Mr. Gritters is a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California. He has six children and nineteen grandchildren, and has served often as elder in the church.

Probably the greatest obligations in the lives of most Christian couples are making a livelihood, homemaking, and rearing children. Regrettably, we probably approach these tasks in just that priority, too! Regrettably, I say, because life’s busyness so easily warps our perspective when it comes to raising the covenant seed. How many of us have not said, in retrospect, our children having grown up and left the home, “Would to God that I had more faithfully redeemed the time while my children were under my wing, those critical years in their spiritual growth and development!” How hard we labor to feed our children, to clothe them to perfection, and to shower them with an abundance of earthly possessions!

But—is that what we promised we would give them? When we stood before God’s people with this child in our arms, we were asked simply and clearly, “Do you know that this child is sanctified in Christ; that the doctrine of the scriptures, and our confessions, and of this Christian Church is the perfect doctrine of salvation, and therefore, you must instruct them, or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?” And we said, “Yes! We do. We will.” What a promise! What a responsibility! What a commitment—a commitment we carry with us from our children’s infancy to adulthood.

But how quickly the years race by; and, before we know it, our bumper sticker says, “Happiness is being a grandparent!” A grandparent? How often do we as parents exhibit such enthusiasm and reflect with the Psalmist, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord. Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them. They are like olive plants about thy table.” Children are and should be our pride and joy, but we must always remember they are God’s children. In the same way that God deals with us—His children—so we must firmly, and in love, educate the children He entrusts to our care.

It is to this same end that the Lord has called faithful ministers and teachers to assist us in this awesome but wonderful task. They too, in their special callings, share the commitment to “piously and religiously educate . . . .”

How can our church and our schools be most effective in helping us to rear our children? Let’s consider three aspects. To the Commitment we addressed above, I would add two more: Cooperation, and Communication.

Cooperation—working together toward a common goal—is vital. If you take a child by the hand and pull him to the left, and I take him by the other hand and pull him to the right, he will not only suffer physical and mental distress—he will go exactly nowhere? (An over-simplification, no doubt.) Our children must see that in love we are all pulling in the same direction. And that is best demonstrated by good communications. This, too, begins at home. (Has Mother indeed said you shall start on your homework right now? Well, I’m figuring on taking you to play ball for a while!) Such “conflict” should be resolved before it comes to expression before our children. Young people must also see evidence of unity between parents and teachers. We cannot imply to our children that in case of a disagreement with their teachers, we will stand behind the child. We may do so to spite the teacher, but in so doing we only diminish the effectiveness of the teacher-student relationship; and, in the end, the child suffers. Why should we hinder those we have hired to assist us?

I have heard parents say to teachers, “If my child disobeys, just give him a good whack, and when he gets home, he’ll get one from me, too!” A bit of a hyperbole, maybe, but when a child knows that his parents respect—in fact, demand—the exercise of our ministers’ and teachers’ rightful authority and discipline, such a child will probably seldom require more than a mild admonition or rebuke.

It is so important that our children know that we are communicating with their teachers, too. Join and attend your PTAPTF. Take full advantage of parent-teacher conferences. Discuss with your children the fact that you will be meeting with their teachers. And the following morning you can report back: “Son (or daughter), we talked to your teachers and they say you’re doing a good job. Arithmetic seems to be your hardest subject, so we promised your math teacher we’ll work with you on it.” Now your child is thinking, “Dad and Mom talked to my teachers. Dad and Momboth talked to my teachers. Dad had an important committee meeting last night, but he asked to arrive a half hour late so he could attend my parent-teachers conference. Wow! He must really be interested in how I’m doing.”

But then we must follow up on our good intentions, too. We don’t help our children with their homework just to please our teachers (though they certainly appreciate it). It is for our children’s growth and well-being.

