Summer—a time we eagerly anticipate, especially after enduring a long, cold winter. The days are longer, the weather more enjoyable, vacations are ahead, and the children are out of school.
But what does this mean?
Your children will be home seven days a week for the next several months! Think—what are they going to do? How are they going to spend all of their time?
What is the first thing to cross your mind? Is it a disappointment that your personal schedule may be disrupted? Or are you excited that your children are home for the summer? Do you look forward to the tremendous opportunity you will have to teach and build strong bonds with them?
God’s view of children is clear: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Psa. 127:3). In other words, children are a blessing—not a burden!
Verses 4 and 5 add more: “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.” God equates children with happiness!
It is clear we should count children as a blessing—one that brings tremendous responsibility.
Set the Right Goal!
With school not in session, it may be all too easy to hand over your children to the worst possible “babysitters” and “nannies”: Hollywood screenwriters, television producers, videogame programmers, etc. In many families, these have become children’s most dedicated mentors! We must strive to ensure this does not happen. We must make a conscious choice to take advantage of summer vacation!
We do not want our children bombarded with messages of selfishness, greed, deceit and “me first” attitudes. These messages are “boxed, wrapped and marketed” to target an unsuspecting generation in packages of vanity, illicit sex, hatred, physical aggression and rebellion against authority. This has produced a “generation that curses their father, and does not bless their mother” (Prov. 30:11). Do not take the easy route and let this world—Satan’s world!—take extra time from you and your children. Do not allow their impressionable minds to be filled with worthless garbage. It will have an impact!
Our children’s peers, those they have spent the entire school year with (if they attend public school), are products of this world. They are often cynical and emotionally drained. Many grow up too quickly on the outside, while on the inside are immature, morally weak and spiritually vacant. They will enter adulthood with a horrible foundation based on situation ethics: “Whatever feels right, do it!”
The job of a parent is much more challenging today than it was a generation or two ago. Parenting is one of the most difficult things adults will do in their lifetime.
But remember who we are: the few God has called (John 6:44) out of this world to live by His spiritual laws and build His character. We are reaping the spiritual benefits of living God’s way of life now. Therefore, we must take the extra time that summer allows to train and teach our boys and girls about the right way of life—God’s Way! Help them see their purpose as clearly as we see ours!
We must make it perfectly clear to them that they are not of this world—its ways, values and customs. As they are learning and following God’s truth (John 17:17), they will stick out like a sore thumb to their peers. Unless we allot time to teach them and help strengthen their convictions, our children will be sucked into the world. They will quickly copy its ways instead of God’s. Use the summer to remind them continually about God’s way of life and His laws.
You must actively work with your children and remove the extra baggage (the ways of this world) they picked up from school, replacing these with true values. Equip your children to withstand the pulls of Satan’s world.
Paul wrote, “For whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Use the summer to sow more “good” seed in your children.
You must make God a part of training your children: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows” (Psa. 127:1-2). God must be a part of everything that you undertake, especially in teaching your children.
This summer determine to teach your children how to live—giving them what they need to succeed in life.
A Hard Lesson That Only Summer Can Teach
Each summer when I was growing up, my family would often go to a cottage about four hours north of Toronto, Ontario. It was the highlight of our summer vacation. We would spend a week by a lake in the beautiful Muskoka area, swimming, boating, walking or just lounging around the cottage.
One particular summer, I had a school assignment: read a certain number of books during the break. While at the cottage, I did not want to do any reading. This did not go over well with my father; he forced me to complete my assignment.
That week at the cottage might not have been the most enjoyable one, but it is the one I have remembered the most. During that family vacation I learned a great lesson in obedience. My dad did not shirk his responsibility of teaching his children valuable lessons, no matter the time or the place.
We can easily fall into the trap of not holding to the standards that we should while on vacation. Do not allow this to happen. Give your children something they can “take home” and use the rest of their lives.
A Time of Opportunity
Once summer begins, the clock for parents is ticking. We have only a set amount of time until our children return to school. Every day, we need to look at each activity, event and moment in a way we may have never considered before: Our thoughts should always return to how we can reinforce God’s way of life. Whether during a simple shopping trip or a weekend camping excursion, every moment counts!
Summer provides countless ways to teach our children spiritual lessons. Take for example the simple chore of mowing the grass. How many lessons can we teach from that alone?
- Attention to Detail: Not missing the corners or forgetting to trim around the mailbox. Tie this to God’s Law, which is detailed.
- Appearance: Push the lawnmower in a certain direction and at the right height to make the final product look nice. Use this to teach that we serve a God of quality.
- Timeliness: Cut the grass before it grows too tall. Likewise, God always does things on time.
