Friday, July 29, 2011

Teaching the faith - resources

On Monday I talked about using a catechism to teach our children the faith.

I have come across a book which helps us to do exactly that.

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade is a book of family devotions based on the Shorter Catechism.

She has arranged 6 daily devotions around each of the 107 questions of the Shorter Catechism (which she has adapted into more modern, accessible language). If you do it with her timetable it will take 2 years. However, I imagine it's the type of resource you use in bits and pieces. Perhaps you decide the first 20 questions are your goal for this year, or something like that.

Because the language is so accessible, you could also make this version your 'family catechism' and learn one per week and talk about it at the same time. We may indeed switch to that at some point.

We have not started this book yet, but once we have a bit more of our family catechism under way - we will stop and work on some of them in detail for a while, possibly with just the older children. I'll let you know how we go!

Another resource, along the same line is Bruce Ware's Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God. Ware is professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. When his daughters were young, he would sit with them at night and teach them the same material (yet simplified) that he he was teaching his students.

He has turned those times into this book. There are 3-4 pages per topic, covering topics (which are all broken into smaller sections) such as:

- God's word and who God is
- God as three in one
- God is creator and ruler of all
- our human nature and sin
- the person and work of Jesus Christ
- the Holy Spirit, etc, etc

It is essentially a doctrine course for children and youth. Having looked through it (although we haven't used it ourselves yet) - it seems appropriate to read and explain to primary-schoolers or perhaps something you could give to a teenager. My guess is that parents would learn a massive amount from reading it too! It looks like exactly what we learnt at bible college, but in much more manageable language.

Does anyone else know of any resources that help teach the faith to children?

Monday, July 25, 2011


I said on Friday that we have decided to teach our children more pro-actively about our faith.

A few weeks ago I reviewed a book which planted in my mind the idea of teaching our children a catechism. This was fortuitously followed by a conversation with a friend who has started doing the same with her family, and then another with a friend who was taught it as a child.

A catechism is a method of teaching using questions and answers which are learnt.

One of the well known catechisms of the reformed Christian tradition in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Shorter being relative and in comparison to it's longer sister. It still consists of 107 questions with full scripture references in the answers, the first one of which you may have heard before:
What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Some clever souls have devised simplified versions for children: I have found the Catechism for Young Children and The First Catechism. They are both similar, but do have slightly different emphases. So I have compared them both and made our own. If you would like to have a look - you can view it here.*

I realise it doesn't look that much simpler - there are 146 questions. However, it's a long term project. I expect it will take a few years, assuming times of learning and some breaks.

At the moment we are aiming to learn (memorise) 5 questions a week.** So far so good, and the kids are loving it. They question me, they question each other and we are learning the answers together. (each has their own laminated copy to read)

On the first night we did it they were so excited and keen we talked about and started learning the first 8 questions:
1. Who made you?
2. What else did God make?
God made all things.
3. Why did God make you and all things?
For his own glory.
4. How can you glorify God?
By loving him and doing what he commands.
5. Why are you to glorify God?
Because he made me and takes care of me.
6. Is there more than one true God?
No. There is only one true God.
7. In how many Persons does this one God exist?
In three Persons.
8. Name these three Persons.
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

There is a huge amount in just that! Number 3 was a great one to talk about: Why did make you?
- Was it because he needs you? No.
- Because he wanted you in his image? No.
- Why? For his own glory.

What a great lesson we self-centred humans need to learn - the sooner the better. It is a great joy to hear my almost 4 year old sing out 'For his own glory!'.

I'll show you a few other resources for teaching the faith on Friday.

* As with any prepared material, there is some you will agree and disagree with. As we go through it, I am already modifying a few of the questions and answers - either to simplify the language, or to further clarify the answer.

** They have been so keen we actually learnt 35 in the first 10 days or so, so it might not take as long as I thought!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Teaching the faith

The realisation that I am already doing my ideal job, combined with some recent reading, has again convinced me that as parents we are the ones responsible (under God) for teaching our children about the Christian faith.

My primary job is to raise our 3 children to know and love Jesus. Of course, how they respond to that in their own time will be up to God choosing to convince them and them responding to him.

If I am too busy with other commitments to do this well, I am making unhelpful choices for our family. It's been a helpful reminder to me as I take on talks, seminars, catch-ups with other women, etc - all good things, but still not my primary role.

Also, while I am extremely grateful for those that teach our children in their programs at church, it would be irresponsible of me to assume that what they are taught there is all they need to know. Could you become adequately educated about the bible and matters of faith with ~1 hour input per week?

It is our job to teach our children the faith.

Part of this is by modelling it. (I have talked about this in a previous series)

But I am more and more convinced that it is also about actively teaching it.

Over the last 8 years, in our family the teaching has been based around reading the bible to the children at their appropriate stage, talking about it and explaining it where necessary.

It is becoming clear that they know all the stories in the children's bibles. Of course they continue to learn from them and we will always ensure that bible reading and some study of the bible is part of their daily routine.

Now, however, we are turning to the bigger picture. We want to teach them a Christian framework. We want them to grow up thinking as Christians and from God's point of view. To that end, we are now turning to more actively teaching them about God and the faith.

On Monday, I'll tell you how we have started.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My ideal job

I was part of a conversation recently where someone asked me what my ideal job would be.

