“Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments”

6 May

I am constantly on the lookout for new books about Children’s and Youth Ministry. A lot of the books I read promise great things through simple strategies, but have serious theological flaws that mean they fail to promote real Christian growth. Sure, they might make for big children’s ministries and youth groups, but because the gospel is not at the center and people are not being challenged to respond to and be changed by the word of God, those big groups often shrink down considerably when high school finishes. This is particularly reflected in American research that notes a high ‘drop-out’ rate among senior high church attenders once they leave for college. That same research also suggests that teenagers whose parents were regularly and actively involved in discipling them were more likely to continue with church attendance and remain committed to their faith.

 

Put simply, clever programs don’t make Christians. God makes Christians as he works through his word and through people as they bring his word to bear on the lives of others and point them to Jesus. As parents, it is our great joy that we are given the responsibility of bringing the word of God to bear on the lives of our children, raising them to know and love and serve the Lord Jesus. There are a number of passages in the Bible where this truth is borne out, but one of the simplest is Deuteronomy 6:6-7:

 

These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.

 

This command to Israelite parents about to head into the promised land tells us something simple, but fundamental about what it means to be a parent as one of God’s people living under him: We point our children to God. We talk about him, and his word. Any moment, is a potential moment for us to do that. It’s nothing fancy, but that is how God changes and preserves his people.

 

In her book, Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments, Kara Durbin captures what passages like Deuteronomy 6 teach us. In her introduction, she relates this story;

 

‘A number of years ago, my sister told me about a time when she caught her five-year-old son lying. She told him he should always be honest, not only because she said so, but more importantly, because God said so. She then quoted a related Scripture to him and explained what it meant in reference to what he had done.’

 

Durbin’s sister pointed her son to God, through his word. She seized the moment before her as a ‘teachable moment’ and not only disciplined him, but discipled him. This is a book that gets the basic theology right. God changes people, through his word, and through people as they bring his word to bear on the lives of others.

 

Another thing this book gets right is its readability and usability. Durbin makes it easy for us as parents to bring the word of God to bear on the lives of our children. The first nine pages of the book explain what a ‘teachable moment’ is and how we can both identify and create opportunities to use them. The next four pages explain how to prepare yourself to get the most out of teachable moments when they arise and what to actually do when they come. The rest of the book is an A-Z topical guide (close to 200 topics are covered), each with a list of relevant verses, suggestions for discussion, activities, action points and parenting tips (it’s actually not all that dissimilar to our own Take Home material). Topics like anger, generosity, patience, obedience, salvation and responsibility are presented simply and thoughtfully.

 

This is a book that every parent should consider reading and having on hand. Not only is the book itself a helpful reference, but if we take on board the principle of using ‘teachable moments’ to point our children to Jesus we are well on the way to being an effective discipler of our children.

 

I have two minor disagreements with Durbin, but they are not enough for me to withhold recommending her very good approach to discipling children. First, it is clear that Durbin has a slightly different understanding of how the Old Testament applies to us today. She applies the Old Testament to us directly, where we would apply the Old Testament to us in light of its fulfillment in Jesus. Second, Durbin’s use of ‘proof texting’ (picking a verse to prove what you are saying) means that she occasionally picks a verse that doesn’t quite mean what she is using it for. One example is her use of Hebrews 6:12 to talk about being lazy. The context of Hebrews 6 makes it clear that the laziness in verse 12 is about being spiritually lazy, while Durbin emphasises physical laziness. It’s not that far off, but not quite right either. For the most part, the passages she has chosen are good, and using one verse to explain something to a child on the fly in a teaching moment is not unreasonable. I would suggest reading each of the passages listed in context to make sure they are on target.

 

All in all, Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments is well worth reading, and even more worth doing! You can find it online for around $15.

 

Brendan Moar

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