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Parenting: The Role of Teacher

teacher [This is an excerpt from a sermon preached on June 9th, 2013.] 

Growing up, my dad would call family meetings occasionally. And as a kid - I remember hating family meeting time. Because what that meant for us was we couldn’t immediately be excused and go run back downstairs to continue the videogame that we had paused, or go back outside to continue our basketball game on the driveway. No, instead, we had to sit around the table and listen to what my dad had to say. And so, my dad would share with us. And I don’t remember the content of what we talked about in those family meetings. But what I do remember is that in the times of family meetings, something was important to my dad, and he wanted it to be important to us as kids.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” - Deuteronomy 6

When Moses says, “Talk about these things when you sit at home,” he does so because what he realizes is that you are going to sit down, that your kids have to eat; you have to eat. And so, when you do, how do you use the time that you have?  Dinnertime is an opportunity for you to play the role of teacher. It’s an opportunity for you to play the role of teacher, which helps you establish value in your homes.  As you sit at dinner with your kids, you can teach them. You can teach them the things that are important to you and that you want to be important to them. You can teach them the things that you read in the Scriptures that you want them to cling to in their lives.  For some of us, this might mean that dinner should look different. It might mean we have to actually have dinner with the family. It might mean the TV needs to be turned off at dinnertime, or the phones get put away.  Dinnertime is an opportunity for you to play the role of teacher.

Disciples are made through teaching...

When Jesus is leading the disciples, he’s equipping them, and they’re about to go out and start the Christian church, he gives them a command. And he says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations.” The job of the disciples, as followers of Jesus, is to be disciple makers. The job for us as followers of Jesus is to make followers of Jesus. Our homes is one of the best environments to help our kids grow as disciples of Jesus. And so, when Jesus gives the disciples this command, he says, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” And the way he instructs them to do this is by, “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded them.”  If you want to help your kids grow to follow Jesus, you have to play the role of teacher. It doesn’t have to be at dinnertime, but you have to play the role of teacher.

Teaching happens not only through talking, but it also happens through modeling. When your kids are little especially, it’s gonna happen primarily through talking. They will copy you, and you will model things, but you are gonna be teaching your kids a lot of truths. You’re gonna teach them, “We believe the Bible. The Bible is true. This is how you pray. Jesus loves you.” But as your kids get older and older and older, more and more of the lessons that they will learn from you are going to be the things that they see you do. The things you say are still important, but more and more is gonna be taught through the things you do.  They will be taught lessons about marriage by how you interact with your spouse. They will be taught about grace and forgiveness by how you respond to them when they sin.  They will be learning about conflict based on how you respond to conflict in your family. This is why my wife and I, as adults, are still learning incredible lessons from our parents.  Even though neither one of our parents has sat down and told us the principles to having a healthy, happy marriage, we can both look to our parents and say, “That’s the type of marriage I would like to have when we are their age.”  We can look at our parents and say, “When my son has kids, I would like to be those type of grandparents.” They have never told us or taught us their philosophy on being a parent or a grandparent, but we can see that.

"Just copy Dad"

The Apostle Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” As he’s teaching his church, he says, “Follow me as I follow Jesus.” In your homes, can you say that? Can you, as a dad, say, “If you want to copy Jesus, if you want to know how to live like Jesus, just copy dad, ‘cause I’m copying Jesus”? As a mom, can you say, “If you want to live like Jesus, if you want to show the grace and the mercy like Jesus shows, just copy mom, ‘cause mom is copying Jesus”?  This is a difficult, important task for all parents.

[Feel free to also read an introduction about this, Outsourced Parenting]



Outsourced Parenting

roles of parenting [This is an excerpt from a sermon preached on June 9th, 2013.] 

It’s probably no surprise if I tell you that virtually anything could be outsourced as a parent. Anything that is essential to your job as a parent, anything that you feel is integral to what it means for you to parent your child, any of those things could be outsourced.  If you wanted to give up the first year of your kid’s life – because we all know how exhausting the infant years can be – you could give up the thousands of diapers, the sleepless nights figuring out if your kid’s sick or if they’re teething, figuring out why they’re crying, the burping, the cuddling, the swaddling – if you wanted to, you could outsource that. For $170,000.00, you could find a professional to come in and handle it all for you. You’d never have to change a diaper during that first year.

Now, maybe that’s a bit extreme. So, maybe we’d tame it down a notch. Let’s say child-proofing overwhelms you. The idea of crawling around your housing, going to every nook and cranny, and trying to figure out which areas of your house are the most unsafe. You could hire a child-proofing consultant to come in and let you know which electrical outlets really need to be covered up, to let you know that the Drano should be locked up, and the medicine cabinet out of reach. For $1,000.00, somebody would come in and be happy to share with you what should be done to keep your child safe. If you had a child who struggled with thumb sucking – that, for a while, was cute, but now they’ve gone beyond the cute stage of thumb sucking – you could hire a thumb sucking guru from the city of Chicago to fly in and provide their consulting services. For $40,000.00, they would be happy to let you know how to correct this problem, and even throw in two phone consultations for no extra charge.

