As promised in MINE ~ Teaching – and Learning – True Stewardship, we’re going to spend a few weeks talking about how to teach stewardship to our children. Teaching stewardship is exciting, because few things we teach will impact our children so greatly. Stewardship is vital to living a godly life. God expects us to care for and manage a number of areas in our lives, including our relationships.
Relationships are all about priorities and boundaries. Kids learn healthy boundaries by seeing them modeled. When those boundaries are removed, all kind of pain and heart-ache can ensue. Priorities are much the same way. We learn about priorities by watching our parents. It’s really important that we verbalize Scriptural truths so our children can identify them. More importantly, we must live them out in a way that demonstrates their presence in our lives.
So, what priorities should we be living out in regards to our relationships? I think there’s a solid hierarchy in regards to people in our lives. God should always come first, then our spouse, followed by our children. For children, that looks like God, then parents, then siblings. After God and family, we make time for friendships. Now, I’m not saying that we should not live missional lives. I’m saying that we can’t throw our families under the bus in our pursuit of others. If God has blessed you with a family, you have a biblical obligation to them. Likewise, it is Scriptural that our relationship with God be paramount in our lives. Anything that replaces that relationship with God, even our kids or spouse, becomes an idol.
In teaching relationship, my husband and I have opted to live life as an open book for our kids. We don’t have “quiet time” in this house. We read the Bible in front of our kids and to our kids. We pray nightly as a family. We pray aloud periodically throughout the day. We teach relationship with God by living it out. As our kids have grown, they have begun to engage in their own relationships with the Lord. It’s been exciting to watch.
Our goal in teaching human relationship has been, again, to model appropriate behavior. This includes being loving, kind, honest and respectful. We emphasize verbal affirmation and edification. There is no gossip allowed around our dining room table. Family members are expected to speak well of each other, and to encourage each other. Being human, and being sinful, we fall short. However, we find that the fastest way to curb gossip and unkind speech is to immediately make amends. If I find myself saying something unkind about someone we know, I stop and apologize for my sinful behavior.
Our ultimate goal is to love God and to love people (Luke 10:27). We do this by serving others, by paying attention and listening, by setting down the electronic appliances and looking the other person in the eye. Our hope is that our kids will learn the fine art of relating by witnessing it in action. So far, it seems to be working.
How does your family teach the stewardship of relationships? Do you have other ideals you think are important?
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.