What about catechism? Do we sometimes send our children to school on the morning of catechism day ill-prepared for their catechism class that afternoon? Our teachers can recognize them; they are the children busily poring over their catechism books during the last study period rightfully devoted to reading, writing, and arithmetic. Our pastors can spot them, too. They are the ones taking a last minute peek at their questions while the minister is taking the roll call and the “collection.” What a poor reflection on us parents if we fail to do our part as our teachers and ministers strive to do their task. Their task? Mychildren—my task! God’s children—my responsibility!

But—I am so weak. I, like my children, am conceived and born in sin. As we said at the outset, we so easily lose sight of our commitment because we become so absorbed in material things. (I work long hours, so my evenings are for relaxing. When I have a day off, I devote it to recreation. I earned it, and no one’s going to deprive me of it!) That attitude is reflected in our children, too. What reason have we to conclude that our children will be different from us? Does a bitter fountain bring forth sweet . . . ? And so, intentionally or unintentionally, we shift the burden to others.

Teachers, do you sometimes feel you are the only ones who care? Are you sometimes tempted to say to yourself, “If they don’t care, why should I?” I’m sure you, too, must pray for strength and must daily remind yourselves of your commitment. Why did you become a teacher? You certainly didn’t do it to “make a killing.” (You probably barely make a “living”). You did it because you felt a calling and a desire to be instrumental in the growth and development of the covenant youth. If you, too, by God’s grace, can keep your eye on your commitment, you will be given strength to pick up where some of us in our weakness leave off. I wish I could remember a “Teacher’s Prayer” I read some 40 years ago. It was something like this:

“My Lord, I do not ask to stand

As lord or king of high degree.

I only ask that, hand in hand,

A child and I may come to Thee.

To teach a tender voice to pray,

Two childish eyes Thy will to see;

Two feet to guide in Thine own Way,

This, fervently, I ask of Thee. “

Ministers of the Word, do you sometimes feel discouraged? Would you sometimes, in despair, murmur with Elijah, “and I, even I only, am left”? Thinking back, though, did your professors in seminary ever tell you your task would be an easy one? At one time you probably wondered how you would ever be able to produce an average of three sermons, speeches, lectures, or articles per week. Now, you may find that is not even the most difficult part of your calling. You, too, must deal with all our weaknesses and those of our children, as well as with those you may find in yourself as a parent or in your family. Nevertheless, you are exhorted to “feed His sheep, taking the oversight of them not by constraint—but willingly.” (I know, that’s easy for me to say.) But—don’t lose sight—there are still the “seven thousand.” Don’t feel it unbecoming of your office to share your burdens with other parents and your teachers. You are a shepherd of the flock, but, under Christ, you also are a member of that flock. And, as such, you can be a strong influence on our young people, too. Show an interest in their jobs, their problems, their leisure time, their societies, the efforts they put forth in making our societies and Young People’s Conventions a success. It may be nothing more than a kindly word, a casual recognition, at an appropriate moment.

Let me close with a final thought for all of us, our teachers and ministers as well, in our role as parents. Rev. VanBaren had an article in a recent Standard Bearer dealing with the extremely high cost of Christian education. I believe that it is only good stewardship on our part that we get full value by fully utilizing the resources of church and school, faithful ministers and teachers, which the Lord has so graciously provided us. If we are to obtain optimum benefit from our teachers and ministers, we as parents cannot be slack in our efforts.

And, yes—happiness is being a grandparent! As such, we too must share in the rearing of our children’s children—financially, physically, and exemplary. Be assured, the Lord will certainly reward the work of a faithful servant—whether parent, grandparent, minister, or teacher. Then together we can reecho the baptismal prayer of thanksgiving—”that God may always be pleased to govern these baptized children . . . that they may be piously and religiously educated . . . acknowledge thy fatherly goodness . . . live in all righteousness . . . manfully fight against and overcome sin . . . to the end that they may eternally praise and magnify Thee and Thy Son Jesus Christ, together with the Holy Ghost, the one and only true God!”