By Clarence W. Fell
Basketball, baseball, football, tennis, track, soccer, choir, band, karate, wrestling, boys club, girls club, PTA . . . the list is endless. Hundreds of things beg for our time. Consequently, we parents can unwittingly neglect to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
If a family attends church services regularly, the children receive some biblical instruction. However, if we think scheduled services are all the instruction our children need we are sadly mistaken. Scheduled services are a nice compliment to our children’s biblical education but by no means all that our children need.
There are many opportunities and ways to teach children outside of scheduled service. I would like to suggest a method I enjoy using to teach my two little “angels.” I refer to it as spontaneous teaching because it is quick and unexpected. It seizes the opportunity of the moment without warning and is over almost as quickly as it began. Since children are notorious for their short attention span, this method is advantageous. Also, since this method is brief, it lends itself nicely to repetition and children do not soon grow weary of it because it doesn’t last long.
Caution: This is not intended to be an entire biblical education program for children. This method is suggested only as another tool, one among many that parents can use if desired.
Spontaneous teaching uses your child’s current activity or thoughts to make a spiritual point, briefly, on your child’s level, and then lets the child pursue the point further or drop it for the time being. If they want to pursue the thought then do so to their satisfaction and when they are satisfied stop. If your children gives you a weird, “What planet are you from?” look don’t think that a seed of knowledge was not planted. A child’s mind runs fast and changes direction quickly. Some of our strongest and most influential memories took only seconds to create.
The main advantage of spontaneous teaching is that you are using what is already in your child’s mind, he is already thinking of the subject, you are just pointing out a biblical connection. Since the thought is already in his mind you do not have to arrest his attention and insert a new thought – often against resistance. Don’t underestimate the value of brief thoughts strategically placed here and there.
How about some examples of spontaneous teaching to help clarify the method?
I find it easy to turn supper conversation into a spontaneous teaching opportunity. At supper the children eagerly bring up things that happened at school. These things often provide excellent opportunities for a brief point. When they talk about someone cheating on a test I ask them why it is bad to cheat. I ask them what God thinks about cheating. I ask them who is really hurt by cheating. Children are not stupid; they give good answers to such questions when encouraged a little.
Evening walks, trips to the park and other nature outings are good times to make brief comments about God. Consider the veins in a leaf, the singing of a bird, a worm sliding through the mud, all of these stir a child’s thoughts and give the parent an opportunity to make a brief point in favor of God. Ask your boy why God made worms? When he answers, “For birds to eat” or “To go fishing with” then comment briefly about how God provides for the birds (Matt. 6:26) and us too (Matt. 6:33).
Times of discipline can be good times to discuss Bible verses.
Bedtime is a great time for a brief Bible lesson. Almost every child on earth will do anything to stall turning off the lights. Take advantage of this natural phenomenon and teach them about God. Read them a brief Bible bedtime story. Take a moment to talk about their day and make points you think beneficial.
After Bible class and worship is another good time to briefly teach. Ask your children what they learned. This causes them to review the lesson, thus reinforcing it in their mind. I like to ask my children what they learned from the sermon. Sometimes I’m surprised at how much they really hear.
Life is full of spontaneous teaching opportunities. All that is required is that we learn to be aware of them. I enjoy using this teaching tool. I hope you can use it as one way to enhance your child’s biblical education.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 12, p. 373
June 20, 1991