And the young years are hard and cause a lot of sleeplessness, but as you’re kids get older, you start to lose sleep for all kinds of other reasons. Don’t you? If you wanted, you could outsource discipline, teaching your kids to respect your authority, teaching them manners. In fact, there is such a thing as etiquette experts. In The New York Times, a journalist said,

“Etiquette experts say that new approaches are needed because parents no longer have the stomach, time, or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners. Parents no longer have the stomach, the time, or the know-how."

And so, this key job of teaching etiquette, discipline, teaching authority can be outsourced to somebody else. We can outsource throwing our kids’ birthday parties and buying our kids’ birthday gifts. Anything that is the job of the parent could be outsourced to somebody else who claims to be an expert or a professional.

And while we talk about these things, and while we list these things, many of them may be disturbing to think about, many of us do this very same thing when it comes to the spiritual influence in the lives of our children. Many of us have relied on an hour-and-a-half on a weekend to be the complete sum of the spiritual development of our kids. Now don’t misunderstand me, what we do when we gather is important. What the children’s ministry does on a Sunday is very important. And what the student ministry does is very important. But it is nothing compared to the lifetime that you spend with your kids, teaching, shepherding and influencing them. There is no greater spiritual influence in the lives of your kids than you are as parents.

Sitting, walking, lying down, and getting up

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses is preaching to the nation of Israel and says:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

When you sit down, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, when you get up. What Moses realizes, and what Moses is trying to preach to the nation of Israel is that this is an all-of-life kind of thing. It’s not a once-you-have-time-for-it kind of thing. It’s not if-we-can-fit-it-into-our-busy-schedules kind of thing; it’s an all-of-life. It’s about building our kids’ relationship, their love for God with their heart, with their soul, with their mind. And he doesn’t list out all the things that they need to squeeze into their life. Instead, he lists their schedule.

He says, “When you sit, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, when you get up.” He doesn’t list new things for them to start doing. He lists things that they’re already doing, and he says just think differently about the things that you’re doing and use those to impress these on the lives of your kids.

As Christian families, God desires that all of our life, the times when we’re in the Scriptures and the times when we’re going to the baseball game, to be all about Jesus. It’s very easy to have opinions about what being a Christian should look like on a Sunday morning. But what does it look like to be a Christian family at dinnertime? And what does it look like to be a Christian family on Tuesday, on the way home from baseball? Or on Wednesday, when your daughter tells you about the boy who broke her heart? Or on Thursday, when you’re packing up your son or daughter to go off to college?

Your little church

The preacher, Jonathan Edwards, said, “Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.”

In your homes, in your little churches, what would it look like if everything we did was shaped by what was actually most important? Because as Christians, we believe that Jesus lived the perfect life that none of us could ever live. And that by his death, he paid a price that none of us could pay. And by his resurrection, he conquered sin, death, and the devil. And if we believe that that changed our lives, shouldn’t it actually change the way we live? If we believe that we were slaves to sin, but now we’ve been made sons and daughters of God, shouldn’t that change the way we relate to our sons and daughters. And Moses says, “Talk about this. Talk about this when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.”

I will continue posting excerpts from this sermon; to listen or watch the sermon online - check it out.



Guide to Family Conversations

Photo In the book Think Orange by Reggie Joiner, there's an incredible diagram describing how to maximize your opportunities during family times.  He describes the various times, communication methods, and the roles a parent plays during each of these times.  In Deuteronomy 6:7 it says, "Impress [these commands] on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  But what exactly does this look like?

When you sit at home.

Meal time is an opportunity for formal discussion.  I can remember countless times growing up where dinner time led into our "family meeting" time.  While us kids dreaded the meeting, it was also a time for my dad to talk about values that he felt were important to us as a family and that needed to be addressed.  At meal times, parents have the opportunity to specifically act as a teacher, helping certain core values be established in their lives.

When you walk along the road.

You cannot be a family and not spend time in the car together.  Drive time is an opportunity for informal dialogue.  You might be in the car on the way to school, driving up north, or going to a soccer game.  Whatever it might be, the car is a perfect opportunity for parents to have conversations with their kids, not by pushing an idea they want to teach, but by allowing their kids to guide the conversation.  This is a great opportunity to play the role of a friend and helping your child interpret life along the way.

When you lie down.

One of my favorite times as a parent already is bed time.  Not only because it means I get peace and quiet, but I love the time singing and reading to my son as I lay him down for bed.  As your children grow, bed time is an opportunity for intimate conversations between you and them.  Reggie Joiner writes, "Too many parents miss the potential of this time because they have a habit of sending their kids to bed rather then taking them.  There is something about the private domain of a child's room that gives the parent a chance to have an intimate conversation and become the kind of counselor who listens to the heart of a child."

When you get up.

Morning time provides a fresh start to a new day.  If the previous day was an emotionally draining, get nothing accomplished kind of day, the morning means it's a new day and this one might be different.  Whether it is at breakfast with your kids or simply seeing them off before they hop on the bus, the morning is an opportunity for you to act as a coach and encourage them as they get ready to go about their day.  I still remember the days I would open up my lunch box to find a loving note from my mom encouraging me (I had to hide these once I hit middle school).  The morning is a great time to encourage your kids as they get ready for the day ahead.