God Trained Me to Teach My Children
While driving in my car one afternoon in September of 1987, I tuned into a Christian radio station and heard the Gospel message. Realizing that I was a sinner in need of a Savior, I pulled the car over into a parking lot and prayed. There, the Lord wonderfully saved me, changing my heart, and setting me on a new course of following Him.
Not long after that, a friend told me about a verse in the Bible that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). She said this verse was a promise from God that could be claimed for my husband who had been raised in the Gospel, but was not a Christian at that time. I did claim that promise for my husband, but also thought of our young children. We had a son, Cameron, who was nearly five years old, and a daughter, Catey, who was three, and I wanted to see them get to Heaven, too. However, who would train them in the Gospel way since my husband was not a Christian and I knew almost nothing of the Gospel myself? It seemed God would just have to train me up in how to “train up” our children as I went along, and that is exactly what He did.
Through a series of lessons, God showed me to establish a few simple routines as a family. If done consistently, these would result in our son and daughter learning about the Gospel, how to live it, and the value of it. The lessons included instruction to pray as a family, read the Bible together, practice Gospel principles as a household, and put down roots at church.
Lesson one: pray as a family
One evening, I stood in the doorway of my children’s bedroom listening to them argue as they got ready for bed. In frustration I asked the Lord what could be done about their bad attitudes, and immediately, the first lesson followed. I was reminded of a recent incident, and the question came to mind, “What did you do about your own bad attitude when things didn’t go as you had planned?” At the time, I had prayed, and the Lord had miraculously changed the circumstances, which also changed my attitude. More significantly though, I had prayed beforehand, asking the Lord for His strength to do the right thing throughout the day, and to keep and guide me. As I thought on this, I realized that my children needed the Lord’s strength for each day as much as I did.
Before bed that night, we discussed how the day had gone for each of us. Then we prayed, thanking God for the day’s blessings, asking help for the things troubling us, and requesting salvation for our loved ones. The next morning, we prayed again, praising God for His goodness and asking help for the difficulties ahead. Later, I wrote in my diary, “January 31, 1988: Instituted a time of family worship.”
When my son started school, our morning prayers took on new importance. He was introduced to swear words, peer pressure to do wrong, and beliefs contrary to the Bible. We added to our prayers that a protective hedge be placed about him, both spiritually and physically. Over the years, our requests became more specific, such as asking for help to take a stand against some things or resist certain temptations.
Reviewing our day with the Lord in the evening helped to minimize the children’s anxieties and frustrations, allowed me to become aware of what was going on in their lives, and made us all more appreciative of the good things God provided for us on a daily basis.
It was not always possible to pray as a family, but we were consistent over time, and the benefits of having a prayer routine soon became evident. Reviewing our day with the Lord in the evening helped to minimize the children’s anxieties and frustrations, allowed me to become aware of what was going on in their lives, and made us all more appreciative of the good things God provided for us on a daily basis. Meanwhile, praying in the morning prepared us for the spiritual battles of the day.
I had thought only adults needed prayer, but I learned that the Lord is a help for even those of a very young age, and it is never too early to establish the practice of praying regularly.
Lesson two: read the Bible together
In January of 1988, I began attending the Apostolic Faith Church, where a relative had been taking my son and daughter to Sunday school. One morning, I had a conversation with the person sitting next to me in the pews, and this resulted in a second lesson from the Lord. I commented, “My children keep asking if I know my verse, and I do not know why.” The person next to me replied, “Well, don’t you ask them if they know their Sunday school memory verse?” I did not know they had one, but after investigating, I learned the church provided Bible study materials even for ages five and under. I had excluded Cameron and Catey from reading the Bible with me, thinking they would not understand it and could not benefit from reading it. Now, I saw that with a study plan designed for their ages, they too could learn from God’s Word.
We began a Bible study routine patterned after the Sunday school curriculum, and I wrote in my diary, “February 18: The children and I now read a Bible story at breakfast.” That morning, we also practiced their memory verse, which over time went from being a short verse once a month to a long verse every week. We did evening Scripture readings as well, accompanied by activities to keep them interested. At first, these were as simple as rocking dolls in baskets while learning about Baby Moses or brandishing slingshots during the account of David and Goliath. Eventually, we used a “Bible Activity Jar” filled with task cards. Each evening, we removed a card and followed its instructions either during or after the Scripture reading. Among the tasks were, “Illustrate with watercolors,” “Recreate on felt board,” “Answer trivia questions,” and “Play a Bible board game.”
Having a Bible study routine made learning the Gospel easy and fun. And even when the children did not understand what we were reading, God’s Word was planted in their hearts. We see the benefit of this in Paul’s words to Timothy, “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). At some point in Timothy’s life, the Scriptures he had been taught as a child took hold in his heart and he was able to apply them.
