by Tedd and Margy Tripp
In Chapter 2 of Instructing a Child’s Heart the Tripp’s lay the ground work for what they call Formative Instruction. Following is an introduction to this significant biblical concept:
As we engage our children with formative instruction we must have the big picture in mind. The following five perspectives are important to keep in mind as we undertake formative instruction.
• Remember Scripture is our personal history
• Develop godly habits
• Apply Scripture to life
• Model spiritual vitality
• Grow into a mature relationship with your children
Keeping these five perspectives or goals in focus will give energy and shape to our formative instruction.
Scripture Is Our Personal History
Imagine a counselor hearing a counselee’s life problems and then charging ahead with advice, before asking questions to understand the background and circumstances of the counselee’s life. The counsel given may have good content, but it will lack depth, and lasting help will be elusive. The same is true when we instruct our children without giving them the context of their history.
The Scripture teaches us much about the world we live in. It teaches us that God created the world. The Scripture teaches us about God’s people in the past and how God’s redemptive promise of Genesis 3:15 has been unfolding over the centuries. But Scripture teaches much more. Scripture is history that tells us about ourselves.
This revelation isn’t just about distant physical and spiritual relatives—it’s about each of us by name. Let that truth wash over you with all its implications and power. Bathe our children in that truth. Otherwise, the Bible’s prophecies, provisions, promises, and pronouncements will not motivate our speech and behavior. And our children will treat the Bible like a news story.
Here’s what I mean. We may feel enthused by some act of heroism on the evening news and even remark how great it is to hear that occasional acts of valor still break into this bleak world. But think of the family loyalty inspired by personal attachment to the hero, and the pride and emulation it would engender. The sad and hopeless plight of the starving in a distant land may stir our compassion and create in us a purpose to respond some time by some means. But think of the restlessness and untiring effort we would expend if it was a family member caught in famine or catastrophic misfortune.
What a difference perspective makes! The faith, hope, and confidence of heroes of faith in the Bible and church history are born of personal identity with God’s revelation. They saw themselves in God’s unfolding story. Christ’s glorious kingdom and the struggles of the unseen world of spiritual reality must be as real and urgent to our children and us as the stories gossiped about at our family reunions. The protagonists in the Bible narratives must be as accessible to our minds and hearts as Grandma, Sister Sue, and Uncle Bill. Then who God is and what he has done will be a significant element in our instruction and discipline! We must learn this first in our own lives. David says in Psalm 34:8–11, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Then teach it to our children. “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Scripture is not only about God’s people of old—it’s about us and our children. The Bible is our family album.