The Priesthood of Parenting

August 31, 2009 | 27 comments

She fell in love with the stories, and we fell in love with teaching them to her. That’s what happens when you take Living Letters and place them between pudgy fingers.

Our Bibles weren’t meant for shelves. They were meant to be bent, dog-eared, marked in permanent ink.

Hers is falling from its spine. The back cover, decorated in squiggles and smudges, long ago fell off. And (bless her heart), she once tore out the page with snakes pictured, knowing how fearful I am of slithering reptiles. (Am I that way too, mentally tearing out parts of Scripture that I don’t like?)

We taped the snake page back in.

In this — the season of new books cracked open and new pencils sharpened — we continue to peel back the cover of the oldest and best story of all: The Good News.

In this dwelling surrounded by Iowa farmfields, school is open. Our children belong to two schools. In this house, we spiritually homeschool our children year-round as we grow in grace together.

But we send our children to another school, too. They attend public school — the same school that educated their father and their grandfather before them.


Each morning, they sling backpacks over little shoulders, and I walk or drive them to the end of the lane. As the bus turns the bend onto our road, we join hands in the center, making a ball of fidgety fingers.

“Dear God, Thank you for this wonderful day,” the youngest one says. All her prayers begin that way …

And I pray a blessing over them. “Bless them Father, that may they keep their hands in Yours.”

And we all say: “Amen.”

With a blessing on their hearts and new sneakers on their feet, the girls board yellow bus No. 44.

And I whisper to Him: “They are in the world, Lord. But let them not be of it.”

They spend their days in busy classrooms that are spilling over with back-to-school enthusiasm wrapped neatly in crisp new shirts from Target and Children’s Place.

They dig into Jan Brett and Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl. They eat on divided trays, sit in long rows in an old gym marked by the echoing percussion of dropped forks and giggling kindergartners. They spin dizzily on tire swings and tornado slides and merry-go-rounds powered by third-graders.

They stand up, with hands over hearts, and pledge allegiance to the flag with teachers who still recite: “One Nation, Under God.”

And they do believe, these teachers, for I see them in the pews on Sunday mornings, and sit with them in Bible studies, and join in their prayer chains that come my way via e-mail.

But this is still public school.

They share my beliefs, but they won’t teach about Jesus there, not by name anyhow, for they can’t. They can model Christ-like behavior, sure, and they can teach “Character Counts.”

But the stories of Jesus and Jairus and Joash and Jacob wait between pages here at home. And that is why we homeschool, too.


I’m waiting there at the end of a dusty lane when they return. And they bubble over with stories as we walk to the back door.

Their learning didn’t end with the last toll of the public-school bell. We still have work to do — and we package it in the everyday of mealtime prayers and scavenger hunts, and in Polly Pocket games where tiny dolls sing praise music — or “Dancing Queen.” (Can someone tell me if there’s any redeeming spiritual quality in ABBA? Please tell me there is. I’m a hopeless fan.)

We count blessings as we walk the quarter-mile home from the bus-stop, past alfalfa and tassling-corn and sunflower-painted ditches. A welcoming party of cats trails behind. We thank God for it all.

Books await inside our home — some old with torn pages, and some brand-new for this new season of learning. For we don’t exist just to feed, and clothe and tuck in these little bodies.

They came to us so we could feed their souls.

“Most certainly father and mother are apostles, bishops, and priests to their children, for it is they who make them acquainted with the gospel. In short, there is no greater or nobler authority on earth than that of parents over their children, for this authority is both spiritual and temporal.” — Martin Luther


In our home, each of us has our own tent and altar, that place where we find rest in the sustaining word of God. Today, I open here the tents of our two girls, so you may see what they’re studying this fall. Would you consider sharing the contents of your child’s tent?

RELATED POST: Definition of a tent and altar.

In the tent of our youngest:

Children’s Book of the Bible. The vivid illustrations and photographs delight us … and alarm us. (This is the book with the snake photo. -smile-.) This story-Bible provides historical context in easy-to-understand language for little girls — and for mommies, too. I always learn something new here.

The Beginner’s Bible Book of Devotions (My Time With God) . A collection of Bible stories, memory verses and lessons about right and wrong.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? We do a lot of talk about “filling buckets” around our house. Read this book, and you will, too. This book helps teach lessons about what it means to show daily kindness to others.

Davey & Goliath, a quarterly devotional magazine
with good lessons, stories and useful exercises.

For our second grader:

The NIV Adventure Bible
. Using this kid-friendly Bible, we are beginning to make our way through “Famous Children of the Bible.” This is prompting some probing questions and deep conversations. Last night, Lydia asked me why God would test Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his son. And — she asked — what would I do if He asked me to do the same? Deep stuff. …

The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.

by | August 31, 2009 | 27 comments


  1. Lori

    Nice job, Jennifer. Keep up the God work.
    Education isn't just for school…it's for everyone all the time. The old adage is very true: More is caught than taught.

    However, you would be surprised what teachers can teach about Jesus in public schools. We, along with teachers, have bought the lie that Jesus cannot be taught in public school. For more information, check out

    Have a great day!


  2. Jennifer

    Beautiful post! Your children are blessed to be able to learn from home as well as school!

