There is so much talk these days about parents being the primary spiritual voice in a child’s life that it is almost cliche. Most point to Deuteronomy 6 as evidence to the parents’ responsibility. However, when I read that passage I am not sure that I agree that this is aimed ONLY at parents.
In Israelite culture they seldom thought about family the way we do. When we think of family we think of mom, dad and some kids. In some cases we might include some grandparents or even some aunts uncles and cousins. Depending on the size of your family this could be 2-3 dozen people or more.
Well, when the Israelites talk about family they were referring to an entire clan. Basically every descendant of one of the sons of Israel. This could be hundreds of thousands of people. Within the tribe the responsibility of raising children was shared among the many members of the tribe. We see evidence of this in the new testement when Jesus’ family left him at the temple and travelled for 3 days before they realized he was missing. As a parent I can only imagine this happening because Jesus’ parents assumed that he was with some of the other family members that were traveling with them.
So, when I read Deuteronomy 6 I tend to think that Moses was speaking to the whole of Israel. As such he would have been giving instructions to the tribes, not to the parents. Now in saying this I am not saying that parents should not be the primary spiritual to influence for their kids. What I am saying is that perhaps that thought is too narrow. Maybe the entire tribe should be working together to “impress the laws upon our children. ”
This is great, but we don’t have tribes any more. If Moses’ instructions were indeed for the tribe and not just for the parents, then how do we apply that in ministering to families today? I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but here is what I think it looks like:
* The church partnering with parents. Not just looking to give parents tools, but coming along side them in order to “impress these laws upon our children.”
* Families partenering with each other with the common goal of “impressing these laws upon our children.”
* Parents partnering with the church. I’m talking about a true, two way conversation where the parents are talking with the church about their struggles and successes as much as the church talks to the parents.
This is a fairly new thought for me, but as I think about this I really think that we should be thinking of discipleship of our children and youth in terms of Tribes rather then church and family. Paul referred to us as being of one body. Often times we think of this in terms of service within the church, but I think that this idea of being ONE BODY can apply to how we disciple children as well.
Now, I am not trying to let parents off the hook. Of 168 hours in a week a child with spend 1-3 with us at the church. They will spend another 35 hours or so in school. The rest of the time is spent under the care of their parent/guardian. Because of this parents ARE the primary spiritual influence for their kids. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be.
What I’m saying is that maybe the right model is somewhere between where we used to be (church as primary) and were some suggest we need to be. Check back tomorrow as I share a little more about my thoughts on this.Matt Norman
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