Child Training…What’s the Church Got To Do With It?

We love our local church. We believe local establishments of the universal church are where God is doing His work in the world today. He ordained a visual reality of the invisible, to bear witness to the world of His relationship to His people, who submit to Jesus as their Head, and live out His priorities providing a light in the darkness.  So, we orient our family life around the mission of our church. Our family calendar is happily organized according to our church’s calendar. We live in a close knit community with other members of our body for accountability, edification, correction, and mutual instruction. And we do this out of necessity, not obligation. We firmly believe we need each other. Our Christian lives are less than they should be if we aren’t in it together. That’s the way God intended it.

In local churches, God uses many means to build His people up to maturity. One of the main means He uses is the preaching and teaching of His Word by our pastors and teachers to instruct us line upon line, precept upon precept. One of our pastors in college said that expositional preaching will help a person easily discern teaching that doesn’t match up with the Word of God. He or she might not be able to articulate all the reasons why, but the error will be readily apparent since he or she is well taught in Scripture.

So, how does our commitment to and need for the church connect with training our children?

The Church Helps Train Our Children

Our children are also learning from what is taught at church through us as their parents reiterating it to them (Deuteronomy 6), the older men and women in the church informally training them (Titus 2), and directly from their pastors and teachers. I was reminded of what our previous pastor said (mentioned above) when we were at the hospital getting x-rays for Ruby last month. The controversial Easter “Newsweek” was prominently displayed on the side table in the waiting room. Stella saw the cover and ran over to it saying, “Jesus!” Her excitement turned to a look of bewilderment after she read the headline, “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus”. I hadn’t seen the magazine yet, but she came over to me and said, “Something doesn’t seem quite right about this, Mom.” I asked her what it said and then asked her what her problem was with the statement. She said, “Well, don’t we follow Jesus by being part of the church?” Amen, Stell! The instruction she is receiving at CBC is serving her well by equipping her to discern truth from error.

Our Children Help The Church Hold To Sound Doctrine

The local church is only as strong as its members. In our suburban area, that means our church is only as strong as the families represented. A few months back, I read an article by Dr. Gerald Priest, former Church History Professor at DBTS, and another piece of the parenting puzzle came together for me. He writes:

“…local churches will only be as spiritually healthy as their families. We know from Scripture that the means of maintaining strong churches is instruction in sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:11-16). The formal expression of that doctrine is the church’s statement of faith or confession…The practical means of confessional instruction has been the catechism…Proper biblical instruction in the home [through the catechism] will reinforce what is learned in the church and help safeguard the truth [held by the church] as we indoctrinate the generation who will succeed us.”

Dr. Priest quotes the church father, Chrysostom, and challenges parents to “raise up a champion for Christ” and develop “a strategy for building children into devoted servants of our great God and Christ’s church…training [them] in Christian doctrine.”

Of course, the most foundational way to do this is using the Bible itself. But, another strategy parents have used through history in conjunction with Bible teaching and study, is the implementation of a confession of faith like the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We, as a family, have adopted this strategy for the past 5 years. We updated the Catechism slightly to be in line with our church’s confession of the Baptist distinctives. It has been a helpful springboard off of which we can elaborate in handling our kids’ abstract questions about God (“Does God have a body?” “No, God is a Spirit.”), dealing with practical matters like calming bedtime fears (“Can you see God?” “No, I cannot see Him, but He always sees me.”), and addressing their need for salvation by pointing them to Jesus (“What did Christ undertake in the covenant of grace?” “To keep the whole law for his people, and to suffer the punishment due to their sins.”).

A few resources we’ve found helpful are the Catechism itself located here (and updated as indicated above). Some friends recommended these CDs several years back and we love all of them! (Only Volume 1 is linked to, but there are currently 3 CDs available.) This year, I’ve used these books during breakfast and taught more systematically through each question. Even Ruby has gotten into it! And Stella understands why “total inability” is a better explanation for man’s fallen condition than “total depravity.”

Is This Just a Cerebral Exercise?

The Bible teaches in Jude that the truth is something for which we have to fight in this world and even in the church. Fighting for truth presupposes we know the truth. So we act offensively and inculcate our kids in truth so they can “test and approve what God’s will is.” (Romans 12:2) And, we also act defensively, teaching them to stand on guard against error, protecting the truth and testimony of Christ’s church.

A Mutual Help

The church has everything to do with child training. First, it helps us and our kids. Maybe you’re a single parent, or married to an unbeliever, or weren’t raised in a Christian home, or are just very aware of your limitations as a parent. We can rely on the church! It helps make our job of training our kids easier because we can follow its lead, set by our pastors, in what we teach our kids and how. And, we and our kids, can benefit from the help provided by the example, teaching, and input from our relationships with people in the church.  We aren’t alone in the task! Last, the church helps us so we can help the church. With all the competing voices of what we should and shouldn’t be doing as parents, the church helps keeps us focused and clarifies the purpose for why we’re training our kids in the first place – to maintain its strength and health in the generations to come. “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21)

If you need further inspiration, listen here to D.A. Carson and Voice give a fun explanation of the Westminster Cat. 🙂

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