If you don't already read the blog The Church of No People, pop on over and check it out. Today, Matt Appling announced he is working on a book (not with Abingdon, so this isn't a personal plug!) and he is asking for readers' answers to a couple questions about raising children in the faith--whether kids from your youth group fell away from church as adults, whether your parents taught you about religion or left that to the church, and how confident you feel in your own ability to teach your children about Christianity (or if you will leave that to the church). I will respond to polls and surveys of any kind, so if you are like me and enjoy putting in your two cents, go do it!
What I really want to share today, however, is what I told Matt A. in response to his third question, about raising our own children in the faith. Given that (my husband) Matt and I are theologically educated, work in the church and church-related fields, and our faith is central to our lives, I feel pretty confident in our ability to educate our children about the faith, the Bible, and teach them to think deeply and critically about moral and theological issues. We hope that such guidance will instill in them a deep faith that will permeate their lives.
So far, though (since Kate is only 18 months, after all) the extent of Kate's theological education has been in the way I change the lyrics of "Jesus Loves the Little Children" to "Jesus Loves All the People." Kate has one or two children's Bibles, but since they are not currently in the rotation of four or five books she wants to read over and over, all the live-long day, I don't think those are informing too much of her thinking at this time. And of course, we take her to church, but it's just the nursery. (Actually, there is a children's Bible in the nursery that she requests over and over each week. I guess since the church doesn't have certain barnyard- and body part-oriented books, the Bible just has to suffice there!)
My half-joking comment about changing the song lyrics actually does say a lot about how religious education in our house will probably go. Matt and I think and talk about religious issues a lot, mainly in response to current events, news stories, blog posts, etc. as we take in the world around us and process it through the lens of our faith. I wanted to sing some of the Bible-songs I learned as a child to Kate, and "Jesus Loves the Little Children" came to mind, but I feel bothered by the way we sometimes care about poor children or children in foreign cultures, but seem to think that since adults are "responsible" for their situation, we don't need to love and assist people of all ages in need. Thus, "Jesus loves all the people / all the people of the world / red and yellow, black and white / they are precious in his sight / Jesus loves all the people of the world."
One day, we will talk with Kate about those words and what they mean. We will talk about First Amendment issues when they come up on the news, and about how Jesus would respond to people living on the street. We will talk about our relationships with God and the big questions we all wrestle with. The church is important in its own ways, but for raising a child in the "way s/he should go," I don't think a few hours a week can compete with the day to day life we share at home.
How do/did you nurture faith development in your children when they were very young?