Simplified Biblical Instruction and Character Training for Children
by Cynthia Carrier
Print this page
Every Christian parent wants their children to grow in Christlike character and learn and apply truths from God's
Word. Teach with more confidence and experience greater success success with this simplified approach to Biblical
instruction and character training!
Parents' Role in Biblical Instruction
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us, "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou
shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when
thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). No matter what our
"approach" is with our children, first, God's Word must first be in our hearts! It starts with us accepting
and living out God's precepts for ourselves, setting a good example for our children. They say apples don't fall
far from the tree. It's true! We can't honestly expect our children's character and commitment to God's Word to
exceed our own. Jesus himself said, "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord" (Matthew
10:24). Instructing our children to live a certain way while our hearts aren't in it is just plain hypocrisy. If we
are sincere in our commitment to Christ, our kids will know, because they live with us and see us at our best, and
our worst. They know how we respond to struggles, stress, fatigue, etc. We aren't going to pull the wool over their
eyes when it comes to our faith walk. If we are living a dual life, you know which path they will choose to follow:
the path of least resistance, or the one that offers the most pleasures.
Theses verses tell us not only to believe, but to teach--and diligently! We need to instruct our children about
what it is God expects from us. This means reading the Word to them and explaining what it means and how to apply
it to real life. And notice who is doing the teaching--God is speaking to parents. We have to accept God's Word as
our own guide for life and then instruct our children to do the same. That's a huge responsibility! What's the best
way to accomplish this goal?
Honestly, when we think of teaching, we typically think of methods that were all but foreign to the Hebrews. The
Israelites didn't sit at desks and do workbooks or hear lectures. They were taught through discipleshipâ€"or
following their teacher. We see this example with Jesus' disciples--His followers. They lived with and watched
Jesus for years. Jesus didn't have a curriculum, let alone teach a Bible study. He showed them how to live by His
lifestyle. The Deuteronomy passage connotes the same image. Parents, sharing with their children as they go about
life--from morning to evening, and every step in between. Our children are our disciples, and they follow us as we
follow Christ, so that they will follow Christ when our term as stewards is passed. This is the highest calling we
will ever receive and we cannot waver in fulfilling our Biblical mandate.
Now, all of this may simply be a reminder or an encouragement to you at this point. After all, as Christian
parents, we all desire to see our children walking with the Lord, don't we? So now let's dig in to some practical
First, let me tell you a bit about how we arrived at our approach to Biblical instruction and character
A few years ago now, when my husband set out to write our first book, The Values-Driven Family, he began
with a comprehensive, cover-to-cover Bible study. During this process, he noticed 12 consistent character traits
that were common to all of God's servants, from the patriarchs to the prophets, and ultimately Jesus Himself. Upon
further exploration, it became obvious that these 12 traits could honestly be said to encompass the whole of
Scripture and the essence of Christlikeness. These are the character traits that God desires us to both live out
and disciple our children in. After all, Romans 8:29 tells us that God's goal for us is that we would grow into the
image of Christ.
In focusing on these twelve values, we in no way diminish the whole of the Word of God, nor do we neglect to
read, study, and teach it. Instead, we would say that the Bible is our road map (and a comprehensive one, at that!)
whereas the core values are a compass that can consistently keep us pointed in the right direction. Remember the
lawyer who summed up the whole of the Law in only two statements: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself" (See
Luke 10:25-28). In the same way, the core values adequately convey the essence of the Bible's teachings and help us
to become the people that God wants us to be. By simplifying Biblical instruction and character training in this
way, the process has become much less intimidating to us and we are more able to consistently help our children
grow in their knowledge of the Word and in their faith.
With that being said, the twelve core values, in brief, are: faith, surrender, love, faithfulness, wisdom,
self-control, righteousness, holiness, humility, diligence, generosity, and praise. Because the cornerstone of our
faith is Jesus, let's take a quick look at how our Savior exhibited these values in His character. We'll also touch
upon just a few of the many verses that show their importance to God when it comes to our personal spiritual
The Person of Jesus
In talking about how Jesus embodied these values, of course there is a lot that could be said, so let's just do
a quick overview.
Let's start with faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of
what we do not see. Jesus certainly had confidence in who He was and in what God had sent Him to do. He spoke with
his disciples of His death and resurrection. He knew that many would not receive Him, but that He would be
glorified at the right had of God. His faith sustained Him through unimaginable trials. Not only that, His entire
life was a walk of faith. He taught that we need only have faith the size of a mustard seed in order to see
miraculous things happen, and He lived out that faith as He cast out demons, healed the sick, and brought physical
restoration to those who were disabled.