I stopped and thought.

You know what my answer was?

"What I am doing now".

It even surprised me a little. Previously when someone has asked me that, I have articulated what I would want to do if I had to work.

However, I realised in those few brief seconds when I stopped to think of an answer - I am doing what I want to do.

I am wife to a wonderful man.
I am mother to three children whom I love and adore, and I have the privilege of raising them and teaching them the things of God.
We are involved in ministry and serving God's people.
I do not have to work and to this point have chosen not to.

For me, all of these things are a marvellous blessing.

Of course these things are not what is required to be content with what God has given us. We can find joy and contentment in many of life's circumstances.

Whenever I find things hard, I remember my answer to her question, and give thanks that God has put me where I am and that it's where I want to be.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fiction - The Land of Painted Caves

The Land of Painted Caves, Jean M. Auel

This book has been waiting on my shelf for months - for when I had enough time to read it. Our little break a few weeks ago was the perfect opportunity.

It came with extremely high expectations. Jean Auel published The Clan of the Cave Bear, the first in this Earth's Children Series, in 1980. While I did not read it that year, being a pre-schooler at the time, I was introduced to it by my mother when at highschool. I loved it. It's a fantastic story of ice-age times (~30,000 years ago) where Ayla, a Cro-Magnon (modern human) girl who lost her family in an earthquake is adopted by a Neanderthal tribe ('cave-men').

Auel has gone on over these last 30 years to produce 6 books in the series, the rest of which detail Ayla heading out on her own and meeting her own people. There is a love story drawn in, which spans the rest of the 5 books. In this way, it's very similar to the extent of Diana Gabaldon's books - they cover the character's lifetime.

What I have love about these books is that they make this period of world history come alive. Auel does huge amounts of research and manages to include many details of how life could have been like then: early settlements, animals, food sources, hunting, plants, medicine and the way many potential inventions and discoveries may have come about (eg. making fire from flint).

I liked it, it finished the series for me, which as I have said, I have been reading for 20 years. However, I don't think the last 2 books were as good as the first 4. I suspect that Auel's true skill is in research and understanding those times, not so much as turning them into fiction. She seems to want to impart every detail of research which explains why the books, especially #4-6, are so long. In this latest book, The Land of The Painted Caves, there are meticulous details given to numerous ancient cave paintings throughout France - interesting for a while, but then increasingly tedious. Whereas in the first 3 books, her research enhanced the books, I felt that by this one, the fiction was just a mode to pass on all the information she had gathered.

Also, in books 2-3 there was real intensity to the relationship between Ayla and Jondalar (to the extent that I always feel I should warn people about the intimate scenes in them). By this last book, it was not emphasised nearly as much. I felt it wasn't so much the characters that had changed (as only about 5 years had passed for them), but rather that ~25 years have passed in the author's life.

Having said all that - I still really enjoyed it - it was a fitting end to a great series, which has shaped my whole reading life to date. The Clan of the Cave Bear was one of the first adult books I ever read, and I will continue to read and re-read them, as I do with all my favourite books.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Family Driven Faith

Family Driven Faith, Voddie Baucham Jr

Sometimes you read a book that it makes you uncomfortable on several levels, but it also intrigues you - this was that book for me.

As I said last week, I am reading a few more parenting books at the moment, and after reviewing Revolutionary Parenting, this seemed like the obvious next choice.

Family Driven Faith is subtitled: Doing what it takes to raise sons and daughters who walk with God, and therefore it seemed like a pretty good choice on the book shelf at the shop.

I will get some concerns out of the way first. If you tend to get your back up over any of the following issues, this book may not be for you:
  • a strong encouragement to home-school
  • a strong message that we should be having more children rather than less
  • the family-integrated church movement* (which was a totally new concept to me, I had never heard of it)
Like many parenting books from the USA, it is very American - a comment I think my Australian readers understand. I think he is also a Southern Baptist (which in summary I think means reformed and quite conservative). Which means, in essence, that just like any other reformed and conservative Christians - there will be things you agree with and things you don't.

Having said that, this book still had a lot to offer. It made me think again about our decisions and why we do them. It made me re-consider our priorities with the children and how we actively choose to disciple them. Here are some things that were helpful.

1. The reminder that the role of discipling children is the responsibility of parents. It is not something we can outsource to the church, no matter how good the children's programs or youth groups are.

2. The idea of having family worship time, both structured and unstructured, which teach children the things of God. This included the idea of 'catechising' the children, or working through a catechism (a form of questions and answers for learning) about the faith. (More on that coming in a later post).

3. That we do need to think critically about how our children are educated and what worldviews they are being taught (and what we want them to be taught).

If you are interested in being challenged to think about how you disciple your children and what your priorities are - read this book. Even if is makes you uncomfortable at times.

However, as you read - remember that we serve a God of wondrous grace, who loves our children more than we do and can use many ways to bring them to him, including faithful Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, teachers, and of course, parents.

* From what I can ascertain, the Family-integrated church movement suggests churches should not be segregated according to age, all children should be with parents (no creche, Sunday school, etc). In fact, the feeling was that such segregation is detrimental to children, especially youth, therefore he was also very anti youth groups. In essence, parents (especially fathers) should be taught to lead and teach their families themselves.