Liturgy and Child Rearing

Books on child-rearing are a dime a dozen. In fact, my own bookshelf at home has an entirely dedicated section to books on parenting. These books cover quite an eclectic set of topics. Of course, the books I have generally come from a more Reformational perspective. But being Reformed today is code word for being cool; so, that does not say much. There are books on child-rearing coming out exhorting parents to spank and some to spank little to none at all.

I have even heard parents boast that they rarely spank their children. They say that they have found more creative ways to discipline than spanking. This is almost equivalent to saying that even though the Bible says “do not spare the rod,” I have found a more effective way of disciplining my children (certainly wisdom dictates at what age spanking is no longer necessary; here I am addressing little ones). Others blast parents who spank for any reason on facebook because “any spanking leads to abuse,” they argue. One writer implied that spanking is the equivalent of what a judge did recently to his daughter. I beg to differ. As I have always quoted, “An abuse of something is not an argument against its proper use.”

Some also blame Christianity or fundamentalism (the famous undefined word used by the media) as culprits of this child-abuse culture. Never mind the extreme abuse of non-church goers and atheistic minded parents that certainly exceed the abuse in Christian communities. But why would the media report on the overwhelming care of godly parents who spank their kids? Why would the media concern herself with faithful parents who love, encourage, but also discipline? Why would the media care about parents who act like God acts?

Not every act deserves a rod or a glue-stick (for we modern disciplinarians). Though I argue that spanking is the fundamental method of discipline in the Bible, some acts of disobedience demand a conversation or a sharp rebuke. At times a mere look will communicate what the parent intends. This is all a large part of wisdom. But what does this all have to do with liturgy?

Liturgy is grounded in acts. Every act leads to something else. In liturgy, skipping to a meal before being cleansed (washing of hands) is improper. The liturgy shapes us. Specifically, the Lord’s Day liturgy has a way of forming us into obedient children of the Most High God. Liturgy forms us into gospelizers as parents and children. Liturgy is order and decency (I Cor. 14:40). This is one reason structure is so crucial to the Church, and more to the point this is one reason structure is so significant to the life of the home. A home that lacks structure is a home that lacks a consistent liturgy.

Worship establishes patterns of behavior. First, we are cleansed, then we are taught, and then we are commissioned. This is a synopsis of a covenant renewal model. When you apply this pattern to child-rearing you realize it is a sober method of disciplining. First, children need to understand that they have sinned against God (Psalm 51) and against one another. Children need to confess and be cleansed. Children’s ability to understand sin is far greater than we can imagine. Part of this cleansing process is the presupposition that all sin is communal. No sin affects only self.  Children are born and baptized for the sake of incorporation: The first into a biological family; the other to a biblical, cosmic family.

Secondly, the task of parenting then follows in teaching. This is didactic parenting. All parents are home-schoolers in one way or another. I am assuming here the role of nurturing and building up as part of the instruction. The instruction needs to be age appropriate and biblically saturated, even if the verse is not quoted verbatim. Teaching needs to be done calmly and with great patience. The impatience of our children often reveals our impatience.

Finally, the parenting liturgy concludes with commission. The father/mother, after having cleansed the child, instructed the child, the parent sends this child out to go and sin no more. This commission stems from the previous steps. Commissioning is the call to be reconciled to the world beginning with our households.

Parenting is always liturgical. A make-up-as-you-go liturgy will cause certain effects on the liturgy of the home. I argue that every child needs structure. This is not a never-adjusting structure, but a foundational structure. Within this structure there is liberty. Parents know it and our children do as well. Liturgy is nothing more than the structure of life.


About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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3 Responses to Liturgy and Child Rearing

  1. jghanby says:

    This is a very helpful perspective/ corrective, for one who will begin the discipleship of our first child in a few months.
    You mentioned your abundance of books on parenting. What are some you’ve found to be most helpful? Also, any good ones specifically on raising sons?

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