yes, our kids may be watching us carefully, but our eyes are fixed on Jesus. Eternally.