Parenting can be child's play – with a bit of help

Dale Brown is a children’s minister like so many others – he loves to help parents encourage their kids in Christian faith. But when he and his wife had their first son Maximus about two years ago, Brown realised he’d been dishing out good advice that was actually easier said than done.

“Now I’ve become a parent I’ve thought, ‘Wow, parents don’t have much time or energy to give anything!’”

“… What I was doing was still good. It wasn’t unhelpful; it just didn’t land.” – Dale Brown

“The things I reflect on now are the ‘unachievable ideals’ [that I shared],” admits Brown who, due to health reasons, has taken a break from his role at EV Church on New South Wales’ Central Coast.

“All I would give would be principles, which tired parents can’t work out how to bring into the real world.

“I think what I was doing was still good. It wasn’t unhelpful; it just didn’t land.”

Brown organically came to think he could “land” his biblical principles when he started to share stuff of his faith in everyday things with his boys – Maximus and one-year-old Edmund.

Friends were surprised and delighted to see the kinds of mundane spiritual “lessons” Brown was sharing with his sons in the sandpit or at the dinner table. “I had thought this is what people do with the principles they’ve got, but they actually can find it really hard to make that transition.”

The combination of Brown’s ministry ideas and parenting revelations has led to the Parents for Eternal Life site. Largely filled with practical examples and tips he has road tested with his young sons, Brown’s suggestions include “Bible Bathday” – water-related Bible stories, fit for telling in the tub. He’s even put together a script that parents can ad lib and list of easily accessible props, such as Lego figures or floating toys.

Then there’s “The 100″, a varied DIY list of how interaction with neighbours, putting on shoes or phone calls can offer “discipleship opportunities” within families. Take balloons, for one example of Brown’s mine of ideas. From the simple starting point of most children loving colourful balloons, Brown suggests talking with your kids about why birthday celebrations are so important (“God has made them in his image, and so there is no creature in the universe who is more valuable than this person”) or how the rainbow of balloon colours points to God’s amazing creativity.

“My aim is to create lots of ideas and examples from the most mundane things that every family does, that people from lots of contexts could employ in their lives,” says Brown, who also has been informed by various education resources such as The Whole-Brain Child and The Memory Code about Indigenous cultures using their environment to teach culture, history or knowledge.

“I try to use language like ‘this is something you could try …’ to give parents the freedom to adapt things into their context, or just leave that idea by the wayside.

“I’ve got a whole list of different ones I am looking forward to – things like bedtime, or music, or having a drink. I’m excited to think about how we can do all these regular life things and make them God-oriented.”

“I’ve always had this approach that theology is just part of life and we can think about everything in reference to God.” – Dale Brown

Borwn enjoys receiving comments or questions – grandparents and care givers have been very interactive – and he plans to develop suggestions for particular contexts, such as single-parent families. This Christian dad and content creator is aware of the individual complexities of different families, so he hopes Parents for Eternal Life is a flexible resource that doesn’t induce guilt or become moralistic.

“If people remember a few [suggestions], then they’ll start to look for their own and build it around their family environment. I’m trying to be a bit of springboard for families thinking that way, and not just ‘Bible time is Bible time’.

“I’ve always had this approach that theology is just part of life and we can think about everything in reference to God.”

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