The Power of Teachable Moments

By Marianne K. Hering
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Enlighten your children about God in a way that captures their attention and changes their lives.

A rainbow, a tube of toothpaste, a holiday dinner — how can these ordinary things be used to teach kids about the Bible? They can all be used to illustrate a “teachable moment.” The teachable-moment method of faith building enlightens your children about God in a way that captures their attention and changes their lives. No lectures. No manuals. No rolling of the eyes. No kidding!

Your children will learn biblical principles that they’ll never forget.

A “teachable moment” is like creating an on-the-spot commercial for biblical principles using simple, everyday language and familiar objects. If you see a beautiful tree growing near a lake, for example, you can point it out and say to your child, “Isn’t that tree magnificent? God says that people of faith are like that tree. Trees stay strong because they grow near the water. People stay strong when they grow closer to God.”

Once you discover the three ingredients of a teachable moment, you will have a method to make a life-changing spiritual impact through everyday events. A teachable moment gives you the resources to make the Bible relevant to your children today, right now, this very moment.

Teachable moments are perfect for working or single parents who don’t have a lot of free time to build a spiritual legacy. They can be incorporated into any family routine, no matter how busy. Teachable moments require no preparation. In fact, they often work best when you’re driving in the car or just having plain old fun with your kids.

But whenever you do have a chance, also try planning a teachable moment. Either way, your children will feel affirmed and will learn biblical principles that they’ll never forget.

Plain Old Fun

Before you begin trying to teach your children about God by using teachable moments, it’s a good idea to build up your parent-child relationship by having some fun. Being lighthearted creates the right atmosphere for teachable moments and cements the parent-child bond. If your children know you can relax and just play, they will see you in a whole new light and be more receptive to adopting your values.

Be sure there are times in your family life when you watch a movie, just for fun. When you have a water fight, just for fun. When you pitch a tent and sleep in the backyard, just for fun.

Here are more ideas:

  • At the dinner table, have a contest to see who can create the longest sentence with words that start with the letter B.
  • Put green food coloring in the orange juice.
  • Check out the music from old Disney movies from the library. Sing the songs in the car.
  • Learn to talk with a phony accent or make up a secret family language.
  • Have a fight with whipped cream or a sock war.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt.
  • Visit a pet store and hold a snake.
  • Play hide-and-seek outside.
  • Once you begin to have fun together, your kids will be relaxed and open — primed for a teachable moment.

Three Ingredients to Teach Without Preaching

Parents can deliberately and intentionally teach their children biblical truths using teachable moments — and the children can enjoy it. It’s not some fanciful dream or nebulous ideal you hear about only on the 700 Club. And you don’t have to be a natural-born teacher to use them. You just have to try out teachable moments and work with them for a few weeks, and soon you’ll know the secrets of teaching without preaching.

A teachable moment requires three simple ingredients.

The first is an open relationship between the parent and child.

Second, you need a catalyst — an event or object that illustrates the spiritual point. A catalyst is the conversation starter, the reason the teachable moment is occurring at that specific time and place. Often the catalyst is an everyday object like a bridge or a mousetrap. Or it can be some big milestone in your child’s life, like baptism.

Third, a teachable moment requires a biblical truth. The truth can be a Bible fact, a truth about God’s character, or insights into living a life of faith. You can gather a lot of truths through personal Bible study.

Here’s an example. A family of six went on vacation (ingredient #1 — a good relationship with time for fun) and the father found a billfold in a hotel parking lot. (The billfold is the catalyst, ingredient #2.) The billfold had money in it but no identification. The father took it to the front desk, tossed it on the counter and told the clerk, “In case someone comes looking for a wallet, here it is.”

His children witnessed the event, and he could have left the matter there but chose to talk about it instead. As a family, they discussed the virtue of honesty and why the father turned in the money instead of keeping it. He wasn’t trying to impress them with his virtue; he was impressing them with biblical truths. Perhaps they would have learned the lesson just by watching, but he couldn’t be sure without asking them what they were thinking.

The father wasn’t preaching. No one got a lecture; no one left feeling inadequate, overwhelmed or bored. It took only a couple of minutes to make the point (ingredient #3): “Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

Copyright © 2004 by Focus on the Family.

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About the Author

Marianne K. Hering
Marianne K. Hering

Marianne Hering is the co-creator of “The Imagination Station” book series and a senior associate editor of Focus on the Family magazine.

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