My children were too young to comprehend the Bible when we began reading it together, but not too young to begin storing up promises for later use.
The same was true in our family. Catey once testified that as a child she learned her memory verses only to please her teachers. Then one day, as a young person, she encountered a situation where she needed help, and one of those verses came to her mind. Right then, she made the connection that the Bible promises she had learned as a child were real and available to her. My children were too young to comprehend the Bible when we began reading it together, but not too young to begin storing up promises for later use.
Lesson three: practice Gospel principles as a household
One day after praying together, I asked Cameron and Catey, “Do you talk to God when Mama is not praying with you?” When they both answered no, I realized they needed to experience the Gospel for themselves, not just through me. This led to lesson three. The Lord showed me to start a new habit of involving the two of them in household spiritual matters. This meant giving them an explanation when applying God’s Word through rules, including them in praying about family concerns, and rehearsing answers to prayer together.
Applying God’s Word
There were a lot of new rules in our home after I became a Christian, and I had not said why. Now I explained that we were careful about our books, games, and movies, because King David had looked at something he should not have, and sinned. Afterward, he repented in great sorrow, and then lived by this rule: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes” (Psalm 101:3).
The next time a new rule was implemented, I wrote in my diary, “April 10, 1988: We have stopped using slang exclamations and oaths, because Jesus said, ‘Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil’ (Matthew 5:37).”
Seeing how we applied God’s Word in our home gave my children a foundation for obeying God on their own.
Praying about family concerns
Previously, my husband and I had shielded our children from all family concerns, but now I included them in praying over new needs whenever possible. On one occasion, we needed groceries, but the bank would not release funds without a check, and my check order had been delayed. We gathered in the living room to pray, and then searched the house. We found three temporary-issue checks in the mailbox, an unused check in an old checkbook, and my husband’s uncashed paycheck. My daughter held them up and exclaimed, “When you ask God for checks, you get checks!”
As new concerns arose, we became accustomed to immediately praying about them together. One afternoon, a bee got into the house and buzzed wildly as I swatted at it. Suddenly, Cameron took off running toward his room. I followed, thinking he was scared, but found him kneeling beside his bed, praying. A moment later, the bee flew out the open front door.
Praying together over problems big and small taught my children to turn to God for their needs, and gave them first-hand knowledge that He hears our prayers, has compassion, and can do all things.
Rehearsing answers to prayer
The Bible instructs us to show “the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.” The reason given for this is “that the generation to come might know them . . . that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:4, 6-7).
Prior to reading this verse, it had not seemed important to share answers to prayer with my children. However, I now added this to our Bible activity jar, with a card titled “Categories.” This was a game where one person would state a category, such as “Lost and Found,” and then each in turn would name a corresponding answer to prayer. The one who outlasted the others was the winner.
Rehearsing answers to prayer helped all of us remember and appreciate what God had done, as well as trust Him for the future.
Lesson Four: put down roots at church
One evening after church, I observed my son talking with a group of boys his age, and the Lord took the opportunity to teach another lesson. He brought to my attention that each of those boys came from a family of Christian parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. He showed me that they were like trees with vast root systems helping to anchor them in the Gospel. I realized that my children needed a larger root system.
From that point forward, I made sure they took part in as many youth activities among church families as possible, from children’s meetings to birthday parties. My hope was that they would make friends at church who would eventually become part of their “root system.”
That same year, Cameron and Catey were asked to participate in the church work, and we took advantage of every opportunity. Some of my diary entries for them in 1994 included, “April 10: Assisted in the church nursery . . . April 15: Handed out microphones during the testimony service . . . April 17: Played in the junior orchestra.”
Eventually, my children did make friends among the young people, but more than that, they became part of the entire family of God. The support and encouragement they received, and also that they were counted on to give, had the effect of anchoring them in the Gospel through their connections with God’s people. Meanwhile, participating gave them a sense of purpose, responsibility, and belonging. They were needed to show up, be in their places, and do their parts to help further the Gospel.
Applying God’s instruction for training up my children was not a guarantee they would take the way of the Gospel. However, it equipped them to make an informed decision. It gave them the knowledge of how to obtain salvation and live a victorious Christian life. It also showed them the value in choosing the Gospel—God’s goodness to us while we are here on earth, and the hope of Heaven in eternity.
Both of my children have chosen to serve God, and when my youngest graduated from college, I went to the altar full of gratitude. I prayed, “Lord, thank You for training up my children in the Gospel,” and then after thinking on this, I had to add, “And thank You for training up me as well.”