I grew up being a ‘preacher’s kid’ — and I hated the glare of the semi-public eye; the idea that somehow our behaviour was being scrutinized and I hated the idea that anything I did or said was somehow reflecting on my parents and their strategies. My parents were (wisely) super reluctant to add to that pressure (apart from the occasional sermon illustration), and so I have this first piece of parenting advice:
- Never give parenting advice.
But parenting in this ‘modern’ world — a world that feels increasingly hostile to the core truths of Christianity, where our kids are being bombarded with other visions of truth and goodness even from kindy — parenting feels increasingly difficult, and increasingly like we don’t have a textbook or example to follow anymore. What my parents did for me might not work in this shifting landscape; and I’m suddenly very open to advice… to hearing just ‘what appears to be working’ for other people rather than ironclad ‘100% guaranteed’ methodologies…
It’s also pretty clear to me that part of the problem with parenting advice is that every kid is different… and yet there are certain things that we have in common because we’re people, and certain things that are supported by research and experience. So here’s my second piece of ‘almost fool-proof parenting advice’…
- Get your kids singing the truths of the Gospel.
I first noticed how powerful music is for teaching kids when we hooked our kids on Colin Buchanan — but one can only handle so much Colin on repeat (as great as he is). I’ve read a few articles from time to time citing studies that say one of the big predictors for whether kids will stick with church — as much as those studies are useful — is dads singing in church with their kids… there’s something about us demonstrating the emotional power of the Gospel, that it moves us to sing, that is a powerful way of modeling that we really love Jesus to our kids… which means I’ve often tried to wrangle at least two children at least once or twice in the opening bracket of songs at church. What has been game changing for our family is the Creek Road Songs We Sing playlist on Spotify. It’s standard bed time fodder for our family; and I’ve loved singing This I Believe with our oldest — Soph — at bed time. Her absolute favourite song is Made Alive. She had me play it on the school run the other morning. Twice. Singing along in the back seat. Singing these words:
“I once was dead in sin, alone and hopeless
A child of wrath I walked, condemned in darkness
But Your mercy brought new life
And in Your love and kindness
Raised me up with Christ, and made me righteous
You have bought me back
With the riches of
Your amazing grace and relentless love
I’m made alive forever, with You, life forever
By Your grace, I’m saved”
I’m prepared to bet that this mantra bouncing around in her head day in day out will be every bit as powerful as whatever she’s taught at school. She’s singing gospel truths to herself, and this playlist has been a powerful tool in helping her understand things about God, herself, and how Jesus came to bridge the gap between God and us.
One thing I didn’t know until recently is that there’s not just a playlist of songs we sing in church — but also a Creek Road Kids — Songs We Sing playlist, and a Creek Road Youth — Songs We Sing playlist. I’ll be adding them to our rotation so these songs don’t go the way of Colin (you’ll be back Mr Buchanan. Promise).
(Hint: it’s not just for kids).
One of my favourite old school theologians is a bloke named Augustine, he waxed lyrical (pun intended) on the power of music in talking about his conversion to Christianity — he says it was listening to hymns being sung by choirs of believers that ultimately got truths about Jesus to sink into his heart. He said:
“The voices flowed into mine ears, and the truth was poured forth into my heart” — Augustine, Confessions
Singing has a way of getting the Gospel into our hearts. It shapes our love for God, and gives us a script we live by. In the last couple of years at South Bank we’ve had people join us — putting their trust in Jesus for the first time — because of the powerful effect that Christian music has had on them in cultivating a sense that they needed something and the answer to that need was found in Jesus. It’s powerful stuff. Music. We too can sing truth into our hearts — in a process that starts with songs flowing into our ears and ends with their truth pouring out from our changed hearts.
Campus Pastor, South Bank Campus