Raising children in a religious family – Education

Today, more than ever, we are bombarded with social media and news clips on being the “perfect parent”, and other people dictating how we should raise our children – from what to feed them to what groups to take them to.

Then you have the headache of how to educate your child. There are so many choices you have to make for you child that will impact on their health and wellbeing, sometimes for their whole lives. Ultimately every parent wants what’s best for his or her child, but when all children are different who knows what’s best for them? At the end of the day there is no such thing as a perfect parent!

As someone with a religious belief it doesn’t make raising children any easier. In some ways it can make it much harder as we know that when we have our children we want them to love God and want them to follow his teaching as we do, and, from that point onwards, every choice we make has to be based on what we think God would want us to do. We are lucky that we can take our worries and concerns to God in prayer and that God will work in our lives to help us find the right way to go.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I think one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make so far is how to educate my children. We are lucky in this country that, as well as formal schooling, we have the option to home school our children, which allows us complete control over what they are being taught. We also have very tolerant schools that will allow children to be kept out of religious studies classes or assemblies if it conflicts with our beliefs. I know parents who have chosen both those options and have seen their children do well but as every child is different there isn’t one solution for everyone. I had to find what I thought was right for my children but that doesn’t mean it has to be right for yours. I didn’t think home schooling would work for me. To start with, I just didn’t have the discipline to home school.

I think, in the end, my decision was based on my personal experience of school. I wasn’t a fan of school at all, but, looking back, I see the value of going to school and experiencing different things that I never could have experienced at home. Some of these experiences were good, some bad, but they all helped to make me who I am today. Unfortunately, schools today are very different and the social norms are extremely different from what I experienced in school. For example, my children come home and they are talking about their friends’ families and how they have two homes and two sets of mums and dads. I don’t think I ever had a friend whose parents were divorced.

I know many Christadelphians struggle with things that are taught as fact in modern schools. We do not believe in or agree with evolution, for example. In a strange way this was part of why I chose to send my children to school. This is the world and the society we live in. It is constantly changing and the socially accepted norms (such as gender and sexuality) are constantly being challenged and revised and, as we are told in the Bible, it is only going to get worse.

As a parent your instinct is to protect your children from anything that is bad for them, but sometimes we can be over protective. As much as I want to keep them away from these things I know at some point they will have to make their own way in life. When they grow up they will need to find jobs and will be working with individuals from all walks of life. My children will be adults one day and won’t want to listen to my opinions and what I want for them in the same way.

So I decided it would be better to send them to school and instead of hiding these things from them let them deal with them head on. When they ask why their friend has two mummies, I explain, and then I explain what we believe, remembering also to tell them that not everyone believes the same things as us so we have to respect other people’s beliefs too.

Everyday we discuss what they’ve done. We always have some interesting discussions when they have had religious education lessons or the vicar has been into school. I have been told that they do, at times, go back to school and tell the teachers when we don’t completely agree with their version of religious education.

We are lucky. We have found a very supportive and understanding school for our children. Their teachers are very respectful of our views and they check with me if they are doing something which may be a contradiction to what we believe. This is something that I took into consideration when I looked around the local schools and I chose one which I felt would be a good fit for our religious beliefs.

So far it is working for us but my way isn’t the only way and, as I said at the beginning, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. All children are different so every decision I make has to be right for our family. It doesn’t mean it will be right for yours. Everyday I pray for God to guide me in the decisions I make for my children.

I hope that, in some small way, my sharing my own experience may be of help to you as you face the challenges of raising a family!

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

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Raising children in a religious family – We are expecting!

Whether you’re trying for a baby or you’re pregnant, at some point you start to think about that child and your dreams and aspirations for them. I remember when we were trying for a baby, never taking it for granted that I would get pregnant, I was very aware that a child is a gift from God and, if it is His will that we should have a child, then it will happen.

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127v3

When I knew I was pregnant and everything was going well I allowed myself to start to think about what I really wanted for my child. For some people this may be a good job, lots of money, a nice family. For me there was only one thing I wanted for my unborn child and that was for them to love God like I do and to follow His ways throughout their life. Then that got me thinking about how I would help them to achieve this because you can’t force someone to love God, can you?

