Why Bringing Your Kids to Church Is Not Enough

The conversation goes like this. A well meaning parent comes up to me, expressing their desire to get involved with the church. Always curious, I ask why, and the answer I typically get is this: “I want my child to grow up in church.” Though certainly we should want our children to grow up in church, I’m gravely concerned with what is often meant by this innocent statement. Usually what people really mean is this: “I want my children to be raised with some sort of faith, preferably the Christian faith, because it was so important to my moral upbringing. Since I am either unwilling or unable to provide it myself, I’ve come to the church to get them to take care of the spiritual life of my child while I’ll take care of everything else.” To put it more simply, parents want to outsource the spiritual nurturement of their child to the church. 8483660163_3fd14630eb_z

Though I certainly welcome any family and any child into the community of the saints, I do want to challenge the idea of outsourcing the spiritual care of your children to the church. Unfortunately the church has only reinforced this mindset within many people through our programs and ministry methodology. We have taught parents to come and drop off their children where paid professionals stand by to handle the tenacious work of discipleship. As a former youth pastor, I’m fully aware that ministry to teens without the parents simply doesn’t work. The responsibility for the spiritual care of our little ones cannot be placed upon the church entirely, but rather the full weight of responsibility rests on the shoulders of daddy and mommy. God has called the parents to evangelize and disciple their children. The church then exists to come alongside mom and dad to equip them for their task and supplement what is already taking place at home.

So if you are a Christian parent, please bring your children to church, but you must do *more* than that. As any experienced parent will tell you, more is caught than taught. Therefore, in addition to just dropping your child off at church, we must model the Gospel to our children. We must live out what it means for Christ to be our greatest love and greatest treasure. We must display what it means to submit our lives to king Jesus and his authoritative word. If you take seriously your job as a parent, you must live out your faith to those little eyes who are always watching.

Here is the main point: In addition to bringing our kids to church, we must model a life of devotion to Jesus.

Though we certainly never do it for the show, our children should see our devotion to Jesus in action. Our children watch us in the most private and mundane of moments and they should see our professed love for Christ on display. They should see us pray and read the Bible, growing in our relationship with Jesus. Our children should be able to look to us as example of what the Christian life is. Sadly, for far too many families, Jesus only comes up on Sunday mornings and is ignored the rest of the week. When you tell your children to follow Jesus on Sundays, but ignore him every other day, chances are your kids will follow Jesus none of the days. Why? Because your own spiritual life screams hypocrisy.

How can mom or dad tell me Jesus is worthy of my devotion when they show no evidence of that devotion themselves? Why make Jesus the Lord of my life when he isn’t the Lord of theirs?

I’m afraid many parents do more harm than good by forcing their kids to go to church, teaching them that church is like broccoli—nobody likes to eat it, but you have to eat it because it's good for you.

I’ve talked with many parents who struggle with their children who don’t want to come to church, particularly in the teenage years. Every Christian parent encounters this at some point in their parenting, and parents should indeed require their children to come to church, whether they want to or not. Though what is most likely happening behind the scenes is something much bigger than just refusing to come to church; the teen calls the bluff on the parent’s hypocrisy, reacting against the parent who speaks out of the both sides of the mouth.

We must repent of our Janus-faced parenting and confess our hypocritical compartmentalization. After all, the goal of our parenting is not to produce well-behaved, moral little monsters, but contrite sinners, redeemed by the blood of the Christ. If we hope our children will join the redeemed, we must not cast doubt on the truth Gospel by our hypocritical life. Parents must authentically live out their faith before their children. Though we may have the rest of our church fooled, our children are not. Our rehearsed play-acting will only put a bitter taste of Christianity into our children’s mouths. We need less Christian thespians, and more parents who authentically, consistently, and genuinely live their lives in devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.

So bring your kids to church, but you better demonstrate devotion to Christ in your private life. If not, your legalistic requirement of church attendance and your hypocrisy could very well estrange your children from the Christ you profess to love.

How to Disciple Your Toddler: 8 Simple Ways

Parenting a toddler is like a marathon—one long test of endurance and stamina. The days and nights collide into each other as your toddler bounces of the walls in excitement and joy. Each new day provides another opportunity for another adventure, filled with new discoveries. Though exhausting, toddlers bring such incredible joy and excitement to the home. As the dad of an almost three year old, I've noticed that these young years provide an incredible opportunity for discipleship. After all, as Christian parents we are called to evangelize and disciple our children.child_prayer2_744581311 Yet, in my experience, many parents struggle with specifically how to do that. After all, toddlers are just learning language. How much can you really disciple? Well, more than you think. As you parent a toddler, you do not pull out your Millenial charts on the book of Revelation, but rather you set the foundation for future discipleship. If you are building a new home, you cannot start putting paint on the walls before you prepare the foundation. Lay the foundation first; the time for paint will come eventually. The toddler years provide an incredible opportunity to lay a solid foundation that will prepare your child to understand the Gospel as he or she grows.

