Found on Pastor Schmidt’s blog. He is the pastor of Peace Lutheran Church of Natoma, Kansas. This is an article from his April newsletter.
The Fourth Commandment deals first and foremost with the relationship between parents and children. Now most of the time when we look at this commandment from the perspective of the parent, we normally do so in terms of the parent’s responsibility to provide the necessities of life for their children, including: food, clothes, home, education and passing along the faith.
Now society has changed a great deal over the years, and so the definition of providing these things has also changed. At one time, fathers grew or raised all the food that a family would eat, and mothers made all the clothes a family would wear, today we go to the store for many of these things. The same with education, at one time, it was the job of the family to educate their children, but today children begin formal schooling as early as 3 years old.
Teaching the faith has in many cases also been taken out of the home and placed into the responsibility of the church. The very idea of Sunday School is a relatively new idea, coming about in the 1850’s, as prior to that, all religious education occurred primarily in the home.
But unlike food or clothes or even academics, faith is not something that can be so easily taken out of the home and placed into the hands of others, with the results being neutral or even better than before.
Parents are the most important teachers in the life of their children for two reasons: first, parents spend the most amount of time with their children, especially during their early formative years, and second because there is an unbreakable bond between parent and child that cannot be replaced by pastor, teacher, or other role model. They can certainly be influential, but only the parents can shape and mold.
This goes beyond just bringing your children to VBS or midweek or church and Sunday school; though they are all certainly worthy things that you as parents should do. But that can only go so far, remember that pastors and teachers can have an effect, but they are not the final say. The ultimate determination is not just how often you attend, but how the faith is practiced in the home and in daily life.
Children learn by seeing, hearing, and doing. If they see their parents do it; if they hear their parents say it; the odds are good that they will do it themselves both now and in the future.
Those family devotions that sometimes might seem a little chaotic and unorganized; they are making an impression on your children that will last a lifetime. Those mealtime prayers that seem routine, do not be surprised if one day you see your children praying without you prompting them to. Even going to church together and hearing that your sins are forgiven, being reminded of your baptism, and receiving Jesus body and blood are positive influences today, that will pay dividends in the future.
Actions speak louder than words, but remember that words also speak volume. Next month, we will look at ways you can work on discussing the faith with your children, and get not just positive responses, but have meaningful conversations. Here is a hint: it starts with you discussing your faith openly.
It is important to note that while people can certainly come to faith from homes that do not do the things listed above; and role models, whether they are pastors or teachers or neighbors can be powerful influences; it does not happen without the devil’s attempts to prevent it. None of this is foolproof, but this is a start to ensure that God’s Word will forever remain at the forefront of both the life of the child and the life of the parent.
Peace Lutheran Church