This is an excellent book that I commend to all my readers, particularly those with children or grandchildren. It is essentially a collection of conversations the author and his wife have had with their children about the faith. Typically then Jim reflects a bit on the topic that was discussed for the reader. I was particularly encouraged by the model of living out Deuteronomy 6, particularly verses 6 & 7:
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
This book shows good examples of parents simply paying attention to their children and making the most of opportunities to talk about God. You don’t have to have a theology degree to do this. You simply have to be intentional and engage your kids.
Another key thing I noticed in the book is how often the children themselves raise questions about the faith. When your children ask questions you have the greatest opportunity to teach them because their interest is already piqued. So I asked Jim:
What have you and your wife done to create a setting in your home such that your kids naturally ask about and speak of things concerning God? Of course kids ask questions, but what leads to them so naturally asking about God? God seems to be a natural part of life, and while any Christian parent would hope for this I find many who wonder how this can be accomplished.
Our kids' readiness to ask questions about God traces back to a number of factors. Some of these are not extraordinary, such as our consistent involvement with our church and our teaching them the Bible. But we are also intentional about pointing out biblical lessons which play out in our daily lives as a family. We constantly come back to the Golden Rule, particularly when the kids are fighting or behaving selfishly with one another. I can't count how many times we've said to them, "Now how would you feel if s/he did that to you?" This is such a powerful question because it forces them to apply the Golden Rule. Although sometimes it feels like this doesn't get through to them, over time the impact is evident.
Also, as is clear in Gum, Geckos, and God, my wife and I constantly draw biblical lessons from nature, whether its observations about insects, gardening, or family pets. We also weave theology into our conversations about popular culture, from Star Wars to baseball. The more we do this, the more naturally kids will do this themselves. Our hope and prayer is that this will develop in them a fully integrated faith, where they consciously apply their Christian worldview to literally everything they experience.
These are all positive things that we do to theologically fertilize our kids' minds. But one significant choice we have made is a particular kind of abstinence: the elimination of TV programs from our home. We do have a television, but it doesn't pick up any channels. So our kids can only watch DVDs and videos which we have screened beforehand, and their time doing this is quite limited. TV is not a default entertainment in our home, nor does it function as an electronic babysitter. Consequently, our children spend more time than most kids reading, doing crafts, and playing outside, so they become more active thinkers. This has the added benefit of preventing them from being exposed to thousands of commercials which are so powerful in conditioning young minds to have a consumer mentality. So for our family, the elimination of TV has been the ultimate case of addition by subtraction. I highly recommend that parents give it a try. Yes, it's difficult (at first), but the benefits are amazing. And not just for the children. Your marriage will benefit as well!