This past year will forever stand out as a year like no other. Our lives have been turned upside down as our livelihood, schedules, and ways of connecting with others have been completely redefined. Yet, our external circumstances aren’t the only part of our lives that have been affected. For...
It is now the middle of July, and the kids have been home long enough to spend unstructured, valuable time with you, take part in educational or sporting activities, relax a little, help around the house, and read. Perhaps you’ve taken family vacations, and a great time was had by all.
What? It’s not quite like that? In my experience those idyllic moments happen briefly, and they are rare.
Instead, on a parent’s mind right now might be how their children are never home, and when they are home, they are bored, binge-watching television, and eating all the junk in the house.
Perhaps that is why back to school sales start in July…
I love summertime, and when my children were still at home I thoroughly enjoyed their break from school, to-do lists, schedules, and homework. Unstructured time is valuable for a family.
But there is no better way to influence a child than to spend time with him or her.
Jesus chose 12 disciples with whom he spent three solid years. Going to “school” for Jesus’ disciples meant walking with Jesus, observing him, and learning from him. That worked out pretty well.
I realize that our culture is very different from the days of Jesus, but I believe parents can learn (at least) three pointers from the way Jesus interacted with his disciples to help us make the most of unstructured time.
1. Who is watching whom in your family? Make sure your children have enough time to watch you so that they know what a Christian life looks like.
Jesus healed, taught, and delivered people right before the eyes of the disciples, demonstrating the Kingdom of God, who he was, and what he desired for them. In chapter four of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus called his first disciples (4:18-20). The very next words Matthew wrote (4:23) tell us that Jesus went through Galilee teaching, preaching the good news, and healing every disease among the people. The disciples must have watched him with astonishment. I imagine them picking up their jaws regularly from the floor.
Parents today spend a lot of time cheering for their children on sports fields, at band concerts, or on stages. I did, too. Of course our children need to be encouraged and their efforts appreciated. Perfectly appropriate.
But it should go both ways.
Make sure your children have at least as much time to watch you live a Christian life as you spend watching them. How will your children know how to live, how to follow Jesus, if they never have a chance to watch you do it?
2. Teach with patience and let Jesus, and only Jesus, guide your words.
Jesus was incredibly patient with his disciples. They were clueless, and he gently explained things over and over. I can remember feeling like I couldn’t answer one more “Mom?” when my children were small. I needed patience, lots of it, and the only place I could get enough, when I remembered to ask, was from Jesus.
However, Jesus was not afraid to discipline his disciples. For example, Jesus strongly corrected his disciples when they were keeping little children from his touch (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17). Mark says he was “indignant” with his disciples for refusing them access.
The disciples were allowing other people’s expectations to influence their behavior. They figured that since children were of no consequence among adults, they had no business bothering Jesus. But Jesus strongly corrected them. Jesus does not think of children as a bother, and he communicated that message strongly.
Ask Him for all the patience that you need to be steady, wise parents, and for the wisdom to recognize when you are following someone or something other than God’s Word.
3. Let your children take responsibility and learn.
Jesus sent his disciples out by themselves “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Matthew 10; Mark 6:6-13; Luke 9:1-6). Jesus gave them power and authority, and his instructions were to take nothing with them. Out they went, two by two, with the clothes on their backs and the power and authority of Jesus Christ. What an experience!
Until I looked at the handy timeline in my study Bible, I presumed that Jesus did this later in his ministry, but it was only a year after he called the disciples. Shortly after they returned, expressing amazement at what they had been able to do, Jesus had another job for them. Jesus told them when faced with five thousand hungry people, “You give them something to eat.”
Jesus had all the power and authority that they would ever need, but they had to learn to use it. They were not to be passive learners, but active participants.
Similarly, our children should be active participants rather than passive learners in their own development.
Make sure your children have time to watch you live a Christian life, teach them wisely along the way, and allow them to be players in their own growth. That doesn’t sound too difficult, but it takes constant prayer and complete dependence on Jesus.