    (the cross you liked… dictionary paper, huge old dictionary 😉 )

  3. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Lori — Thank you for your encouragement … and for the heads-up about teaching on Jesus in public schools. I will definitely check that you.

    Jennifer — Love your art. That cross is stunning. And thanks for your words here …

  4. Deb

    I felt like I was right beside you.

    Walking to the bus to meet your children.

    Your writing is always that clear and concise.

    You've encouraged me to be more intentional about opportunities that I have to provide spiritual instruction to my four-year-old granddaughter.

    I don't want to take a single one of them for granted.

    Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing.

    Sweet dreams.

  5. RCUBEs

    And the Lord commands us to teach our children about Him. It's sad that the schools would rather not have something to do with God…May your children inspire others from what they learn from their spiritual home.

    I can only think of ABBA, not as the Swedish group but as our Father….and you can be the "Dancing Queen" when you dance for joy! 🙂 Blessings.

  6. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    That was fabulous Jennifer. I am glad that you are raising your girls to be mighty women of GOd!

  7. Steve

    Praise God. I never did this with my kids, for they were grown when the Lord saved me. I lived like the devil as they grew up. I never told them about Jesus, ever. I knew of Jesus, but never knew HIM.Its hard to get two of them to hear me now. The bible says, ye shall rep what you sow,the problem is, I never sowed anything. Thanks for the post, and may God bless you

  8. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought

    Excellent suggestions. I can't wait to write these down and look 'em up. We start school tomorrow. I write we b/c mine is a lesson in prayer and letting go.
    Still loving your blog,
    ~ Wendy

  9. mom2six

    With regards to RCUBEs observation on ABBA, I had the same thoughts, Abba, Father. 🙂

    In our children's tent's here's the mix by ages: Little House series (8 yo), Foxe's Book of Marytrs (16 & 15 yo), Brother Andrew (12 yo), and for 9yo various books published by Bob Jones University Press and for all an NIV Bible along with The Message. These are where we begin our school year.

  10. *~* Jenni *~*

    I love the "bucket book"!!! My youngest daughter just got to read that book at school the other day!

  11. Jennifer

    Your words are such encouragement to me, teaching me how to make the moments count with my own children and how to build God into their day. I've been convicted just this past week to add in more prayer than just at mealtime. Praying before the bus comes–perfect.

  12. Warren Baldwin

    I love the title of this post – The Priesthood of Parenting. Did you coin this term? It expresses the idea so well.

    We did public school and homeschool, too.

  13. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Warren, I drew from Luther's quote to come up with the title. Luther once said this:

    "Most certainly fathers and mothers are apostles, bishops, and priests to their children."

    And I've always pondered the idea that we are the PRIESTHOOD of believers.

    Thanks for your encouragement.

  14. Get Real Girl

    I love this post Jennifer. We too send our girls to public school, but we know we have to teach them at home as well.

  15. Noni Bilbrey

    I would have gotten rid of the snake page too. My son is now 21 and in college. We sent him to public school, but I believe that parents are the greatest teachers and greatest influence in a child's life. Praying you will have a blessed year of learning 24/7.

  16. Noni Bilbrey

    I would have gotten rid of the snake page too. My son is now 21 and in college. We sent him to public school, but I believe that parents are the greatest teachers and greatest influence in a child's life. Praying you will have a blessed year of learning 24/7.

  17. L.L. Barkat

    such lovely children… makes me smile…

  18. Deborah Ann

    Hey Jennifer! Just stopped in to let you know I'm hosting a game next week, and you can visit my site (heavenly humor) and sign up ahead of time.


  19. Anne L.B.

    Jennifer, you've pictured what all children need–a parent's nurturing heart that ever leads them to Jesus and His Word. The path looks a little different for everyone, and your children must surely thrive on theirs.

    I'm proud to know you.

  20. Sarah Dawn

    Sweet one, I love His message of this post. The priesthood of parenting, if only more parents would step into their role to disciple this generation. God has perfect plan for discipleship, it's not Sunday school, it's family!

    And my lil' warriors have gone through 3 of their favorite Bible. We read it until it literally breathes its last and then have to buy the same one again. But what joy to have my boys hiding the word in their hearts.

    Oh, and you can teach Jesus in public schools. I did it for years as a public school teacher, all praise to Him! Still in contact with some of my old students and they continue to walk in the ways of our Lord.

    Blessings to you,
    Sarah Dawn

  21. Mary Moss

    The Priesthood of Parenting – what a wonderful expression. It is such a sacred and important service!

    Love your blog! Love that you're so devoted to your two beautiful daughters.

    You might enjoy my blog,!

  22. Doug Spurling

    "They came to us so we could feed their souls."

    That lasts a life time.

    Thank you. Wonderful post and view of a God centered family.


    Keep up the good work.

  23. Carey

    Ah…beautiful post, Jen. So wonderfully put.

  24. Arianne

    What a wonderful way to look at it, spiritually home schooling! I need to do more, but I'm afraid I've waited too long to get started. Thanks for the encouragement!

  25. Monica Sharman

    They step on the yellow bus with souls richly fed. Awesome.

  26. Prairie Chick

    Only getting a chance to read this now and just returning to say I love it. And love you. And praise God for you and your faithful spirit.


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