I recently received an email from a sweet mother who is about to put her oldest child in kindergarten. She’s nervous about it, as we all were that summer before the big first ever day of school, and she wanted some tips on how to raise kids to be godly even if you’re not homeschooling them.
It was an interesting question, and not something that I had spent a ton of time thinking about before she asked it. Homeschooling has never been a serious option for our family, although I don’t rule it out if the need arises. I have read many a blog filled with opinions that say homeschooling is the only way to take your Christian parenting responsibilities seriously, but I respectfully disagree. Homeschooling is wonderful. Most of the time. For some kids. In certain situations. But, public school can also be a great experience for your kids and you, even if you are a Christian family wanting to raise your kids to be godly people.
So, I thought I would quickly outline a few things that I believe have helped us teach our children about the gospel and about the Christian worldview, even while they attend public school.
Our family’s life is completely wrapped up in church. Now, you may be thinking that’s not exactly fair. I mean, my husband is a pastor, so aren’t we sort of forced to go to church all the time and make it the center of our lives? Well, it may appear that way, but you may remember that my husband was a struggling musician/teacher first, then an attorney second, and has just been in full-time ministry for the past eight years of our seventeen year marriage. And, our life has always been wrapped up in church.
All of our closest friends are our church friends. They’re the ones we do everything with. Their kids are our kids’ best friends. We are at church for everything. We hate to miss. Even when we go on vacation, we go to church. Maybe you’re seeing a pattern here. If you asked our children which is a bigger part of our lives, church or school, they would say church every time.
So, why does this matter?
It’s important for several reasons. First, because the church was created by Jesus. Yes, it’s imperfect. Yes, it’s filled with imperfect people. But, the church was instituted by Him to be a light in a dark world, a place where believers can share their lives and grow together and share joys and sorrows. It’s a place where Christians come to worship God together, in unity of spirit, and where good preaching and teaching help create a worldview that aligns with scripture.
The church is one of the first places where children will learn to sing praises to God, where they will begin to see the crucial truth of the gospel message, where they will learn that Jesus loves them. I hate the phrase “It takes a village,” but in Christianity, it truly takes a church to disciple and direct young hearts while they are tender and ripe for hearing and believing the truth of the Bible.
But, the main reason this immersion in church life is so important is because it teaches our children that this faith is a big deal. It’s not just something you think about on Sunday morning. It’s something that is always affecting our life, always directing our activities, always determining where we invest our time and money and effort. It sends a powerful message to our children that, not only do we go to church because we need to, we go because we want to be there. It’s God’s house, and we love being near His people.
If you are attempting to raise children who know Christ and who understand how to interpret the world’s craziness through the lens of scripture, but you aren’t faithfully throwing your whole self into serving in a church someplace, you are already setting yourself up for failure. God can do anything with anyone, but your children will have a much easier time understanding their need for a Savior if they see how important your faith is to you and how serious you are about teaching your family these truths.
We have theological discussions at home. Children ask some deep, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes embarrassing questions. Our philosophy is that we talk about everything, even the stuff that’s hard to talk about. When our kids ask questions about death or sex or God’s will or evil or anything else that’s big and needs answers from the Bible, we tell them the truth about it. It’s tempting to make up cute stories or to tell them something we think will be easier for them to handle, but children can begin to develop a deep sense of good theological systems from young ages. A firm grasp on theology is going to be a crucial part of the faith for these younger generations who are growing up in a terribly confusing world. It isn’t enough to say, “Jesus loves you, now go do the right thing.” Who can tell what the right thing is anymore? What’s the only source of wisdom in this wild world? Only the scripture and a right understanding of it.
It’s remarkable to see them apply the scriptural truths that they’re learning to situations at school and in life. Sending our kids to public school in no way prevents us from teaching them a biblical worldview. But, we don’t just wait for them to ask questions and then go from there. We make it a point to tackle some subjects and ideas that they maybe haven’t encountered yet. This is important because it’s always better for kids to be spiritually prepared before a situation arises. For instance, I recently sat my two oldest down and taught them about the dangers of pornography addiction and why we have to guard our hearts and our eyes. I know it seems like a scary thing to talk to your kids about things like this, but I’m always amazed by how matter-of-factly they respond, with thoughtful questions and with a sense of openness that’s surprising.
We take it one day, one situation, one child at a time. There is no perfect system for raising Christian kids. There are no guarantees that things will work out in our children’s hearts and lives the way we pray they will. No one approach is going to work for all kids. No one has all of this figured out–least of all our family. We are taking child raising one day at a time, and we handle each situation as it arises. You know why? Because there’s nothing else you can do. We can’t predict all of the things that our kids will question, wonder about, get involved in, get rebellious about. We can’t determine at these young ages if they’re going to be godly adults one day. But, we can do lots of things, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that will give our kids a solid biblical foundation, even while they attend public school.
A sweet bonus of the public school connection is that being involved in the public school allows us to get to know people we might not normally see. We get to be a part of our community, outside the walls of the church. We meet fellow parents, teachers, and kids that we can reach out to, minister to, and pray for. And, our kids get the opportunity to influence others for Christ, which is really what the church is all about.
Fellow public school families, what are some things that you do to help influence your children to love God and love people?