The Importance of “Formative Instruction”

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I find these words from Tedd and Margy Tripp to be very helpful in thinking about intentionality in our teaching. Or, another way to say it is that they are challenging us as teachers and parents to have a definite “vision-oriented” approach to instruction.

…we are always teaching our children. Our every response, whether it is instruction or silence, teaches. Our behavior and our love teach. But in addition to that natural process, God calls us to instruct our children about what to believe, how to think from the Scriptures, and how to live… we will call that deliberate teaching “formative instruction.” Formative instruction “forms” or “shapes” our children. It is not a single event, but a lifetime of interaction that is based on God’s revelation. We are promised that our teaching will bear fruit in our children’s lives (Prov. 22:6).

We must actively teach our children, and live the reality, that God defines life. He tells and shows us the truth about what is valuable, what is worth living and dying for, what is worth doing and being, and what gives our lives significance. Rather than simply fixing short-term problems, we parents must have a vision for formative instruction from infancy to adulthood.

These realities are summed up in Matthew 22:37-39: “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself.” What does that love for God and others look and sound like? Where do I find wisdom, direction, stamina and the ability to overcome my sinful nature, and to love God and others? The answer is in God’s revelation—his instruction to man. The Bible is our curriculum for formative instruction. Christ is our example of how to live the Bible.

(Instructing a Child’s Heart, copyright©2008, pages 18-19)

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Children Desiring God.

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