Most evenings, should you peer through the front window of the Sauvé homestead, you would see two little men gathered around mommy and daddy on the living room couch (with the addition of one little lady in Russian-nesting-doll-mode), having a lively of discussion.
We gather thus to look to Jesus for grace through Scripture reading, catechism, prayer, and the singing of hymns. The hymns are the best part, as lines like "Be of sin the double cure" often morph into something like, "Be of sin the double Coors™"—which is a different thing altogether.
At the moment, we're plodding our way through Proverbs, which seemed appropriate in light of the amount of testosterone swarming through our home—Proverbs having been written from a father to his boy in the hopes of training him in wisdom. Last night we had a good discussion about whether or not mommy and daddy should have additional boy/girlfriends. You should have seen the look on Ari's face when I asked that one! It was like an offended owl was staring back at me, hooting with the indignant sputtering of a mind too shocked to link together the words of protest taking shape in his 4-year-old heart.
Why do we do this? You may find it odd that we would begin a conversation about adultery with the 4 and 2-year-old. My reply would simply be to say that many children have already witnessed adultery on TV before they ever hear a word about it from mom and dad. Most children are assiduously catechized by the Priests of Netflix and only rarely by mom and dad. So there is a positive reason we do this, as well as a negative one.
Positively, Scripture is emphatic in placing the burden of spiritual formation on parental shoulders (Proverbs 22:6; Deuteronomy 4:9–10, 6:5–9, 11:19; Ephesians 6:4). This is not a job you export to a secular humanist, government controlled school. This is not a job you export to a faux-hawked youth pastor. It is a job for dad and for mom, and that more than one hour out of 168.
Negatively, and as alluded to above, there is no such thing as an uncatechized child. Netflix will be a teacher; not a good one, but a teacher nonetheless. Google will field questions you would never believe your 8-year-old would consider. The Buddhist/Atheist/Humanist/Mormon/Moralistic Therapeutic Deist teaching 4th grade will put steady hands to the clay of your child's worldview. Facebook and Twitter will train them up in the fear and understanding of man. If I'm not, someone else is.
That said, allow me to make three suggestions to you, Christian parents.
1. Take your littles to big church.
In our church, we increasingly encourage parents to bring their kiddos into the adult service as young as possible. Ari has been in the service now since he was about three and a half. By the time a child is four or six, I tend to think it's time.
Some of you, I know, just guffawed at me—especially those of you who know that I generally preach sentence by sentence through whole books of the Bible for upwards of 50-60 minutes at a go. You think, "My kid would TEAR THAT PLACE DOWN in half that time." Maybe. But probably not. In fact, most of us grossly underestimate our children's capacities. We follow them around the playground, arms outstretched to catch them should they fall off the monkey bars. We only read to them from a kid's Bible. We babble at them in monosyllables until they are halfway through elementary school.
Do you know what this kind of bubble-wrapped, lowest-common-denominator parenting does? You are training your children to avoid risk while simultaneously teaching them that they are actually pretty unintelligent. Talk up to them. Make them ask you what a word means occasionally. Take them to 45-minute expository proclamations of the Bible and be perfectly content with 80% of it flying over their heads with a faint whistling sound. Let them watch you sing, lift your hands, pray, take communion, weep over sin, smile with Gospel joy—don't hide your worship under a childproofed bushel.
2. Find a church without a Jr./Sr. High service on Sundays.
I'm going to say something bluntly right now that may be offensive to you. Hear me out. It is really dumb, almost criminal, to have a separate service for Jr. and Sr. High school students on Sunday mornings. Having a separate Xtreme Youth Xperienze as an alternative to the Lord's Day gathering of the saints is an Xtremely bad idea. Why? Don't Jr. and Sr. High students need a gathering more catered to their attention spans and particular cultural values? Isn't this just contextualization? Don't you want to be missional, Brian?
Not if that's what you think missional means, I don't. Why are, by some estimates, upwards of 90% of High School graduates abandoning the faith within a year of leaving school? Lots of reasons, but certainly one of them has to be our instinct to multiply age and affinity ghettos within the body of Christ and promptly lock our people off into them. Seriously, if I see one more small group for singles/marrieds/hipsters/retired/geriatric hamsters, I'm going to vomit. I am doing so now, just verbally, I suppose.
Your 15-year-old is ready for big church, trust me. Stop patronizing her.
3. Promote dad.
Ignore everything else I've said if you can only pick one thing to do. Promote dad to Senior Pastor of your house. Get him a fake Mdiv and hang it on the living room wall if that will help. Getting dad to shepherd his little flock is the one thing you can do that will most pervasively invade every corner of your family's spiritual life. If dad is reading and heeding his Bible, there will be spiritual flourishing. I know, I know, the previous sentence is more a truism than an absolute, but let it stand. Read Proverbs; truisms are ok.
Let me directly address dads now for a moment: Dad, you can do it. You are more poised to train up your kids than anyone on earth. You don't have to be great, just faithful. Pick up your Bible, read a bit of it, point your kids to Jesus, and pray for them. Teach them to pray. Teach them to sing. Show them that masculine men love kids, love mom, and love Jesus. He who called you is able.