From Chapter 1
LET'S START AT THE VERY BEGINNING
On the hospital steps a midwife places the baby into its mother's arms. Fingers fumble as father straps his hours-old first-born into the car seat. Hearts bursting with pride, mixed with trepidation, they make their way home, avoiding any potholes in the road lest the little passenger should stir. Before them lies a journey, not just back to their freshly painted nursery and waiting Moses basket, but a journey into parenthood. How will they fare? Will the pressures be too great? Will they work together to bring up this child, or will one be left to cope alone? Will their offspring be industrious or work-shy; a credit to his parents or a source of worry? If the parents are committed Christians, their overriding concern will be to see their child coming to know and love God as Father. But where to start? ...
From Chapter 3
It’s 4.30 pm on a drizzly Friday afternoon. The phone is silent, the smell of jacket potatoes wafts from the kitchen, Peter’s key is heard in the front door and we’re ready to go. What do you actually do on a Family Night, you may ask? Well, come and see.
While no two Family Nights were the same, we did have some basic ingredients from which each evening could be created. Our aims were to give Lois and Nathan our time, to have fun – lots of it – and to share our love for the Lord Jesus. Typically a Family Night would incorporate an activity, a meal, music and singing, a Bible story (which was often acted out) and a prayer time. We did not feel bound to include each aspect every week – except, of course, eating a meal! Being on a small scale, as opposed to a large church-based youth meeting, we were able to be flexible if plans needed to change at the last minute. In the early days Nathan would build up Duplo towers on the floor with Peter or do a puzzle, while five-year-old Lois and I might decorate little cakes in the kitchen to surprise the boys. The activities had to be age-related, but each child had the full attention of one parent. On our very first family night we scrubbed up Lois’ outgrown, bright red, sit-and-ride fire engine, ready for Nathan to use. Everyone got rather wet but we enjoyed working together and felt we deserved pancakes for tea.
Where shall we eat?
Isn’t it interesting how often meals feature in the Bible? Jacob relinquished his birthright for hot food, the Jews celebrated the Passover meal, King Xerxes gave a banquet, as did Belshazzar and Herod. So many of the Lord Jesus’ teachings and parables were centred round the meal table. Eating food with others is such an enjoyable part of life. On Family Night we tried to be creative in our eating. In the summer we might take a picnic to a park, before exploring the play apparatus or having a game of football or cricket. Even when the weather was not on our side we would eat in the car before putting up umbrellas and splashing in the puddles. This, like everything else, was a shared activity giving Peter and me the excuse to put on our wellingtons and join in the fun. Spare dry clothes were usually packed in the boot of the car just in case of mishaps.
The bunk bed featured quite early on in the history of Family Night when we had tea on the top bunk, after which we read the account of the storm on Lake Galilee. Acting out the Bible story, we imagined ourselves being buffeted about in the boat. Fortunately we arrived at the stilling of the storm just before our enthusiastic little actors threw themselves off the bunk into the ‘sea’.
From Chapter 11
DEATH AND NEW LIFE
Death is a fact of life
Most children encounter death when they are very young, often by observing a dead insect or animal. The sight of a creature, which they know should be breathing and moving, lying limp and still, seems to hold a fascination for children. The highlight of my young nephew's school trip on a canal barge was seeing a dead duck floating in the water. For weeks Nathan remembered the dead frog we had observed in the road, when out on a walk. Death is such a complex concept that it is not surprising that children do not fully grasp its implications until they are around the age of nine or ten. It is one of those subjects where information has to be gradually assimilated. Sadly for some it comes as a chilling deluge rather than a drip, drip process. No two bereavements are the same and we fall into a trap if we try to make comparisons. To one child, grandfather might be someone in Australia he had only seen once in his life. To another, grandpa had always lived round the corner and was his listening ear, model boat builder and hero.
NEW LIFE'How can I know if my child has become a Christian? She says when she asked Jesus to forgive her nothing happened.'
'At what age can you expect real conversion, after all a four or five-year-old can't possibly understand everything about the Christian faith?'
'My son says he is a Christian but he is still so naughty at times!'
'My daughter is only eight but she is asking about believer's baptism? What should I say?'
Many are the issues we face and it can feel like walking a tightrope. We want to encourage conversion, but without pressurising our child to make a profession of faith which is unreal. We would expect to see some change of behaviour in a converted child, but cannot assume he will become instantly perfect. Are there some basic facts a child should understand and believe, in order to become a Christian?