The heart of surrender is giving up our own ideas and desires to follow the perfect will of God for our
lives. Jesus did this as well. Very often he was tired after many hours of teaching and healing and would try to
get away to a quiet place by himself. Instead, he would be followed by the crowds and, taking pity on them, he
would continue to give of Himself to meet their needs. He continually laid down His own desires for His life to
follow after the will of His Father--even unto His death on the cross.
Love was evident in Jesus' life in His continued servant leadership. And of course, He Himself said,
"greater love has no man than this, than that he laid down his life for his friends." And of course He called
His followers--and us--His friends, and gave the ultimate sacrifice of love for us all.
Faithfulness is a heart of obedience--doing what will please and glorify God, not out of duty but out of
desire. Jesus, of course, did not want to go to the cross, but in His final prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, He
said, "Not my will but yours be done." He wanted to do what God wanted and willingly was obedient to death because
He knew it was God's perfect plan and desire.
How did Jesus' character reflect wisdom? In comparing Himself to John the Baptist, He noted that others
were critical of John's self-denial and life of holiness, whereas the same people were equally critical of Him for
associating with "sinners." Yet, he said, "Wisdom will be justified by her actions." He knew that neither His life,
nor the lives of others, were subject to the whims and judgments of others, but trusted Himself to the wisdom and
direction of God, knowing that it was His Father who would justify Him.
Self-control was evident in Jesus' life as He not only fasted for forty days but then withstood the
temptations of the devil in many fleshly areas, such as appetites and worldly desires. He continually denied
Himself and exercised control over His flesh.
Jesus was also obviously a person of righteousness. He stood for the truth and was not afraid to call
sin, sin. At different points, the Jews were called a "brood of vipers, "hypocrites," "blind guides," and so on.
Obviously, Jesus lived an upright and blameless life before God and so was qualified to speak against the sin that
was evident around Him.
Likewise, Jesus exhibited holiness in being set apart and pure in every way. He was without sin in His
human existence. He spent consistent quiet time in communion with His Father and modeled a life given to God in
Humility was evident in Jesus' character as He washed the feet of His disciples. He spoke of the value of
humility when He said that "whoever humbles Himself like this little child will be called greatest in the Kingdom
of Heaven." He did not exalt Himself because of what He came to do; in fact, His mission was all but hidden during
His life, even to His disciples. Jesus knew that only God needed to be aware of these things, and that God would
lift Him up when all things were fulfilled.
Although we don't see Jesus working a job to support Himself, because His time was so short, He was certainly
diligent in fulfilling God's call on His life. Day after day, He taught, healed, traveled, discipled, and
spent time with God in prayer. He continued on with whatever God wanted Him to do, even to the point of exhaustion
at times. Certainly, we can say that Jesus was a person of diligence, and it's no wonder that God would have us
express this trait in our character as well.
Now, how about generosity? Although Jesus was not a man of great material means, He certainly gave more
than generously of Himself, time after timeâ€"again, even to death on the cross. Although we most commonly think of
generosity in relation to financial or material giving, Jesus modeled a true spirit of generosity that we all
Finally, praise. An attitude of praise is willing not only to accept adverse circumstances, but to be
thankful to God for them. Praise says that God works all things for good and that God's will being done is more
important than our own personal comfort or blessing. Jesus did not live a self-sacrificial life grudgingly. He did
not complain or ask God why? In the same way, the Apostle Paul reminds us to "do everything without
complaining or arguing..."
With a basis now in how Jesus lived out and exemplified for us these twelve key character traits and values of
God, let's move on to how we as parents can encourage our children in these areas in consistent and practical
Let's look at how the "core values"can complement your family's Bible reading and study, such that your children
will understand of these elements of Christlike character and develop a desire to grow in these areas.
We make it a point, of course, first and foremost, to take time for Bible reading every day, since this is the
foundation of spiritual training. A daily time in both the morning and evening has been most beneficial for us and
we would highly recommend it; however, this does not have to be a lengthy time, nor do you need to make a formal
"lesson" out of it. God's Word is alive and active, remember, so all you have to do is read it. You may choose to
read a particular book, or you may read topical verses--whatever seems appropriate to you. Reading, guided study,
discussion, and even re-enactments are all appropriate elements in a family devotional time.
We believe that the family devotional time should be an adult-led time. This helps children develop a reverence
for God's Word and understand its importance in their lives. While it should not go on so long as to be boring for
the children (they do have short attention spans!), this is a good time to encourage them to be self-controlled and
put their best effort into hearing and understanding the Word. Brief discussions, occasional questions directed at
the children, and the like, will make the time interactive and interesting for the whole family.