[Tweet "You cannot start putting paint on the walls before you prepare the foundation."]

So how can you disciple your toddler and lay a solid foundation? By no means am I a toddler expert. Though I am a pastor, I'm just an ordinary dad trying to figure out how to shepherd my family, daily trusting on Jesus for help and guidance. But for what its worth, here are some helpful suggestions on how you can take advantage of these early years.

1. Read Bible Stories to your Toddler

A simple, but sadly neglected way to disciples your toddler. Read the Bible to them! Find a great book like  the Jesus Story Book Bible to read to them each day. Teach them to be excited about God's word and learning about Jesus. As they get older, you can teach them more and more, but start the habit now! Yes, help your child understand the Bible stories and the meta-narrative of Scripture, but at this young age you are primarily trying to embed a love and thirst for the Scriptures as your child grows up.

2. Sing to Your Toddler the Christian Classics

It is amazing how much children can learn through song. Sing "Jesus Loves Me" and the "B-I-B-L-E" to your toddler. My wife Kaitlyn started a tradition with our little boy each night. After our nightly prayer, we sing a few songs (We have a set list of the same few songs every night). He loves to sing and we love to sing with him. Teaching him the lyrics to the Christian classics continues to cultivate his heart, preparing for the Spirit to work.

3. Teach Your Toddler to Pray

Your toddler can pray. As you make prayer a habit each day, encourage your child to pray. We try to do that by teaching our little boy to thank God. Even at a young age, when his language skills were undeveloped, he was able to thank God for mommy and daddy. Sometimes he would even thank God for the wall. You know toddlers; they say crazy things.

4. Show Excitement about Church

Toddlers get excited about what you get excited about. If attending church is the low-point of your week, your children will pick up on it. However, if you make church and worshiping the Lord a big deal, then you will teach your toddler to love Church and the people of God. Set an example not just in your attitude, but in your attendance. Make it a priority to go to church with your children. Go as frequently as you can to any midweek activities. You want to cultivate a love for church within your child at an early age.

Yes, when your kids get older you may have to make them go to church (and godly parents will), yet you want your child to want to go to church. Build that foundation early.

One of my little boy's favorite days of the week is when we go to church. He loves it. In fact he asks to go just about everyday. I pray that my son will always have a desire to be around the body of Christ and worship the Lord.

5. Reinforce your Child's Sunday School Lesson at Home

If you go to a good Bible-believing church (and I hope you do!), your child should be learning the Scripture at Sunday School (or whatever your church's equivalent is). Most churches send home a handout reviewing what your child learned that morning. Help disciple your child by reinforcing what your child is learning at home. Go over it a lunch and over the week. If there is a memory verse for the week, help your child learn it. Reinforce the main point of the lesson. The church is not their to disciple your children for you, but to assist you in the work. Utilize their help!

6. Memorize Scripture

If your child can name every train from Thomas & Friends (like mine can), your child can memorize Scripture. As your child's language is developing, why not go ahead and hide God's word in their heart? Though we are just beginning Scripture memorization with our little boy, he enjoys it. It warms your heart to hear him quoting Genesis 1:1 while he is quietly playing in his room.

Pick out simple Bible verses and repeat them often. Perhaps during your family devotions or at the dinner table or before bed. Your toddler is like a sponge and will soak up God's word.

7. Demonstrate the Love of God

Your child's understanding of God's love will be based on your example. That's an overwhelming truth. As parents we are called to image God's love to our children. As our children watch the way we speak and act, we will either reveal or obfuscate the love of God. When we respond to our child in rage, anger, and frustration, we confuse our children about God's grace, mercy, and love. There is a time for discipline, and that should not be neglected. But, our children, above all else, should see the love of God in us and through us.

This is a heavy weight for us Dads in particular. God reveals himself to us as Father. Therefore, when your children begin reading in the Bible that God is their Father, they are going to think about you. Model for them the love of God well. Far to many children cannot understand the concept of God as Father because either they don't have one or their father was a selfish and abusive prick. We need godly Dads who can model the love of God to their families more than ever.

