J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Teach Your Children Well

teachSo many children groan when they hear their parents mention a family devotional or when their parents speak of a family prayer time.  Because of this, many parents just give up on even having them.  But there is some hope.  As Moses prepares the children of Israel to enter the Promised Land, he gives them this command:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

This incredibly memorable command, also known as the Shema, has guided people of faith for thousands of years.  The Lord your God is one.  He is to be loved with all of you:  your heart, your soul, and with all of your might.  However, these words are not just for the individual.  They are to be taught and passed onto future generations.  Your children are to know that their God is Lord and one.  He is not satisfied with segments of their life (or yours).  He demands all of those that worship Him.  He demands their person, their mind, and every action.

Teaching our children is incredibly challenging, and many parents express to me their frustration or sense of failure in instructing their kids.  In fact, some parents have even been so honest as to tell me that is why they want programs for their children at church because they feel they are not doing a good job at home.  When we think about the amount of time parents have with their children versus the amount of time the church has, it’s astonishing.  Yes, churches should aid parents in teaching their children, but parents have the first and foremost responsibly, especially as seen in Deuteronomy 6…and parents have a ton of more time with their kids (as it should be).

I can’t tell you how many parents have given up on the concept of family devotions after only one or two tries.  Sadly, instead of trying a different model or pushing through, many families just give up.  There is massive criticism of what those in political or educational power are trying to teach children, but so often, parents quit even trying to teach their kids in the faith.  Without purposeful instruction, that leaves teaching about Jesus, the Gospel, the Bible, and pretty much everything else related to Christianity to times of correction.  Obviously, there are lessons in correction, but can you imagine only learning about driving a car when the police officer gives you a ticket?  Learning before hand sure would be helpful.

So, how can families grow in instructing and teaching their children about Jesus and their faith?

Reggie Joiner in his book “Think Orange” makes some fascinating observations about how these truths can best be communicated and related to children.  He emphasizes that there are teaching patterns within Deuteronomy 6 that we can incorporate into our families to help them know God and know Him better.   He points out that Moses emphasizes 4 teaching time in Deuteronomy 6:

  • When you sit at home.
  • When you walk along the road.
  • When you lie down.
  • When you get up.

Applying those to our day, Joiner finds 4 incredible opportunities each day to speak of God.  They are:

  • Eating meals together (sitting at home).
  • Walking or traveling together (when you walk along the road).
  • Tucking children into bed (when you lie down).
  • Getting up in the morning (when you get up).

What makes each of these times unique is that the parent can communicate differently, teach under a different role, and aim for a different goal each time.

  • For example, meal times offer the chance for a formal discussion where the parent is a teacher establishing values.
  • Drive times offer informal conversations where the parent is a friend helping their child interpret life.
  • Bed time offers intimate conversation where the parent can be a counselor building intimacy.
  • Morning time offers encouraging words from a parent/coach who is hoping to instill purpose.

If parents take advantage of each of these opportunities, instructing their children becomes less formal and less forced.  The pressure is off so to say.  In fact, the biggest adjustment will come on the part of the parent instead of the child.  The parent has to make a concerted effort to take advantage of opportunities instead of rushing through a meal, shooing their kids to bed, entertaining them in the car, or rushing them to school.

If you give up on teaching your children, someone or something is going to take your place.  Sometimes it is the helpful instruction of the church, and sometimes it is the media, politicians, schools, friends, or whatever.  One way or the other, children will be instructed.  Owning Deuteronomy 6 means looking for and being prepared for practical and advantageous opportunities to tell your kids about Jesus.

Think Orange

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.

September 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Money is the Root of All Steeples

Church and charitable giving was down nearly 6% in 2008moneyman, and because of this, many non-profits and most churches are struggling with the change in giving patterns.  At a recent prayer gathering of pastors I attended, 66% reported difficult or dire financial circumstances.  Apparently, times are tough all over.

Many churches have trimmed their budgets, cut programs, and even canceled future building expansions.  Others resolutely stick to their original plans as if a change would demonstrate a lack of faith.  A few cannot change their budgets in any practical way because of loans and other commitments leaving some churches on the brink of shutting down, building foreclosure or property seizure.

Church response has been varied.  The simplest (and perhaps most effective) reaction has been to inform congregants of the need and the possible plans or changes necessary if budgets are not met.  Others resort to guilt or poor Biblical interpretation.  Watch enough late night television, and you can hear such language as “sowing seed gifts of faith” to God (the idea of sending money into a church or ministry to demonstrate faith).  This then becomes manipulative language to raise money while promising that God will return their seed gifts of faith with personal wealth.

Though I find the latter approach to increasing giving repugnant, the bottom line whatever approach a church takes is this:  giving reflects the heart.  Whatever a person cares about is what that person spends their money on.  To make it personal, whatever you spend your money on is what you care about.  If a person wants to give to a church or a charity but can’t because there is no room in the budget, the things in the budget are what the person cares about.  If a person’s budget includes giving before making purchases, then that person values giving.

There are of course other avenues of giving like the giving of time and the use of talent.  These are just as important as the giving of money.  They too reflect the heart in the same way that money does but none of them replace the other.  The giving of all three (time, talent, and tithe) reflect the heart.  Excluding giving in one reflects the heart’s priority.

For example, to give money but not time says, “My time is too important to give away.”

To give talent and talent but not money says, “My money is too important to be given away.”

Either way, whatever people choose to give, in whatever quantity, will always reflect what they care about.  If a church, or any organization for that matter, wants to increase giving, then they must increase the value of that organization to people’s lives.

The article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.

September 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

A Dozen Do-Nots: Marriage Communication

A Dozen Do-Nots is what I hope will be an on-going series.  You will also find posts in this series from Mike Askew at http://bit.ly/4nnOim The idea is to present 12 simple things to avoid in the most practical of areas.  To kick things off, I present 12 things not to do when trying to communicate with your spouse.  I hope you enjoy.

A Dozen Do-Nots:  Marriage Communication

  1. Do not assume you know what your spouse is thinking.
  2. Do not assume your expectations are known.  Communicate them.
  3. Do not say the word, “What.”  Say the word, “Yes.”  It is a softer way to respond.
  4. Do not give another woman a compliment that you haven’t already given your wife.
  5. Do not chase your spouse through a room trying to make your point.
  6. Do not befriend or communicate with ex’s via social marketing.
  7. Do not criticize your spouse in front of your children.
  8. Do not miss an opportunity to complement your spouse.
  9. Do not use similes.  For example, “You are just like…”
  10. Do not eat dinner in front of the TV.
  11. Do not apologize for your spouse’s hurt feelings.  Apologize for what you have done.
  12. Do not say one thing in order to communicate something else.  Say what you mean to say.


August 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 7 Comments