- Communication: Bring to the parents’ attention problems that arise, such as needing to change the oil. Similarly, God communicated to us through the Bible.
- Planning: Consider the weather and when the job can be performed. Use this to teach about “counting the cost.”
- Cleanliness: Clean the equipment and rake the lawn. Remind them of God’s command to mankind to dress and keep the garden (Gen. 2:15).
- Obedience to authority and taking correction: Listen to overall instructions and learn how to improve the job. Use this to teach about the importance of obeying God and following the instructions of His ministers.
The task of maintaining a lawn will also instill a sense of responsibility and ownership, leading to the gratification that results from a job well done: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12).
Mowing the lawn is not the only responsibility full of lessons. There are many other jobs that can be performed, such as washing dishes, washing windows, tending the garden, washing cars, doing laundry, errands or shopping trips, or maybe a project or two such as painting a fence or room.
When your children are old enough to work part-time and a job is available, they should take it. This is an excellent opportunity to apply what they have learned from doing chores. A summer job also gives them the chance to practice God’s financial law and see firsthand that keeping it keeps you and breaking it breaks you. Be sure to explain thoroughly the principles of tithes and offerings. Nine tenths will go much farther if the first tenth is given to God. In addition, second tithe is an opportunity to learn how to save. Ensure your children will plan how they will use it during the Feast.
Make it a point in everything you do this summer to teach your boys and girls to always strive to go the extra mile—beyond the “normal expectations.” Teach the principle “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecc. 9:10).
Chores and tasks are not the only opportunities to teach our children lessons. Almost anything can turn into a teaching tool, from sports and camping, to a barbeque in the backyard. Use every opportunity to educate.
Inviting brethren over on a Sabbath evening for a barbeque is a time when Proverbs 18:24 can be applied and taught: “A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Have fun teaching your children about manners and etiquette. You can start this at any age. It is amazing to see how quickly younger children will follow an example of both parents sitting with correct posture and using their cutlery properly. They want to copy us—give them the right example and they will learn from it!
The simplicity of going for a walk in a park is bursting with opportunities to instruct our children. Walking by a pond or a lake where flowers and animals are abundant can help us make the scriptures of Matthew 6:26-34 come alive in vivid color in the young minds of our children. We can use a similar walk to explain Romans 1:20. “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.” Encourage your children to ask questions, to think about what you have told them and share their thoughts.
Vacations provide an opportunity to slow down and enjoy time with the family. All too easily we can plan a getaway that has an agenda longer than what would easily fit into the period. Amusement parks, sightseeing and traveling by car or plane can be exciting. Nevertheless, be balanced; leave time for a canoe trip on a calm lake, or a day of building sand castles at the beach, or a simple activity of shell hunting. You can enjoy the company of your children without the glitz of society.
Once we focus our minds on the activities that can increase and make the most of our time with our children this summer, we should never run out of possibilities to teach, teach, teach and teach! Assign chores. Go for walks regularly through the neighborhood or a local park. Every Sunday afternoon, go on a family outing. Set goals and meet them!
Tools to Use
The Restored Church of God has an abundance of material to help you teach your children God’s Way. The cupboard is full—be sure to use it!
Familiarize yourself with the following pieces of literature: Train Your Children God’s Way, Sex – Its Unknown Dimension (for older teens), The Tragedy of Drug Abuse, The Alcohol Epidemic – The Tragic Curse of Alcohol Abuse, A Generation of Pleasure Seekers and The Education Crisis. These and other publications help you to properly teach your children.
Also, we have a number of items available that can be read to your children, and/or your children can read and study these items themselves: Children’s Bible Lessons, The Story of the Bible, Bible Introduction Course and a magazine tailored for youth—Ambassador Youth.
Read The Story of the Bible to your children, beginning at any age. The lessons and personalities of the Bible will come alive in their minds! The Children’s Bible Lessons can be used as coursework to instill the truth of God’s way of life. For teenagers, the Bible Introduction Course is an excellent tool that clearly explains the awesome potential they can achieve. Finally, Ambassador Youth is full of articles that will help our teens win their battle against the many pulls of this world.
Never forget that “for unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). You have the tools. Use them to teach your children—morning, noon and night!
Present the Big Picture Daily!
Life is difficult enough and the pulls of this world are tremendous on our children. Do not neglect the time you have in the summer to instill in them the moral strength, stamina, courage, perseverance and confidence to stand against the world’s current and hold fast to the way of life that brings true happiness and joy!
God has armed us with incredible knowledge of His purpose. Take the time this summer to inspire your children to discover their strengths, to achieve the right goals, to learn about the true God and to develop their extraordinary human potential. You will be glad you gave them the tools to succeed in life!