Publication: One-to-One, Spring 2013
Years ago, my wife, Susanne, and I attended a class for new parents. We enjoyed going each week, watching a video, and discussing the lessons and testimonies with other young parents. The brownies were very good also!
One of the lessons focused on passing godly values to our children in a very specific and strategic way. The teachers challenged us to think about the values that we cherished as a family … biblical values, family prayer life, morals, ways of communicating and behaving, our heritage, and other foundational issues. Then, the teachers encouraged us to ask our children directly, “What are our family values?”
A couple of nights later, I sat down with my daughter, who must have been around four or five years old, and I asked, “Gracie, what are our family values? What is important to the Simpson family?” She gave it some serious thought and said, “Love God, obey your parents, tell the truth, and always stop at the red light.” I could find no fault with her answer!
Of course, we talked about a few other important values … not only on that night, but in the years since. I’m thankful that she received and embraced our family values and is now seeking to share these values with others by service and example.
PROCLAMATION THROUGH DEMONSTRATION
Values are best and most effectively shared through demonstration. In fact, that is ultimately how our real values are passed on. If I say I value patience, but demonstrate impatience and frustration, the people around me are not going to be receiving the blessings of patience. They may have to learn how to be patient in order to cope with me! But it will be a value learned in spite of me, not because I modeled it or shared it.
Just as those teachers taught us years ago, I believe it is vital to be very intentional about passing our values on to our children. The first step is in meditating on the values that we presently hold and seeing how they line up with biblical values. Another important exercise is examining how our stated values line up with our actual behaviors.
If I say that one of our family values is fiscal responsibility but regularly overspend on non-essentials, then two truths must be recognized:
1) I don’t really value responsibility
2) My children are seeing the disconnect
If I say I value generosity but never give of my time or my finances, then I’m teaching a lesson to my children to be self-centered misers.
If I say that church is a priority to me, but I seldom attend, seldom support it financially, seldom volunteer, and I constantly trash talk about the pastor and members, then is it possible that church is really NOT a priority to me? Is it possible that our kids are smart enough to figure that out? Is it likely that church will be a priority for them as they grow older? Does that matter?
More questions: have your children heard you tell them you love them? Do they hear and see you expressing love and honor for your spouse? Do they hear you praying or singing to the Lord? Are thanksgiving, reverence, and joy evident in your own life?
When you make the decision to have children, you have made a decision to be an example for them—for better or for worse — whether or not you realize it. As author Robert Fulghum said, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” You are not only modeling … you are sowing.
Years ago, I was in a video store. Remember those? I ran into a family from our church and we exchanged greetings. The dad then said to his sons, “OK, what movie do you boys want to watch tonight?” The youngest boy said, “Well, what movie does the preacher have?” Thank God, I had a very wholesome video in my hand! I was reminded again that night of the precious responsibility that we have as models for our kids and families.
If you tell your kids, “Don’t cuss, don’t talk nasty, don’t lose your temper” but you fill your home with violent or coarse humor, films, and music … well, what do you think will happen?
Another memorable quote is from motivator Zig Ziglar, who famously said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!” When is the last time you intentionally sat down and thought about your values personally or the priorities of your family … what is most precious to you?
If your house caught fire, heaven forbid, you probably know of a few things you would want to try to save above all else, aside from your own lives, of course. Many people will say, “family pictures” or other irreplaceable mementos.
But of even greater priority ought to be knowing the answer to this question: what are the truths, above all other truths, that I want my kids to know down deep in their hearts? What are the values I want to pass on to them?
It goes far beyond making sure they like your favorite football team or they know Grandma’s secret gravy recipe. Those things are great, but they won’t save anybody’s soul. What are the five or seven essentials of life that your children must know?
PASS IT ON
Once we’ve identified the values, we need to think about how to pass them along effectively. The Lord said this to his people:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
The Lord reminds us to walk with him in his presence and his ways at all times. If your children see that you put on and take off worship like an old pair of shoes, they will do the same. But if they see that you see worship as a lifestyle and that every step and every decision is submitted to God, then they will receive that same value. Jesus said to his disciples in John 15, “Abide in Me.” The practice of abiding is not just a thirty minutes on a Sunday event, or a “when I feel good” event, or a circumstance-based event. Abiding is a state of constant dwelling.
1) Identify Specifically
2) Communicate Verbally
3) Model Consistently
The generation that is emerging now … the Millennials and post-Millennials … are very, very verbally gifted. But, perhaps because of the virtual tsunami of words in our culture, the real currency of value is in demonstrated behavior. This will be true of your children and their friends.
If we are going to effectively reach them, we’ve got to re-assess what our true values are, how our behaviors are matching up with these values, and whether or not we are connecting these values with our children.
I confess, there are some areas where I’ve not been a very good model. I’ve wanted to do better, but I’ve come up short. This is where grace, forgiveness, repentance, and faith come into play. When I do miss the mark, it is grace that reveals my sin to me, convicts me of it, leads me to repentance, and gives me hope and power to move onward in a right direction.
There are times when it is very appropriate to admit your mistakes to your kids, ask their forgiveness, and tell them you’ve asked God’s forgiveness as well. In so doing, you will be modeling humility, faith, and love for them in a very practical way.
Loving parents have as their deepest desire the safety, health, happiness, and success of their kids and no desire can be higher than knowing that our kids have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and they are walking in his ways. Let’s agree together now in prayer for these blessings for our children, and let’s continue to work to pass godly values along to them.
Scripture Reference: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, John 15,
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.