by Jim Whiteman, Headmaster, Westside Christian Academy
Shepherding A Child’s Heart, Part 2
“Too bad there is no manual for how to raise these kids of mine,” a father quipped, a refrain I have regretfully heard numerous times over the years. But there is such a manual! No, it may not tell us about potty-training, exact bedtimes or how to get our 12 yr. olds to do their homework with diligence. It does not give us the magic words for ensuring our children obey our every wish, first time asked, and do so with a pure motive (regardless of our own motive). But it does lay out the principles we need the most and connects us to the Creator of these young ones, the One who knows us and them as well as his own son. The reality is that most of us don’t study this Book when it comes to childrearing and handle most everything on the fly. You know, just like my parents did!
So what if I really paid attention to God’s words, beginning in Deuteronomy 6:5-7? You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise.
Okay, read those words over again. And again. Let them sink in. God is telling us – the adults – to love him with all of our heart and might. He is telling us – the adults -to put God’s word in our own hearts. As we do that, we-the adults- are to teach our children these things diligently. Dwell on that adverb diligently. We are to deliberately teach them 24/7 from God’s word, out of our hearts and through our imperfect lives.
This becomes a God-appointed challenge for us each as parents and teachers – to put ourselves in a personal position of growth to better understand the Scriptures ourselves and grow in depth of understanding to live out a biblical worldview. As we grow, we can then be about the business of teaching our children diligently that they would come to love God, love others and be on the path toward Christlikeness.
In promoting a healthy, biblical perspective in our young children’s spiritual development, our school considers four simple overlapping categories which I believe work quite well in our homes. I call this the 4-H Hub: 1) Head – the development of our minds, intellect, and understanding of truth; 2)Hands – our actions, what we DO, the habits we form and how we spend our time. 3) Heart – the core of our being, the center of our loyalty. 4) Habitat – household and cultural communities. Spiritual development happens in relationship with others.
Today, let’s try to get our head around the… well… the head. This is the development of knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Scripture says our minds are to be transformed; we are to develop the mind of Christ. At the core of Christianity there is an intellectual platform that provides a foundation for how we perceive the world and thus live our lives. Here are a few points to think through:
1. Our challenge is to enable our children to develop a biblical worldview, which is a means of interpreting and responding to reality that is consistent with God’s way as described for us in the Bible. Children need to know how to make sense of their world. Here is some sobering news: Before they reach junior high, thy have developed a worldview. Most will simply develop it by default.
2. We need to be purposeful in what intellectual diet we feed our children and beware that the culture around us is vying for their minds. We need to guard them from the unbiblical influences. In his book Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, researcher George Barna writes: It appears that the most dominant agents of influence are contemporary music, movies, television programming, the Internet, publications, laws and public policies, and parents.
3. Parents must maximize their influence while a child is young. Barna says: By the age of nine, most of the moral and spiritual foundations of a child are in place. And he later states that: what you allow your child to ingest from mass media – movies, television, music, books and the Internet in particular – probably have more cumulative impact than what you try to teach, thus making your role as gatekeeper from media exposure enormously significant.
4. As adults, we need to purposefully grow in our own understanding and trust of the Bible, apply biblical principles, and develop a burning desire to obey God.
5. Never stop reading with your children, having mind-developing conversations, and building a knowledge base. Young children have a great capacity for memory, so use that to memorize Scripture and catechism. Use songs and chants and have fun with it. As a family and, perhaps, with like-minded families, make God’s word real in your lives – because it is real. In Psalm 119, the psalmist writes: How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. How will that word get into the heart? It starts by reading, memorizing and learning the word. It starts in the head.
6. Consider who all the other teachers are in your child’s life and look carefully at what they are teaching. These are school teachers, relatives, neighbors, coaches, babysitters, camp counselors and church leaders. Choose wisely.
What makes its way into the child’s fertile mind will indeed have an effect on the soil of the heart. Thus, let’s study the Manual given to us and teach our children diligently, prayerfully, even joyfully, while growing together. And the author of the Manual will give you the strength, wisdom, grace, patience and humor you need to love and lead these little ones.
In the next edition of Excelsior I will discuss another of these four categories as we consider what God wants us to be and do as parents.
Note: Westside Christian Academy will host an evening with author and researcher George Barna on October 16, 2014. Place it on your calendar now.
Jim Whiteman earned his B.S. from Bowling Green State University; Masters Education from Kent State University. He came to WCA as headmaster in 2011 with 18 years of experience as elementary/middle school principal in two area private schools and ten additional years of teaching. Mr. Whiteman also has experience as the chief development officer of a Christian rescue mission. He is very involved in a local ministry for international college students and orphanages in Kenya and India. Life verses include 2 Peter 1:3-9.
This article was originally published in our Excelsior! monthly newsletter.