Taking time to discuss our faith

Parents provide for the natural wellbeing of their children, promote their talents, and support them as they grow into adulthood. But parents are also responsible for the spiritual development of their children. “Take a little more time for this,” said Chief Apostle Schneider as he appealed to parents.

Responsibility for the religious education of children lies first and foremost with their parents, said the Church leader in a divine service in Hannover, Germany. Parents are the ones who serve as examples to their children, be it in prayer, trusting in God, believing in the sacrificial death of Jesus, and believing in His resurrection. And this is important in a time in which life without God appears all too normal and when a Christian lifestyle is a lot like swimming against the proverbial stream.

Not abdicating responsibility to teachers

Here the question can quickly arise as to who is responsible for being an example and for instructing the children. “At times I get the impression that parents simply delegate everything to the teachers: ‘Well, they ought to show the children what it means to believe! Why don’t they explain to them who God is?’ And if the children do not grasp this, it is all the teachers’ mistake,” noted Chief Apostle Schneider. “This may sound a little exaggerated now, but you understand what I mean! Please do not abandon our ministers, our teachers, and the brethren who have dedicated themselves to the service of the Lord! After all, we too can do something to help along! We can help make the burden lighter for them, pray for them, cooperate with them, and work with them,” said the Church leader.

A Sunday School lesson does not comprise a religious upbringing!

This makes it clear that everything comes down to good collaboration between parents and teachers. By no means should a parallel society develop: a daily upbringing devoid of religion on the one hand, and a 60-minute immersion every Sunday into what the children come to feel as “foreign worlds of faith” on the other. This will ultimately only create confusion—for both young people and older people. It is important to be an example in daily life, to be a Christian outside of the Church too.

In a secularized age, as many people experience it today, faith in practice—like deep knowledge about the content of our faith—brings orientation and security to children and young people alike. This is imparted in equal parts by parents and grandparents—as well as ministers and teachers.

Church lessons are a guide

So does that mean the Church has nothing more to do with the religious education of our children? Of course not, the Church still provides religious education! Even though the responsibility for the religious education of children lies with their parents, it still remains the general mandate of the Church to “prepare believers for the return of Jesus Christ” (CNAC 6.5)—and this naturally also includes the children. Thus the Church’s teaching offers, such as Pre-Sunday School, Sunday School, Religious Instruction, and Confirmation Instruction—depending on local circumstances—are a part of the religious upbringing of the children.

Beyond that, some District Churches have been distributing special publications to parents, teachers, and ministers for a few years now. These serve to provide tips and good advice to members who are concerned with educational questions. The publications deal with topics such as “Children and media”, “Praise and punishment in raising children”, but also other topics that are closer to Church, such as “Children and divine service”, or “Raising children in faith”.

Taking time for discussions with children

The ‘Our Family’ magazine, which is published bi-weekly, is planning to build a bridge to the ‘Our World’ magazine by the year’s end. Four new pages in every other volume will delve into topics from concurrently published issues of the children’s magazine, and will feature background information about the Bible story as well as an educational article. This background and supplementary information will offer parents and grandparents a basis of content that will enable them to initiate discussion with children about faith. The same applies to the special children’s pages in the ‘community’ magazine, which is published in several languages.

“Please take a little more time for this,” asks the foremost clergyman of the New Apostolic Church.

But even when it comes to this effort, restraint is necessary here and there: “Do not impose any useless rules. Content yourselves with imparting the gospel and the love of Jesus to them. Allow the youth and children to discover and recognize Jesus Christ,” said Chief Apostle Schneider.

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Oliver Rütten
Doctrinal instruction, Congregational life