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.
Thank you for expressing these thoughts. They’ve been on my mind alot recently…how I need to balance spiritual instruction vs not raising a hypocrite because they don’t really know what or why they are learning about God and His Word at a young age and before they are saved. One thing I think about often is why I am praying with Hannah at all now! Will be thinking more along these lines.
I too have struggled with asking an unsaved child to pray. 🙂 I also have thought that one consideration when requiring behavior should be if a habit is being formed that will be hard to break otherwise. So, I often make my children share for a similar reason that I make them take baths. As they get older, this kind of control should probably be gradually withdrawn. I’m still thinking about these things, too. Thanks for keeping me thinking by your comments.
I think sometimes about something similar. I do not want my children to “feel” spiritual because they do certain activities, I want it to be genuine. But I also want good practices (Bible reading, prayer) to be more of a habit than not doing them.
I have, on occasion, had Ethan “read” his Bible story book while I read my Bible.
It’s silly to feel relieved by reading this post, because I honestly don’t seek for man’s approval (most of the time 😉 ). So maybe more than feeling relieved, I feel encouraged, because we tend to stick out a bit among Christian families because we haven’t forced these things either.
Except, I do require Martin to sing in church, but that’s because he’d rather sit and read his Bible the entire service (lol); it’s good manners and a form of self-discipline for him to be aware and involved in what we’re doing as a church family.
I’m eager to have my children be more “spiritual”, so we can (voluntarily, on their part!) do more of these things together, but for now I treasure the good conversations that come up as a result of social events and perspectives on relationships, etc. It’s exciting to teach them a biblical worldview!