Steve Nelson is shown here with his son and daughter, each with a homemade caption of what they might say about Bible study with Dad. (Courtesy photo)
By Steve Nelson
According to the Bible, to live the best possible life, each person needs to prioritize their own relationship with God above all. Secondly, if married, a spouse is next priority. Third, if kids, they’re the next most important relationship. From birth, parenting is fun and a lot of hard work. (Intriguing fact: in Eastern culture in the Bible, a child wasn’t considered a full adult until 30 years of age.)
How is parenting defined today? To retain custody of a child, as a parent in the state of Idaho and across the country the law requires that you feed and clothe a child, plus no physical abuse. That’s the recipe – just a little dignity and care. The bar is set pretty low. Yet many parents do little else but help the children survive, not thrive.
A majority of parents do much more than the bare minimum listed above. Loving a child involves so many other parts of life, and here are four major decision-making categories: school, health care, extracurricular activities and religious instruction. In this article we’re going to focus on that last component, the “religious instruction.” It is the category given the least amount of attention today.
First, let’s consider how much time kids spend doing different things.
Church time: If a child goes to church at all with their family, it is usually 40 times or less per year, with one hour of Bible time at the most each week. That’s 0-40 hours annually in the Bible. (Nowadays, most families are closer to zero.)
School time: As far as instruction guidelines, children from kindergarten through high school spend between 450 – 990 hours per year at school. Yet public schools never give Bible instruction. Even private schools still have to cover the basics of academics, so even a very motivated curriculum only teaches the Bible a little bit, up to 3 hours a week, and even that is rare to see. So that’s 0-117 hours annually in the Bible. (Most kids have closer to zero hours of Bible learning in school.)
Time with parents: Not counting sleep time or school, children spend approximately 4,000 awake hours per year with their parents. That’s 4,000 hours annually! Wow.
With those numbers in mind, which category of life is the BIGGEST opportunity to learn? Is it church? No. Is it school? No again. It’s when the kids are with their parents. However, the tragic reality is that despite this HUGE amount of time, kids typically receive zero hours of Bible instruction from their parents each year.
Next, let’s find out God’s perspective on what parenting should include, besides the physical needs.
Instructions from God in Deuteronomy 4:10 tell PARENTS to teach their children how to respect God (not the church’s job, not the school’s job). Then Deuteronomy 6:7 tells PARENTS what to do with the words of the Word of God: “teach them diligently unto thy children” (not only hope a church alone teaches them, nor throw them in a private school and think that alone covers it either). A third Scripture emphasizing this is Deuteronomy 11:19, saying to hold the Word of God in their own heart and then “teach them to your children” at all locations and all times (not merely pray 2 minutes before bed).
This is revolutionary news. Of all the things in life that a child needs to learn, why is the very first thing God says parents should do for children is to teach them the Word of God? It must be important. The MOST important!
Finally, what is the practical action parents need to take, starting TODAY?
Parents must do more than teach kids how to throw a football or how to dribble a soccer ball. Chores, homework, fun – all of this is important. But parenting done right, according to the way God looks at it, must include teaching the Word of God as a priority. Churches or schools might be an important component added to that, but the bulk of the instruction about spiritual matters needs to be at home. It starts with parents. Teach what you know. This behooves a parent to have something to teach doesn’t it? Indeed. (God wants all people to know the Word of God!)
Even if a parent spends merely 20 minutes per day with their kids doing some kind of Bible time, every day, it will be much more Bible time than any church or school added together. This might be reading, or discussion, or watching a video, or listening to an audio teaching, or singing, or activities. There are lots of materials to choose from. It just requires a decision and then the follow through. Parents, it’s never too late to start. You can do it! God bless you!
Steve Nelson has been a Bible teacher for over 25 years. This article comes from “Raising Disciples” Segment 29 of “CORE”, a course for families on how to read and understand the Bible. See T4FAMILYCENTER.COM or reach Steve at T4FamilyCenter@gmail.com.