Communicating the Gospel, God’s Goodness to your school age children

Posted on June 20, 2008 · Posted in Uncategorized

The wise in heart are called
discerning,
              and pleasant words promote instruction.
Proverbs 16:21

In Shepherding a
Child’s Heart
, Tedd Tripp identifies three age ranges in children.  The first is from infancy to childhood (ages 0
to 5), next is childhood (from ages 5 to 12), and then the teenage years. There
are, of course, significant differences within these ranges. A 9-month-old is different
than a 5-year–old, and a 13-year-old is different than a 19-year-old. Yet these
categories of ages are helpful. Each range marks a transition both in the
development of the child and in the responsibility of the parents.

For example, in the 0 to 5 range, children are totally
dependent upon their parents, so while a 9-month baby is very different from
her 4–year-old brother, they are both dependent upon parents for everything. If
the infant receives no parental care she cannot survive. The four-year-old, though more able to cope, still
depends on his parents for survival.

The childhood range marks a great transition in terms of
dependency. Five-year-olds are still relatively dependent upon their parents
for everything. Twelve-year-olds, while
often immature, are at a point where they could begin to survive on their own.
And, of course, teenagers grow from wanting
to be on their own to being actually able to go and do whatever they choose. More
importantly, this same developmental pattern applies to spiritual growth as
well.

In this post we are moving backward, from the teenage years
to the childhood years. We began with teenagers to show the final goal: all that
is done in the years leading up to the teen years should point towards building
a relationship in which open communication about God and the life situations
teenagers face can take place between parent and teen.

What is the goal during the childhood years, then? The focus
during childhood is on the heart. The goal is to see Christian character, e.g.
the fruit of the Spirit, begin to take root in your children. These posts are
focusing on the particulars of communicating the goodness of God, the gospel,
to your children. Once again, how you speak to your children is important. If
the knowledge of God is pleasant to you, how do you show this to your children?
Let’s listen in on another conversation.

Bethany, we have a lot to do this afternoon.

Yes, Mom.

Bethany, don’t start
with Yes Mom, in that discouraged tone. We have to hurry and get the house
clean for company, pick up Justin’s toys AND make sure you finish your school
work before our guests come for dinner in just two hours. Don’t even think
about taking a break or using the computer for fun. And while I’m at it, you
need to do a better job of cleaning your room. I don’t know how I am going to
get everything done.

 

But, Mom, this is a lot
of work. Justin’s toys are all over the place and I have a LOT of school work.

     Bethany, how many times have I told you that God says we must not complain? This is a
great opportunity for you to practice diligence. Right now, I just need to focus
and I can’t do that if you don’t get to work. Now, any questions? Good.

What does Bethany think about mom’s attitude? If her mom regularly talks to to her daughter
this way, she is not preparing the way for open communication about trusting
God in the teenage years. The
pleasantness of knowing God should be evident even in these “pressured”
situations. It is one thing to be excited about the gospel on Sunday. It is
quite another to be excited about the gospel on Thursday when the house is a
mess and company is coming. Remember,
relationships are about more than meeting schedules. How might this conversation
sound when mom has an agenda for reaching the heart.

Bethany, would you come inside, please?

Sure, Mom, what’s up?

 

Well, I let the time
get away from me. We have company coming tonight and there is a lot to do. I know you have school work, but I could
really use your help. If you can’t get finished, I’ll make sure you have some
time after dinner. Justin has been all over the house today and he has toys
everywhere. That’s what happens when I
get too focused on other things. So, I’d like you to help me make a big push
here.

Mom, that’s fine. This
is what you have been talking with me about isn’t it, being willing to change
plans to help others.

Exactly, sweetheart. I
appreciate your help. Let’s take just a moment to pray and ask God for strength
and a pleasant spirit as we work together.

Again, much has been going on
behind the scenes. Mom openly
acknowledges that she could have done better managing the time.  She is
also recognizing that Bethany has a valuable contribution to make and
lets her know it. Mom’s tone is even but direct. She acknowledges Bethany’s school work and gives her a way to get it done. Most importantly, she takes time to ask God for
help. Mom is relying on previous conversations with Bethany about being flexible in order to
serve others. She is laying the ground work to a solid relationship with her
daughter for the years ahead. She is not
manipulative or pushy, but grateful. While these things may seem small, they are huge in communicating the
goodness of God in a potentially stressful situation.

In the next post we will take a look at toddlers and young
children and how to show the goodness of God to them.

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