I was raised in a religious family and in my late teens I made the decision myself to be baptised. So I suppose I could just do what my parents did, but what did they do? I can’t remember anything specific other than being taken to Sunday School, meetings and youth groups. Then it dawned on me! I didn’t need to do anything specific. My husband and I already centre our lives on God’s Word, the Bible, and that’s what my parents did. They taught us by the example of how they lived their lives. They taught me values based on scriptural principles and tried to give me a balance between learning God’s teachings and discovering what life was about. So, when I chose to be baptised I had come to my own informed decision.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words that I give you today. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re at home or away, when you lie down or get up. “Deuteronomy 6v5-9

What will this look like for my new baby and me? Shall I decorate the nursery with Biblical characters and only allow Bible based storybooks into my house? No, that’s not right for me. I would feel I was trying to force something on my child without giving them an alternative or a choice. I want God to be central to my child’s upbringing so I need to find a balance that works for my family.

I will have Bible storybooks. I will read them regularly with my child but I will also have other books too. I will pray regularly with my baby and, when they are old enough, I will teach them to pray and explain that prayer is the way we can talk to God. I will tell them how the first thing I did when I knew I was pregnant was to pray to God and thank Him for the wonderful gift that He had given me.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4v6-7

Wherever you are in your journey to parenthood, prayer can be a huge help and comfort. I know it was for me. There will be many tough decisions ahead but if you and your partner talk to each other and to God you will figure out the best way forward for your family.

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Loneliness at Christmas

December is almost here and the shops have been promoting Christmas since mid October! It is also appearing in adverts in newspapers, magazines, online and TV.

For most of us it is a happy time spent with families and friends but for some it is the loneliest time of the year. They live alone. Their loved ones may have died or are living far away. They remember the years gone by when they were surrounded by so many who loved them. Most of us can’t imagine being so isolated and unhappy.

We know, of course, that everyone struggles with loneliness at some point, even in the midst of a crowd.

The problem is so prominent in our society that the Government is proposing the setting up a Minister and a team to see what can be done.

The Bible, God’s Word, can provide hope and strength if we are prepared to let its message filter into our thinking. Please think about the positive flow of thought that comes from the Bible passages listed below. They are just a few of many.

King David wrote: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8)

“O Lord, all my longing is before you ; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 38:9)

“He (God) heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)

Jesus, God’s beloved Son, appealed to the people: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you , and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

The apostle Paul wrote: “ Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Peter, Jesus’ disciple, also adds to the message:” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

So David, Jesus, Paul and Peter, although at times feeling lonely, found their solace and comfort in God, knowing that His purpose with them would be fulfilled . The power of meditating on the Word of God, prayer and actively applying God’s principles in their lives provided the stimulus to keep going. We, with them can look forward to the promise of God’s Kingdom on this earth (Hebrews 11 to 12:1 and 2) and in that Kingdom feelings and experience of loneliness will be a thing of the past.

May those of us who are blessed with families and friends and looking forward to their company this Christmas spare a thought for the lonely and, if we can, invite them to share our happiness.

All quotes from English Standard Version. To find out more about our hope and how you can become a part of it, visit our website: www.ammanfordchristadelphians.co.uk.

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Loneliness

In spite of Facebook, Twitter and Skype, tools that help us to stay in touch with friends and relations, loneliness is one of the great evils of the 21st Century. This is particularly so for many elderly people. Some do not have any meaningful contact with others for weeks.

Yet God created us to be ‘social’ creatures, caring for one another. This is where Bible based Christianity can help. Take the creation of Eve for Adam.

imagesGod says “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). That ‘helper’ was Eve (v 20).

One of the main purposes of marriage is companionship, being like minded, particularly if both are Christians. Thus the Gospel brings the believers into fellowship with God and the Lord Jesus Christ. This unity gives a real meaning to life.

Jesus said “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The spiritual mind finds outlets in helping others come to the Gospel, knowing that this life is a pilgrimage to the promised coming Kingdom of God.

Having established that there is a resurrection to everlasting life for the faithful Christian, the apostle Paul writes “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that, in the Lord, your labour is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58). The Christian’s work is ‘not in vain’. There is a time of peace and righteousness coming. The regular reading of the Bible and prayer will provide spiritual stimulation, comfort and peace of mind (please look at Philippians 4:6 – 9). We all appreciate the depths of loneliness a wife or husband feels when their beloved partner dies. But they know and are comforted because they know that they are “… heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7), so that, by God’s grace, they will be together again when Jesus returns.

Christianity is about God’s plan for this life and the future. Paul wrote: ” …godliness (trying to be like God) is of value in every way as it holds the promise for the present life, and also for the life to come” (1Timothy 4:8). Our world, with all its problems, including loneliness, is comforted by God’s promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. What a prospect!

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*To find out more about our hope and how you can become a part of it, visit our website: www.ammanfordchristadelphians.co.uk.

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