In today’s American culture, in order to give our kids what we feel they need, we send our kids to specialized trainers all the time. Our kids have piano teachers, math tutors, basketball coaches, dance instructors, and the list goes on and on. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with our children specializing in a particular skill by being trained by someone with expertise in that field. There’s no way that I can be an expert in everything! (Not even close!)
However, when it comes to a child’s Christian faith, the responsibility lies squarely on the parents’ shoulders.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 gives the “Shema,” the central command and creed of God’s people: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This command, of course, was expanded by Jesus in Mark 12:28–33 to also include “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
What’s important to note about this command/creed is this: That it was to penetrate beyond head and into the heart; it was to be the central aspect of every part of life at every moment. In the next verse of the Deuteronomy passage (6:4), God tells the adults that “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts,” which means it all starts with their inner motivation – will they commit to loving God with all they have?
Then God makes it clear that the matter of raising children in this kind of heart-deep love is the responsibility of parents. “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9).
Parents have the primary responsibility for “impressing upon their children” who God is, why he is loved, and our duty to serve him with our entire lives. This is not just an Old Testament command, in Ephesians 6:4, parents are instructed to “bring (your children) up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
With teachers, tutors, coaches, trainers, instructors, and other specialists in our children's lives, it becomes increasingly important that the church does not succumb to the pressure to be just another specialist to do the work of faith training and instruction. Instead, the church needs to shift the paradigm so that parents are given not only the lead role in the faith development of their children, but also the confidence to do so.
Many parents are not confident enough to teach their kids how to dribble a basketball or how to find “Middle C” on a piano, so they acquiesce to the specialists. However, when it comes to training children in the faith, the church must give parents the kind of training they need to confidently do what God has called them to do.