The Home Altar - For Your Children
bring them up in the training and instruction of the lord
Faith is a living thing. Faith has to be fed or it will die.
The faith of your children is more important than their grades, their soccer achievements, their college degree, their fun, their anything else. Only faith in Christ will keep them out of hell. Faith has to be fed or it will die and dear parents it is your responsibility to feed the faith of your children.
And it is simple and joyful to feed their faith! The Home Altar resources will direct you and your children through 50 Bible stories and 2 prophecies. With that you will get through the whole story arch of God's precious Word with your precious children. Biblical literacy is extremely low in our culture and even in our churches. But if you took a week with each of these Bible stories your children will have a good solid foundation in a year even if they had never gotten anything before. In addition to that they will become familiar with 50 Bible passages, some great hymns that can help them throughout life and the whole of Luther's Small Catechism.
Here are some suggestions for using them...
...With children 5 and under...
We have children aged 1, 2, and 3 right now. We do family devotions during dinner. We pray before we eat and after they have started eating I tell them the Bible story. I read the account in Scripture beforehand and figure out what details to bring up, but I retell it to them. We stay with the same story throughout the week but I do less telling and more asking as the week goes on. For instance, for the first couple of days in the week I told them how Jesus responded when he was told to tell the people to be quiet on Palm Sunday. But by Thursday I asked "...and what did Jesus say?" And the three old would respond "If they don't the stones will cry out!" (Which then was the answer that the two year old would give for every question for the next couple of weeks [which was super adorable]).
I have been doing the same with the Bible passage and Catechism section. I read it, but by the end of the week I don't finish a phrase or a sentence and see if the kids know the next word.
We then sing the hymn to close, by then they might be paying attention and singing along or food and drink might have spilled everywhere and we didn't get to the hymn and then try to survive until bedtime. It is a wonderful time!
You will be able to do much more with older children. The best you can do is to prepare. Spend time in Bible story yourself on Sunday afternoon, for instance, before telling it to them at dinner or bedtime. Don't try to come up with a sermon. Just tell them what happened. I recommend that you use the King James Version because it will force you to think "What does this mean?" which is what you want them to think as well. You can read to them or have them read. But make sure that you also tell it to them and try to get them to tell it to you.
There are some good workbooks that you could buy that would provide questions for discussion that would be appropriate to the Bible story and your child's age. But you can't do much better than Luther's four-fold strand. Here are four questions that are golden for meditation on any portion of God's Word, for however old someone is: 1 What does God say here? (Not what do I feel like God is trying to say. Just plain and simple what does God say) 2 For what should I thank God based on these words? 3 For what should I confess to God based on these words? 4 For what should I pray to God based on these words?
Make the Bible story, Bible passage, hymn verse and Catechism quote part of your conversation for throughout the week. When talking about what happened at school ask and say things like, "How does our hymn verse help you with that?" or "Remember our Bible passage for the week shows how much Jesus loves you. Don't worry." And encourage your children to share these at school or at play. As you speak with them and they speak with you they are learning how to speak to the world. Ask them throughout the week, "Who do you know that would be comforted by this hymn verse?" "Who could be lifted up by know what you know from this Bible passage?"
Take a look at the Family Video Devotions. They show a good model for retelling an account and asking simple questions to foster discussion on the most important things that you will discuss with your children.
There are great devotional books for kids this age, but they can be a crutch. Deal mostly with the text of the Bible and teach your children to wrestle with that text. I would recommend getting The Lutheran Study Bible which contains great notes for further study and can provide good discussion on the most important topic that you will discuss with your children.
If you have been going through these fifty Bible stories, passages, hymns verses, and Catechism sections every year, by the time your child is in high school they will have great foundation for their faith that not even the difficult days of high school are likely to shake. But this faith has to be cared for and especially at this age.
Speak with them from the Bible stories, passages, hymn verses and Catechism sections. But encourage them to also do their own study. They can make use of the Daily Video Devotions. There is one for everyday that are focused on Christ and His undeserved loved for us.
Let them know that this is even more important than homework. And act like you believe that it is even more important than homework. Talk with them about this. I have no good advice based on experience parenting teenagers. My oldest is 3. But I do have experience being a teenager. Though I did not show appreciation well enough for God's Word being shared with me, though I did not respond to questions with more than a grunt at times, the best thing that happened in those years was faithful parents and faithful older Christians speaking the Gospel to me.
It won't happen perfectly, but make it happen. Sanctify them by the Word of truth. It is the best thing for them. God won't ask them what they got on their SAT or if the won state championships. All that will matter on the Day of Judgment will be their faith. Feed it. And don't worry about how inconsistent and frustrating it might be. Getting them to eat well is probably just as inconsistent and frustrating but you get back at it and try again. Do the same with the Word of God and know that God is on your side. He loves your teenagers. And of course your Good Shepherd will support you as you do the best thing you can for your children.