Values-Based Instruction as a Supplement to Bible Teaching and Reading
Now, supplemental "core-values" based training has been very effective for us in keeping God's Word consistently
in our children's minds and hearts and in growing their character in a godly direction. The children's base
exposure to the values occurs during what we call (surprise, surprise!) "core value lessons." Two evenings per
week, my husband conducts a brief lesson with the family. It doesn't usually take any particular advance
preparation or special knowledge. He simply states the particular core value he wants to emphasize and reads the
Bible verses that support the value. At first, finding all the relevant verses in order to read through and discuss
them took a bit of work, but then we developed a sort of reference manual that made it easier for us. We have since
published that reference as the Values-Driven Discipleship Biblical Instruction and Character Training
Manual, which is available as an ebook or a spiral-bound, tabbed manual. You can, however, easily find many
verses that teach about these key character traits yourself, with your own Bible and a concordance.
After reading through some of the relevant verses, we'll follow up with a simple illustration from a recent
family occurrence to make it memorable, or engage in a related discussion for as long as there is interest. We also
choose to memorize many of these key verses as a family so that we have them "at the ready" during everyday
incidents and challenges. If something we have read readily suggests a follow-up game, activity, or re-enactment,
we will do that. Some of these games have become long-standing family favorites, like the "roaring lion" game,
which came from 1 Peter 5:8-9. Our core value lessons typically take no more than 10 to 15 minutes and are designed
to offer a solid Biblical foundation for observance of the core values in day-to-day living.
In addition to the formal core value lessons, we also occasionally choose a core value theme for each day, which
can be a great help at those times when the children need encouragement in exhibiting a certain character trait. We
might provide focused activities that will emphasize a specific core value, and will be on the lookout to offer
praise (and maybe even an extra little treat!) when we catch them living out the value of the day. For example, the
children will go through stages when it seems they're having difficulty sharing (an expression of the core value of
generosity). We'll have a "sharing" day where they'll have a certain number of chores, and they'll have to share
the work cooperatively. They may also get to choose one toy or game to play with for a set period of time, all
Throughout the day, we also try to spontaneously praise or reward progress and significant evidence of the core
values with a small treat, an extra 10 minutes of play time for our school-age children, an early release from
chore time (with Mom or a sibling finishing the task), a sticker for the younger children, or something
Consistent core value training also means that we all strive to apply them in life's circumstances on a daily
basis. It's as simple as pointing out which core value God would like to see us live by in any given situation. For
example, if the children are having a hard time sharing a toy, we can say something very brief like, "Because
generosity is a core value of God, he wants us to share. Who would like to be blessed by obeying God and sharing?"
This is a simple way to encourage right behavior and remind the children just why we strive to live by these
Similarly, if we notice a core value playing out in our own lives, we will bring it to the children's attention.
One example might be, "Well, guys, I don't like getting stuck in traffic, and I'm sure you don't either. But since
praise is of value to God, let's praise God that maybe he's using the traffic to keep us from an accident,
or to keep us in perfect timing for whatever he has planned ahead. Maybe we can put on some praise music while we
wait. In this way, the children are being consistently trained in the core values and they see that living
according to God's precepts is important to everyone in the household.
The Core Value Progress Chart
One invaluable tool that we have developed to consistently reinforce the values that God values is the Core
Value Progress Chart. It's simple, really. It just has each child's name on it, along with a list of the
twelve core values. We choose specific target behaviors that we'd like to see each child exhibit as a reflection of
these character traits and, each evening, talk about whether or not they have made progress in living out the Word
of God as reflected by these behaviors. For example, a target behavior for faith might be spending
personal time in reading the Bible. A reflection of self-control may be showing restraint with serving
portions at meal times--or especially when selecting desserts and snacks!
One thing that we did not want to see happen with the use of the chart is that it would become "the end"--in
other words, to have our children "perform"to get check marks on their charts or treats for rewards, when really we
want them want to live the Word of God for His pleasure and His blessing. So we have purposed that this system
would be one of encouragement. Granted, it can quickly be manipulated and simply become a parent's tool by which we
can discourage (or reprimand) poor behaviors. We always keep in mind, though, that no matter what target behaviors
we choose, as we evaluate we should focus on praising our children for sincere effort and progress. Very often, as
we start going through the charts, we'll just begin by asking each child, "What did you do today that you think was
particularly pleasing to God?," or "Even if you didn't do perfectly, was there an area that you were really seeking
God to help you do better in, in which you felt you made some progress?" In this way, the chart becomes more of a
reflection of their walk with God and their growth in Christlike character, instead of Mom and Dad's evaluation of
how they have done for the day.
With the use of this system, we have found that our children have responded with consistent improvements in
behavior and character development, and with stable performance over the long haul. And when they do need
correction, the core values also provide a simple and direct means of addressing those areas. Backed up by the
verses that we teach and train during our lesson times, the children quickly come to understand how God wants them
to be, and the authority of the Word becomes the associated basis for the character growth that we try to
We offer templates of our Core Value Progress Charts and a sample list of target behaviors as just one of many
free downloads on our Web site when you subscribe to our bi-weekly e-newsletter. You can find out more information
The Benefits of Values-Based Training
What are some of the benefits of this type of approach to Biblical instruction and character training?
