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To Teach or Not to Teach?

June 15, 2003

Dear Debi,
We have read your thoughts on the woman never being the spiritual leader in her home (not leading the kids in Bible studies, etc., even if Dad doesn’t do it), but in one of your books or tapes, Michael...

...suggested moms lead a neighborhood children’s Bible group and said Debi had done that for years, using Child Evangelism Fellowship’s materials. Could you please clear up how these two concepts do not contradict each other? -L

Mike Answers

Dear L,
When our children were young, we told Bible stories all during the course of the day, almost every day. When they were toddlers, Noah’s ark would be told while the children were in the bathtub, and acted out with the soap dish as the ark. When we told them the story of the two brothers fighting and one brother killing the other in jealous anger, they learned about anger, jealousy, and consequences, yet we never sermonized or spiritualized the stories—seldom drawing a personal application. We just did what the Bible does—tell the story. We told Bible stories and family stories interchangeably, with equal enthusiasm and reality. The Bible stories were not told in a ”religious/pious/principle/devotional” context. They were spoken of “on the fly.” The kids would make reference to a Biblical story with the same ease and confidence that they would speak of a past experience. We made a sling like David’s. The kids rode a horse furiously like Jehu. They ran like Elijah before Ahab. “Don’t drop the ax in the creek because ours will not float like Elisha’s did.” “We will have to catch more fish than these five scrawny things because Jesus does not multiply fish for just anybody.” “Look at that sky; that would be a good cloud for Jesus to come back in.” We didn’t have one reality for living and another for religion. We didn’t sit down and get “spiritual”, sober, grave, and bored.

We told our children about the prophets, God’s own men, being scared and hiding, and even having nervous breakdowns and then being replaced in the ministry. They learned all about David’s trust in God. When reading the Psalms, we would remind the children, “Remember, David was the kid who killed the giant and then grew up and became king. And he later sinned with the other guy’s wife and then suffered all the misery for the rest of his life.

Remember the Psalm where he confesses his sin?” We told them stories about the kids who mocked and made fun of the prophet of God, calling him “old bald head,” and how God sent bears out to kill the children. They learned God’s tolerance level was short when it came to his servant. They heard and reheard the story of Sodom and Gomorrah until they would point out perverts and know that they are called sodomites because God destroyed Sodom due to their sin. They knew God’s opinion of sin by his actions. We protected them with knowledge straight from God’s word. They became acquainted with a holy, just, merciful, and angry God. It has a sobering effect and gives everyone a reality check. God’s word makes strong men out of today’s make-believe electronic sissies. Going through all the stories on war taught the children something of God’s character that no amount of principles could ever accomplish.

Hearing God give instruction to kill men, women, children, and animals caused the children to ask questions that show great gravity of thought. God chose to introduce himself to us by telling stories of how he related to people and what he did for them. We didn’t pick and choose stories for our children to teach principles and moral lessons. They got David and Bathsheba along with Noah’s Ark. Reading of sickness, disease, family tragedy, war, and God’s intervention gives a clear understanding of how God feels about different things. The Bible says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Our children need to know who God is, not who we think he is. Just as we were raised, we raised our children on these Bible stories, told the old fashioned way, just as they are written. Many Christian adults who grew up having family devotions and Sunday sermonettes have no clue as to who God is and would be shocked to discover what God has done in the past. You can never come to know God through a study of the doctrine of God. You come to know who God is through his personal history with mankind.

So, back to your original question, did Deb have devotions with our children? No. Did she tell and retell Bible stories as they home-schooled, washed dishes, swept the floors, sewed, cooked, canned, snapped beans, hoed the garden, swam in the creek, or walked down the lane? YES

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6 comments on “To Teach or Not to Teach?”

  1. Thank you for this article. I have been struggling with this lately as I know my children should learn about the Bible, but sometimes I fear them too young to understand it. But you are right. I have been thinking of this because some videos we like change certain stories to make them kid-friendly, leaving out parts about sex or mature themes. It has bothered me because that is changing God's word, isnt it? to omit parts that are uncomfortable to talk about? I have not done this with my kids, but have instead not shared much of the Bible with them at all. I will change this immediately. (My kids are 2 and 4, btw.)

  2. I've been pondering this for a while now and just came across this article. I don't know the Bible as well as I could (other than the "major" stories), and I'm weak at telling stories. What do you recommend? Study on my own so that I can tell the stories? Read the Bible directly to the children? Get a good Bible story book?

  3. Thank you Mr. Pearl. A mom is not trying to be or acting as head of the home if she reads the Bible to her children and prays with them. We sit and read other books together. It would be silly to say that we have to wait for Daddy, then, to read the Bible. My husband, who worked long hours running a business, was very happy that our children were learning the Word of God. He was not threatened by his wife (his other half) reading the Bible to his children. We also had Bible on CD that they listened to all the time, including every night. The CD player wasn't the spiritual head of our family when it was running, just because it was playing the Bible instead of music or other stories, just as I wasn't the head just because I spent time reading the Bible to our children or telling them Bible stories. IT's what's in your heart that matters. Are you doing anything because you are bitter against your husband and think he isn't leading, then stop what you're doing. Are you doing it with your husband's blessing, then continue.

  4. I pray and read the Bible with my children every morning. We do call it our devotion time but I don't preach the word, we simply read it. Often there are questions about what we have read and I will expand on topics and passages to answer their questions. During that same I will read to them from some other book (usually one the encourages godly character). I do take the time to make application from that book and explain how specific character qualities affect their lives in relation to God's Kingdom. I find it very difficult to comprehend how this could be bad for my children. My husband has never discouraged me from doing this. And I personally know many faithful Christians who are serving God today ONLY because they had a mother who loved the Lord and led them down that path. Many of those people had unbelieving fathers and even alcoholic fathers. It would have been so much easier for them to go the way of their fathers but they had devoted mothers. Even Timothy's faith (from the Bible) was largely credited to his mother and grandmother, NOT his greek father. Children NEED to be led down the right path by their parents or they will go down the wrong path. If one parent won't do it then the other needs to. My husband and I are one, it is my job to support him in his responsibilities, where he is weak I need to be strong. We need to pick up where the other left off. I'm not the leader of my home, my decisions don't out weigh my husband's. But we are both our children's leaders.