by Jon Akin While listening to the song “Hail the King” by the Mars Hill Band “Citizens,” the ears of my 4 year-old daughter Emma Grace perked up and she asked me, “Why did he say, ‘Our sin defeated through his blood’?” This gave me a great opportunity to explain a necessary aspect of the gospel – the atonement – to my daughter on a 4 year-old level.
We’ve had the joy of seeing our oldest daughter believe in Jesus, and we are praying daily for Emma Grace, as well as Judson who is on the way! One of the privileges and duties of parenthood is sharing the gospel with our children. We certainly want to do this in structured ways (reading the Bible daily with them) without being manipulative and pushy. However, we also want to foster unstructured “teachable moments” with our children that naturally encourage them to ask gospel-questions.
One major benefit of these unstructured times is we’ve found that our children engage at a much higher level when they raise the questions. And one great way to encourage our children to ask these kinds of questions is listening to gospel-centered music with them. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the normal daily routine that you can play gospel-centered music for your children: the car ride to school, bath time, at dinner, and really any other down time throughout the day.
By that, I’m not saying that you should simply listen to “Christian radio.” Most likely your hometown has a Christian radio station that promotes itself as the “positive listening station.” While it’s not bad to listen to this station, many of the songs played will not have specific gospel content. We can be fooled by the Christian label and the positive message into thinking that these songs are forming our children in godly ways, but we aren’t trying to simply raise positive kids who don’t listen to songs with cuss words or adult themes. We don’t want to raise Pharisees with a high self-esteem and a generic knowledge that God is wonderful. We are seeking to raise kids who recognize their sin, believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and who are transformed by that message.
Generic songs about how God loves you, is there for you in tough times, or even how God has changed you are not going to cause your kids to ask gospel-centered questions about their sin, Christ’s death, his resurrection, or what it means for their life. Only songs with specific gospel content about sin, death, wrath, blood, the cross, the empty tomb, and Jesus will do that.
One of the things we’ve learned as parents is that children hear and retain much more than we realize. Our oldest daughter Maddy may seem to be in her own world drawing during the sermon, but then surprise both me and my wife when she asks perceptive questions at lunch about what daddy said. Our children hear and are formed by the “background noise” of the music that’s played, the sitcoms that are on, and much more. This means that we as parents need to be intentional about playing background noise that forms the gospel in them.
Here are some artists that can help you be intentional about this. I’d encourage you to listen to these artists with your children: Matt Papa, Sojourn, Citizens, Aaron Ivey, Bob Kauflin, The Gettys, Matt Maher, Matt Redman, Shane & Shane, Sovereign Grace, Stephen Miller, The Village Church, Lecrae, Flame, Shai Linne. No doubt there are many more. I’d love to hear from you. What gospel-centered music do you play for your kids?