“Mom, that man is blowing on his smoking pipe. He must not know Jesus.” I laugh at the childish legalism of my 4-year-old. I also know this is an opportune moment to shape her worldview.
“Honey does it really mean someone is not a Christian if they smoke?”
“Well I don’t think he is a Christian, do you think so?”
“I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t talk about smoking. It doesn’t say not to smoke. Smoking is not a wise thing to do for our bodies nor a wise use of money, and in a lot of ways it dishonors the Lord’s plan for us. But all of us have sin and need a Savior, right?”
“Yes, I am a sinner!”
“And all of us will go to Hell if we don’t follow Jesus. The important thing is that we tell others about Jesus so they know the gospel and they have the chance to make a choice to follow Jesus. Let’s pray for that man that he will hear the Gospel if he doesn’t know Jesus already.”
What is a worldview?
A worldview is someone’s presuppositions, convictions, and values from which they understand and make sense out of the world and life. It’s the grid by which we interpret everything, consciously or unconsciously, and by which we judge reality.
Paraphrased from Faith and Reason, Making Sense of Your World and Think Biblically by John MacArthur.
The worldview we give to our children in little moments like these are vital. Our children, like us, are born depraved, with deceitful hearts. They are born legalists, thinking they can earn their way to salvation the way Adam and Eve thought they could atone for their sin with some fig leaves to hide their nakedness. As parents, we are to set up a guard in our children’s minds so that no one takes [them] captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8, ESV)
Shaping Your Young Children’s Worldview When They Attend Public School
I know that opinions differ on schooling, but for us personally, we are committed to sending our children to public school. We are open to the fact that it might not work out each year for each child. Physical, academic, or emotional needs of our children, or the time of life or location of our family might necessitate different schooling choices.
However, we truly wish to have our kids surrounded by the community we live in. We want them to develop compassionate relationships with those from different family backgrounds. We want them to withstand personal trials that will come in the public school system. We see the value in helping them weather the temptations and sins they experience personally or see in the lives of others, while they are still young enough to be completely under our authority and to value our input.
The conversations we have at home with Hailey, even as a 1st grader, shape her worldview. She filters what she hears at school from her teachers through the things we have taught her around our breakfast table during family Bible time, or the conversations we have while driving around town.
During her dinosaur unit this year she said “Mrs. Hapley said that dinosaurs lived long before humans, but I know that’s not true because of what you told me at home.” Another day she had a conversation with a boy in her class who told her God was not eternal. She quoted to him a verse we learned in our catechism “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God. ‘The one who is and was and is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:8, ESV) He proceeded to tell her that was a silly verse. I suppose that’s how 6-year-olds conduct spiritual conversations.
Character-building conversations the past two years have included discussions as to how to handle friend drama, injuries purposefully inflicted against her on the playground (there were many in Kindergarten, unfortunately!), forgiveness, and submission to her teacher.
Hailey has not submitted her life to Christ. She consistently tells us she is not ready. But nevertheless, her worldview has been shaped by what we learn at home so she filters the world through that lens.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
I don’t want to pretend that the way we shape our kids in the home is perfect. I know that my parenting has shaped my kids negatively as well. Just yesterday I overheard Hailey threatening to tear her little sister’s play script in half if she didn’t recite her part. I know that behavior stems from the quick threats I make to her to induce obedience, rather than stopping what I am doing to deal with her heart issue.
What about hard questions?
The framework we give our kids needs to firstly show our kids the great things about God.
“Knowing great things about God will help make us ready not to collapse under cataclysmic conflict and personal catastrophe.” Spectacular Sins, by John Piper.
There is really no reason at all that we shouldn’t teach our children deep theological truths. In fact, we absolutely should. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that we should see all Scripture as profitable for our children. During our family Bible time we do skip over parts that are not age-appropriate for small children.
I have loved working through a catechism with my kids for the very purpose of teaching our children theology. We use the catechism to memorize theological concepts and attributes of God along with verses. Our family loves the North Star Catechism, which is divided into age-appropriate categories. A free printable PDF is available here.
How much do we hide? How much do we reveal?
What about other current issues in the world around us? The pregnant unwedded woman you know, or the gay couple in your neighborhood? There are age-appropriate ways to help your child develop a framework for understanding these situations as well. It’s usually not helpful to change the subject or tell them they’ll understand when they are older, and in fact, it can build an unhealthy curiosity in their little sinful hearts. You can give them a foundation NOW for understanding God’s wrath toward sin, but also helping them to love the sinners around them.
If it stumps you to think of a good, age-appropriate answer in the moment, it’s ok to get help! Promise your child that you will answer them after you have had a chance to do more research. Talk to an older, godly mother or to your husband for help.
Something we often talk about is why something is dishonoring to the Lord, instead of telling our kids a hard and fast rule.
Use the dinner table
My dad would often use the dinner table as a place of training. He would bring up a situation (no names used) of something that happened at work or church, or even something as a child. He would ask us what should be done in this situation? We could weigh in, or he would stump us, and in the end he could share his wisdom and shape the way we would make a decision in a similar circumstance in the future.
We have many godly couples in our church who are examples to us in parenting. One of them taught a parenting class we attended last year. They related how they would tell stories to their children. Each of the children in their stories directly correlated to one of their children – same gender and age, personality – and they would romp through adventures, mistakes, and hard decisions. If you enjoy telling stories, this would be a great way to work through things your kids are struggling with, or may struggle with in the near future.
What kinds of things do you do to help shape your kids’ worldview? Be sure to leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.