WHEN I FIRST STARTED TEACHING, I was anxious to find out how my students did on tests. Part of my eagerness was to see how well l had prepared them to use their skills in the real world.
If you’re a parent or pastor, you have a critical role in Christian education. You’re preparing young people for life and the stakes are high.
What is Christian Education?
Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “And thou shalt teach them (God’s commands to Israel ) diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Christian education is teaching someone how to follow Christ and apply the Bible to his or her life.
Why is Christian Education Important?
George Barna, a California based researcher, has found that 43% of those who reported being a Christian became a Christian prior to the age of 13. He also discovered that four out of five of those in the ministry reported engaging in Christian service prior to the age of 13. This underlines the importance of emphasizing Christian education early in an individual’s life.
When they become adults many of those who grow up in church live little different than those who did not attend church as children. This trend begins in the late teens with an exodus away from church and continues into adulthood, producing a divorce rate for Christians that is the same as that for non-Christians.
What can we do?
We can start by taking a serious look at Christian education. What kind of Christian education makes a difference? The answer is found in Deuteronomy 6.
The Role of Parents
Many parents believe Christian education is the responsibility of the church. However, Deuteronomy 6:7 instructs parents to teach their children diligently about the Lord. Christian education begins at home.
Church attendance is an important part of Christian education. However, church attendance alone is not sufficient. For Christian education to be effective parents must reinforce what their children learn in Sunday School and church. CLEAR Sunday School curriculum from Randall House uses the same theme for children and adults, enabling parents to reinforce the content of the lesson throughout the week.
Have you ever noticed how often Jesus used stories? Why did He do that? We remember stories and they are interesting. Stories require us to think and use discernment. I don’t think you can use too many stories. Use stories from your own life, Sunday School lessons and sermons, as well as the radio and news-paper. Stories can be used to inoculate children to future challenges by combating “I’m all alone” thinking and provide a model for how to apply biblical truth.
But don’t just tell stories. Get into the Word! Get your children into the practice of comprehending the meaning of what they read. Try an “In other words” exercise which involves reading Scripture and simply asking, “What does that mean?” Get the child to explain what the Scripture means in his or her own words. Help them with the interpretation. You’ve got to understand the instructions if you are going to follow them.
Teach your children to memorize God’s Word. Scripture is to become part of us (Deuteronomy 6:8). Although children lack the cognitive development to grasp many Scriptural concepts, if they commit the Scripture to memory, under-standing will come with time. The Word in their heart gives the Holy Spirit something to work with.
The most effective Christian education often takes place outside of a classroom. “When thou walkest by the way” indicates that the Lord expects us to instruct our children in the midst of ordinary activities. Daily life provides the opportunity to simultaneously model and instruct children about how to apply Scripture to our problems.
Ask your children “What would you do if?” questions. Help them see how the Scripture applies to various situations so they are able to see God’s Word as a light for the path of life.
The Role of the Pastor
Pastors have no greater responsibility than equipping parents to train their children. How can they accomplish this task?
The first step is to increase the effectiveness of what they are already doing. For instance, pastors could increase the biblical knowledge and wisdom of the parents in their congregation by using handouts when they preach and teach. The parents could then teach the principles of the sermons and lessons to their children.
When a pastor preaches a series or through a book of the Bible, people begin to connect the dots and tie principles together. But the potential for learning is further increased when people have read something on the subject. For example, a pastor might preach a Sunday morning sermon (providing a handout) and include a Bible reading guide for the following week. The result will be learners who are better prepared to apply the Bible to their own life and share the Word with their children. Another step would be to tie Sunday School to a Sunday morning or Sunday evening message series. These are all ways of providing continuity for the church members,
A Call to Christian Education
To truly impact the next generation we must focus intentionally on Christian education. Parents will have to be serious about their responsibility as Christian educators and pastors will have to consistently equip parents to train their children.
Will the next generation be prepared to hold fast to and contend for the faith? That depends on what we as parents and pastors do today. If we want to impact tomorrow’s generation, we’ve got to focus on Christian education today.
Dr. Edward E. Moody pastors Tippett's Chapel FWB Church, Clayton, NC. He holds an M.A. in psychology from Middle Tennessee State University and a Ph.D. in counseling from North Carolina State University. Moody is the lead writer for CLEAR Teaching Sunday School curriculum and is a professor of counseling and coordinator of the graduate counseling division at North Carolina Central University in Durham.