I love the idea of informal Bible instruction. What I mean by this is the impulse to look for everyday opportunities to speak biblical truth into the lives of our children, modeling for them a life of faith and obedience. But what about formal instruction in the home? In his excellent book, Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting, William Farley stresses the importance of including formal Bible instruction as a regular routine in the home. Although he is speaking specifically to fathers, others will benefit from his words, including mothers, children’s ministry leaders, and volunteers.
Some [fathers] fear formal, structured teaching. If I make my children sit down to rigid, formal instruction, they will reject the faith.
…Children don’t reject our faith because of too much formal Bible teaching. They reject it because we don’t practice it. They reject it because we practice it but do not value it enough to teach it to them. Or they reject it because they never receive new birth. But too much knowledge is not the problem. A lack of knowledge usually is the problem.
Our children’s minds are like spiritual gardens, notes William Gurnall (1617-1679), one of the great seventeenth-century Puritan preachers."This is the difference between religion and atheism; religion doth not grow without planting, but will die even where it is planted without watering. Atheism, irreligion, and profaneness are weeds that will grow without setting, but they will not die without plucking up."
Gurnall was right. No garden is a vacuum. Something grows. Untended ground—untaught minds—will yield weeds. But we want fruit, not weeds, and fruit grows only by planting, weeding, and fertilizing with great persistence. If you don’t want weeds, you must teach your children regularly and intentionally. (Gospel Powered Parenting, 178-179)