In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Israel gathered to hear the word of the LORD spoken by Moses: “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.“
The responsibility to teach Israel’s children was given to all of Israel, not just to parents. As King David put it several decades later, “One generation shall commend [God’s] works to another and shall declare [His] mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). Today, we are the people of God, in Christ, who have been entrusted with the privilege and responsibility to invest in the faith of the generations. Deuteronomy 6 gives us direction for how to fulfill this calling and responsibility:
- Our spiritual influence on the next generation begins in our own hearts. Notice the sequence in Deuteronomy 6. First, “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Second, God’s Word “shall be on your heart.” Then, “You shall teach them diligently to your children.” In other words, the spiritual influence we have will come from the overflow of our own heart for God and the meditation and application of his Word to our lives.
- In order to influence the next generation, we need to be personally connected to them. For many, this connection will be with the children or grandchildren in our own families or within our network of friends and relatives. However, even those who don’t have children within their personal network can influence the next generation. All of us have children and youth growing up around us who can benefit from our prayers and spiritual influence.
- We must take advantage of the opportunities we have during normal, daily activities to instruct children. For this to work, we obviously need to have children with us while engaged in those activities. Even if children are around us all day long, it is good to plan one-on-one time with a child. My youngest adult daughter recently arranged a date with her niece (my granddaughter), which gave them a fun activity to do together and plenty of time for “Auntie Kristi” to influence and encourage an 11-year-old’s faith. Bruegger’s Bagels in Minneapolis was a favorite “daddy-daughter date” location for us when my girls were growing up. It provided a quiet place to enjoy a cinnamon crunch bagel with honey-almond cream cheese and have a heartfelt conversation about life, faith, and eternity. Now, my daughters are in their 30s and live 1,105 miles away. Yet we still enjoy intentional one-on-one time when we are together.
- Conversations with children will be more fruitful if we pre-plan the questions and topics for discussion. One helpful resource I’ve found is a book by Chap Bettis entitled, The Disciple-Making Parent's Donut Date Journal. This helpful tool suggests “70 questions to connect you to a child’s heart,” and gives ample space to record the child’s responses. Chap’s idea is to repeat the questions every few years as the child matures to see how the child’s responses develop. I encourage you to utilize this book, as well as The Disciple-Making Parent's Donut Date Journal 2 Family History Edition. May God give our children the gift of many influencers in their lives so that they and the generations to come will “set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:7).
This article was originally published on the website of College Park Church of Indianapolis, Indiana. It is posted here with permission.