This is the first of three articles in a mini-series about teaching our children about Christ. This article is for general, mostly Christian audiences, and the final two, which are more specific to LDS readership, will appear in Mormon Times.
Our travels throughout the world have taught us that almost all Christian parents everywhere wish they could do a better job of teaching their children about Christ. Regardless of their denomination (or lack of one), if they consider themselves to be Christian, parents know that knowing more of Christ will help their children not only to live better lives but also to be more secure and happy.
And most of us know, deep inside, that knowing about Jesus and his teachings should not just be one aspect of our children’s nature or personality, but should become their very core. So ultimately, of all the things we want to teach our children, none are as important as helping them to know more about and feel more connected to know the Savior.
Usually the most common starting point is some kind of New Testament storybook for young children. There is nothing quite so wonderful as a parent reading stories aloud to a young child, and it takes on an even more intimate and emotionally connecting tone when the stories are about Jesus.
There are so many wonderful read-aloud books available today, and we have been in homes where there are literally hundreds of them on the children’s bookshelf. We should all be sure that at least one of the read-aloud books in our own library is a storybook about Jesus. The stories — about miracles, about kind and heroic acts, about what really matters and what doesn’t — are the greatest stories ever told. Some are about Jesus and others are the stories he told to groups at the seaside or on the hills to illustrate his points. Almost all are simple and relatively easy for young children to understand.
We occasionally meet non-Christian but highly principled parents who tell the stories of Christ simply because they are the best stories they have ever found to teach certain values.
But for parents who are Christian, is a bedtime story once in a while enough? Or do many of us long for a more thorough and systematic way to teach our children about Christ? We often sense that something this important should not be left to casual, spur-of-the-moment storytelling that we do when we happen to think about it.
We concluded many years ago that, for us at least, teaching our children about Christ should not be something left to chance or to whim, and that we wanted to work on it every week and to have some sort of organization about it so that we did not leave out any aspect of the Savior that we wanted our kids to be exposed to and hopefully come to understand.
We were living in England at the time and had responsibility not only for our own children, but for the LDS missionaries in the southern part of Great Britain. We decided that we wanted them, both our children and the missionaries, to have a fresh, new aspect of Christ to focus on each Sunday as they attended church. So we set out to write 50 or so little vignettes, each telling one special story or looking at one unique facet of Christ’s life or nature.
Our theory was that if a child, or an adult for that matter, could concentrate on a fresh, new thought about Jesus each week and go to church thinking about it, there would be a gradual progression of his familiarity and his love for Christ.
For what it is worth, we would like to share these weekly vignettes with you. You can find them online at ValuesParenting.com/WhatMannerofMan/.
Teenagers do pretty well reading these on their own, although a short family discussion each Sunday makes them much more meaningful. Smaller children, of course, need some interpretation from a parent, which, by the way, usually also helps parents understand the vignettes better.
Good luck to all of us as we strive to teach our children what are perhaps the greatest stories and lessons of all time.