I’ve been pondering the practice of having a family “quiet time,” all the kids reading the Bible individually in their own chairs for a set period of time. When the children cannot read, they are permitted to look at Bible picture books. (I’m not talking about “family worship” where a father or mother leads a family in Bible study as a family at home, although there are some similarities worth pondering.)
It sounds good in some ways. I like the idea of having a set aside time that is theoretically free from distraction. Maybe it would be easier for me to read my Bible in peace. It’s good for children to develop good spiritual habits that will carry them through their adult years. And it might make me look good, in case anyone is watching. It sounds like something a well organized, super spiritual mom of 12 would do, so it must be an admirable practice.
Requiring participation in spiritual activity isn’t unusual. We don’t ask our preschool children if they want to go to church. They go. Sometimes I ask my children if they want to hear something from the Bible, and they answer no. I often tell them anyway. Many times I don’t even ask. Lee and I have been talking about memorizing more scripture with our children; that would not be an optional activity for them. They don’t have the option to wear clothing we consider inappropriate. When Lee reads to them from the Bible or a Bible story book, that’s not an optional time. (Although when Bethel and Laurel were babies, we did let them wander until they could sit and listen to the story.)
Still, there are a great many spiritual activities that we are hesitant to require, primarily because we don’t want to manufacture spirituality in our children, but also because our children do not profess salvation and these activities are not characteristic of an unsaved person. Here are some examples of spiritual habits we don’t require:
- We don’t require that they close their eyes during mealtime prayers, but we do require them to hold hands and be quiet.
- We allow them to pray if they ask, but we don’t press them to if they express reluctance.
- We encourage singing in church, but it’s not something we require.
- We don’t ask them to “perform” for others– reciting or reading Scripture or other spiritual activities.
- We’ve not yet talked about tithing or giving a part of their money to God. (They do put money in the offering that we give them, but if they earn money we haven’t required that they give a portion to God).
It looks like the difference between what we require and what we don’t require is primarily whether the activity is a personal response to God, or a corporate practice. We require spiritual activity as a family: going to church, family worship led by Daddy. We do not seem to require anything that is primarily the response of a heart tender toward God.
I think the biblical motivation behind these ideas is to avoid making good Pharisees: cleaning up the outside when the inside is not clean. We recognize that the outside flows from the inside.
On the other hand, at some point I want to encourage my children to respond to God in these ways. I’d like to make it easy for them. That’s what we’ll think about tomorrow.