[Tweet "Your child's understanding of God's love will be based on your example."]

8. Teach Your Children to Live Under Authority

Our radically individualized culture believes all authority is filled with corruption. As a result there is a hyper-suspicion to anyone in authority over us. Whether it is the government, our teachers, our pastors, our boss, our our parents, we tend to be skeptical of authority. This allergy to good, God-given authority begins in the family. Dad and Mom must model a biblical vision for authority and leadership over their children, and that includes discipline. One of the biggest lessons you can teach your child is that authority is part of God's good design. Therefore they must submit to it and respect God-given authority. As a result, teaching your toddler that Daddy and Mommy are in charge is a crucial spiritual lesson for your children to learn. If you hope to disciple your children in their teenage years, you must first teach your children to live and learn under your authority. After all, how are they going to submit to the authority of Christ over their lives if they haven't learned to submit to Mom and Dad?

Prepare your Child's Heart

No parent can convert their child to Christ, only the Spirit can do that. Yet, careful cultivation of your child's heart can lead to a powerful work of the Spirit in your child's life. The general adage from Proverbs rings true, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV).

Take advantage of these sweet years, when your child is hungry to learn. Set a solid foundation for future spiritual nurture by discipling your toddler now, all the while praying for a great work of the Spirit to save the little soul under your care.

What Super Bowl Marketers Know that the Church Can't Miss

The super bowl this year was one for the record books. People watch the super bowl for a variety of reasons – some for the game, others for the commercials, and some for the half time show. The super bowl has become such a huge event in America it is practically a national holiday. As I was watching the game something stuck out to me about the commercials this year. It seemed like many of the commercials strongly featured Dads.  A few different companies this year decided to market their products by featuring prominently fathers. It was nice to appear to the sentimentality and bring father’s in the focus, but why? No matter how great the commercial is, the aim is not to pull on your heart strings but to sell you a product. These companies don’t spend millions of dollars to just give you warm fuzzies. We live in a marketing world. We are always being sold something, and often marketers know our culture and know what makes us tick better than anyone. And this year, for Super Bowl 49, Dads were the focus of the commercials. Watch some of these commercials in case you missed them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd1qCi5nSKw#t=58

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoqWo3SJ73c

Isn’t this strange? In a day and age where many are arguing to eliminate gender stereotypes and where Father’s living in the home is a relic of the past, these marketers decided they could best sell their products by bringing fathers to our attention. While the marriage between a man and a woman is being redefined in our culture into a genderless union and while the home has been shattered by divorce, these marketers feature loving, gentle, and present fathers.

There is a crisis of fatherhood in America. The traditional family of Dad, Mom, and children seems to be rapidly fading. Many men ignore, run away from, or deny any responsibility they have when it comes to their children. Rather than rising to be worthy of the title husband and father many men are content with the title “baby daddy”. Men refuse to fight for their marriages and for their families and cowardly run from difficulty indulging every selfish pleasure their hearts crave.

But that’s not the picture these advertisers presented to us at the super bowl. These advertisers know us better than we think. They know that there is something hard wired into humanity that longs to be loved by a father. We long to experience the warm protective, self-denying, embrace of dad. The picture of Dad they presented to us is the ideal we crave, but not this is not the reality for many of us.

Children need Fathers. Despite arguments trying to minimize the father in the family, marketers know what many deny – we long for a Father. These super bowl commercials point to the great challenge of Christian men to be father’s who sacrifice, love, protect, and provide for our children.  We need Christian men who can demonstrate in word and deed the love of God the Father to our children. Every human being longs for this. Though our earthly fathers may fail us, we must always point people to the Father who never does. We must point them to the Father who displays his lavish love for us by purchasing our redemption. America has a hole and a desperate longing for fatherly love. The marketers know this. Does the church?

What Should I Tell My Kids About Santa?

This is a question I have gotten a few times this Christmas season. I though it best to write up a post with my answer. As Christians wanting to honor and prioritize the birth of Jesus Christ, I’m glad many wrestle with this question. Now that I am a daddy, this question has been on my mind a lot recently too. I want to firm my convictions on this issue before my son Jude is at the age where he understands. I, like many kids, believed in Santa Claus. It made Christmas a magical time as a young child to believe in a jolly fat man in a red suite who comes and gives presents to good little boys and girls. Looking back on my own experience as a child, it was a lot of fun. I don’t remember how I figured out it was all a lie, but I don’t remember it causing me any serious detrimental harm or anger at my parents. However, despite my own experience as a child, I have decided that we will be honest with our children and tell them that Santa is just make-believe. I’ll start off by saying that I do not believe that if your kids believe in Santa that you are somehow a bad parent or that you are in grievous sin. You can have your own opinion on this and that is fine. However, let me share with you five reasons why we are making this decision with the Deeter children.

