The Green household is about to have some changes. My oldest is graduating from Samford University in May and my second child is graduating from LCS in June. A few weeks ago, Luci O' Byrne attended a conference where she was challenged in apologetics. Now before you stop reading, understand what apologetics is: the ability to defend what you believe. The speaker was encouraging Christian educators to teach students skills to defend their faith and what they believe.
When Luci was telling us about the conference, my own children immediately came to mind. With one entering the work place and one getting ready to attend college in the fall, I questioned myself, "Can they defend what they believe?" I want to respond with a “yes” because they have grown up in a Christian home, attended church, attended Christian school and a Christian university, but is that enough preparation? Big life changes and choices are in store for them and my hope is they will be able to stand up for what they know is right. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us "...always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;"
Know what you believe
The first part of being able to defend what you believe is knowing what the Bible teaches. We help our children know what they believe by instilling some spiritual disciplines.
- Read Bible stories together. One great resource, The Jesus Storybook Bible, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones, is written in such a way that young and old alike can understand God's incredible redemptive love shown to mankind. This is excellent for the youngest audiences.
- As children get older, encourage them to have their own, individual quiet time. When your child is first starting, provide a journal that they can draw or write down their thoughts and ideas of what they read. This may take some help at first, but as your child matures, encourage them to continue in this discipline.
- Attending church is another avenue where your children can learn. I always love my children having the opportunity to learn from other people who have studied God's word and are sharing it.
- Memorizing scripture also plays a vital role. Psalm 119:11 says, "I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." I love that phrase "stored up" because it makes me think of intentionally preparing for something that is to come. God's word can be so ingrained in your mind that when faced with a problem you can use what has been tucked away. LCS puts great emphasis on scripture memory. So the next time you are helping your student learn a memory verse, understand it is more than just a part of their Bible grade. It can help them be prepared for something that is to come.
Verbalize what you believe
These disciplines help your child establish a good foundation and knowledge of their belief system, and they are excellent tools to help defend what they believe. But, can they verbalize what they believe? A good lawyer might know his client is innocent, but his ability to verbalize that truth helps defend his client.
Luci challenged us to not just tell our students what the Bible says but see if they can repeat it in appropriate situations. I decided to try this in my K4 classroom. Probably the most quoted verse by Miss Missy is Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." In the four year old realm, that verse covers a multitude of sins.
One day one of my K4 friends kicked another student. While I was talking to him, I decided to test and see if he knew the verse that I had quoted so many times. I said, "What does the Bible tell us about how we are supposed to treat our friends?" He thought for a bit and then replied, "Thou shalt not kick one another." I must admit I did chuckle to myself but then I realized that, as often as I told my students that verse, I had never had my K4 kids repeat it and verbalize it.
Then on a much larger scale, I thought of my own children. I know I often quote Scripture to them and tell them what the Bible says, but do they just hear "white noise" of mom talking or can they really defend and verbalize what they believe. It is important to take the time to use Scripture when working through situations with your kids. Ask them, "What does the Bible say about...?" and see if they can truly defend it with verses. If you are not sure yourself of where the truth might be, take the time to search the Scriptures together with your child. Another way to help is to create opportunities of conversation where your child is free to question and even challenge what he believes.
Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by questions and potential discussions. What is so awesome about helping our children defend their faith is that our faith is strengthened as well. As we seek to point them to a loving Savior, we grow in return. It is a win/win!
Also, don't think this is something you just do when your kids get older. It begins immediately. My challenge to us all is that we, as parents, will be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is in us, and then, in turn, pass that skill onto the next generation!
Missy Green is a K4 teacher at Lakeland Christian School. You can reach her by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.