From my pre-children experience as a elementary-grade teacher and particularly as a pre-school teacher, I knew
that children have finite attention spans. My own children obviously proved this out as well. And, let's face it,
the Bible is a big book and can be hard to understand. These two factors combined can make the process of
instructing our children in the Word a challenge. Getting children to retain all that the Bible teaches is just
about impossible--especially if we, as parents, feel deficient in our own knowledge of God's Word.
With that being said, I will say that reading straight through Scripture at a family devotional time each day is
an excellent means of sharing the Bible with our children. It imparts the historical context and setting like no
other method could. That's why we are in no way diminishing the value of reading God's Word as-is.
However, when it comes to imparting God's heart concerning our character and behavior, we have found that our
children respond to the teaching much more powerfully when it is presented by core value theme. Reading one verse
about faith to a child has impact; however, reading as many as 10 or 15 in a sitting, memorizing some of those
verses, and emphasizing those truths during everyday "teachable moments" effectively opens up the Scriptures and
brings the Word where it belong--in our children's hearts.
Another benefit is that a two- or three year-old can easily understand the core values and their basic
definitions, whereas understanding some of the Bible passages would have proved beyond their comprehension.
Building Biblical knowledge and Christlike character around core values empowers us as parents to be imparting
God's Word to our children years before we would have been able to through conventional Biblical instruction.
When it comes to utilizing the Progress Charts as an evaluative tool, we have learned through use of this system
that we, as parents, rarely see the big picture with our children's spiritual and ethical health. We often focus on
the one negative thing they have done most recently, and fail to recognize all of the small positive things they
had done for the remainder of the day. If we simply rated our children on a pass/fail basis, according to how we
thought they did, they would receive much less encouragement than is promoted through use of the charts. This
system forces us to review all the aspects of their behavior that God values, rather than simply things that seem
good to us or make our lives convenient.
As well, we have found that even when our gut instinct would say that a child was behaving poorly, the child may
have scored very well on all but one or two core values. It has been a very enlightening experience for us to
faithfully use this tool. It has also improved the attitudes of our children and has really encouraged better
behavior on a consistent basis. Use of this system has not only helped us to be more encouraging to our children,
but it has been a great encouragement to us as well, because it helps us keep a proper perspective on the
"day-to-day" of being in the trenches of parenthood.
Use of the charts has also led us to an important observation about our children's behavior versus their heart
condition. They may have what we would consider a very good day--a good attitude, no arguing with their siblings,
obedience to us as parents, and very little (if any) administration of discipline. Yet, on many of those days, they
still could fail to earn the eight marks on their chart that would bring them the desired reward.
We realized that although they are "performing" well, they still are not making the necessary effort that is
required to live out God's values. They may play well independently and avoid altercations with their siblings, but
they also aren't looking for opportunities to actively share or serve during those times. Although they have a good
attitude, they are not expressing praise to God. Likewise, they might simply neglect to pray (as an expression of
faith). These omissions affect their overall core value progress and show us that they need some "heart
encouragement" to help them remain faithful in proactively living out God's Word. At these times we lovingly remind
them that living out God's precepts, and receiving the rewards that He promises us, takes committed and
An added benefit is that the charts are a concrete way to give meaning to something that would otherwise be
abstract to young children--living out "the values that God values." Because we emphasize the heart of the child as
much as the behavior, we are helping to bridge the gap between the law of obedience (to us as parents) and the goal
of faithfulness to God's precepts.
Overall, our use of the charts, coupled with Core Value training and Biblical instruction, has had tremendous
effects on our children's behavior and has truly tied up any loose ends in our parenting regimen. It has helped us
all to make a more consistent effort to live by the values that God values, and to mutually encourage one another
along the journey.
Whether you use a method such as this or choose something that works better for your family, the important thing
is to continually have a heart of discipleship toward your children, to nurture them in God's Word consistently,
and to look forward to the fruit of your efforts and your perseverance as they mature.
2009-2011, Marc and Cynthia Carrier
Related Values-Driven resources:
A comprehensive, easy-to-read-and-apply parenting guide.
Instruction and Character Training Manual
Cynthia Carrier is the
homeschooling mom of eight children and author of several books. She has been a popular speaker at
homeschool conventions and other events.
The focus of Marc and Cindy's "Values-Driven" ministry is to encourage and equip Christian families to make the
most of every opportunity: that is, to serve God, participate in fulfilling the Great Commission, and raise
children who love and serve the Lord. For more information about their resources, for fresh inspiration on your
family journey, or to find practical helps-including many FREE DOWNLOADS-visit http://www.ValuesDrivenFamily.com.