1. I Want to Model Truth Telling to My Kids

This is probably the biggest hang up for me. I want to always model truth telling for my children. I don’t want to do anything to intentionally deceive them, even if its in the name of fun. Part of practicing santa (or even the elf on the shelf for that matter), means tricking your children to believe in something that is a lie. And like all lies, you have to keep lying about it to continue that lie. Kids get inquisitive and pretty soon they start probing the elaborate santa conspiracy. “How does he get to all the children?” or “How does he get into houses with no chimneys?” or “How can Reindeer fly?” Pretty soon the little lie of santa stretches into an elaborate web of deception. With my children I want to speak truth at all times, so that when I tell them the must important things that may seem unbelievable, they would believe they are true because Daddy speaks truth. This leads me to my second reason.

2. I Want my Children to Believe the Truly Supernatural

The supernatural is becoming an increasingly hard pill to swallow in our society today. Many deny that the supernatural is even possible. My children will be growing up in such a world in which everything will attempt to be explained by the particulars, science and reason. Yet, the supernatural does happen and God does interact with his world. The lie of santa is a supernatural one, in which one man is omniscient (he knows all the little boys and girls and how good they are) and omnipotent (he can travel the world in one night). If my children see that I may lie about the truthfulness of santa, will they doubt the incarnation of God or the resurrection of Jesus Christ? I don’t know, but I don’t want to risk it. I want my children to believe in the true supernatural events recorded in the Scriptures, not myths and legends that have no hint of truth.

3. I Want to Put an Ax to Moralism

The whole Santa myth has evolved into monstrous moralism. We teach children that in order to get good gifts and to not get coal, you must be good. So children spend all their efforts all year being good to get good rewards. If anything is antithetical to Christmas, it is moralism. The wonderful good news of Christmas is that God gives us the gift of his son not by our own merits but by his own grace. We receive the gift of salvation through Jesus even though we all deserve a tractor trailer full of coal. I don’t want to encourage moralism in my children any more than their sinful hearts will be naturally prone too.

4. I Want to Keep the Focus on Christ

The whole Santa thing can be a great distraction. I remember that materialistic lust that ravaged me as a child at Christmas time. I wanted stuff, toys, and video games. Looking back, I can see how the lust for gifts far exceeded my love for Christ as a child. My wife Kaitlyn even remembers vocalizing as a young child how Santa Clause was better than Jesus because of the presents. Having children caught up in believing the lie of Santa can greatly distract their hearts from the true treasure of Christmas, the word become flesh.

5. I Want to Have A lot of Fun at Christmas Time

I want to have a lot of fun at Christmas time. I have nothing against Santa being a part of Christmas. We will watch all those wonderful claymation Christmas movies featuring santa. We will put up stockings and put presents under the Christmas tree. I’ll buy them little red santa hats to wear and take them out to see Christmas lights. It will be a blast and a ton of fun, but my children will know from the get go that Santa is make-believe. He is a fun character and a great story, but at the end of the day it is just a myth. We will have a blast celebrating Christmas as a family all the while doing the best we can to keep the focus on Jesus Christ, the wonderful and precious gift of God to us all.

Resources for Discipling Your Children

This Sunday Kaitlyn and I were commissioned by our church for the task of parenting our young son, Jude.  Parenting must be seen through the lens of the great commission.  We must learn to make disciples of our children.  The church has often failed to provide the resources and tools for training. Knowing this I decided to compile a list of resources to help parents learn how to disciple their children.  Browse through the tools and may God be with you as you fulfill the great commission through the glorious honor of parenting.  Through your faithful discipleship of your children may they be like arrows piercing the heart of a culture transforming the future with the Gospel.

Books

Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp

Instructing a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp

Give them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Llod Jones (GREAT Children's Bible Storybook)

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones 

Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens by Paul Tripp

Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware

Pastor Dad by Mark Driscoll (Free PDF Ebook)

Family Shepherd: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes by Voddie Baucham Jr

Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham Jr

Music and Worship

Seeds Family Worship (iTunes link here)

Blogs, Articles, and Websites

Simple Guide to Family Worship

The When What and How of Family Worship

Children Desiring God

Videos Worth Watching

Centrality of the Home, by Voddie Baucham Jr.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HLK8nTCODQ