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Several weeks ago, the accompanist at the church I pastor preached on using our gifts to join creation’s praise to God. 
He told a story of how his grandfather hummed hymns around the house and farm and how that had an impact on our accompanist’s love for music.

Not a day after that sermon, my children and I went to our local Publix grocery store and roamed the grocery aisles. I noticed that I was singing the chorus to the song, “Give Me Jesus.”

I also noticed that my children were not playing, talking or fidgeting; they were listening.

I felt bad for them because they had to hear their father’s singing, but I also realized that my children were listening without my initial awareness of it.

The children are listening. When we talk about our faith, sing songs and pray, our children listen. When we get impatient, gossip or speak ill of others, our children listen.

We may not notice it and we may forget it every now and then, but they are always there – with an ear to our mouths and their eyes on our actions.

My only wish is that when my children grow up, they will remember the positive things they’ve heard from their father. 

I hope that they can say, like my church accompanist, that they recall the many times their dad sang the songs of the Christian journey rather than the laments of a busy-body life.

This wish is an intimate one, but when it comes to our relationships with our children, whether related to us or not, it is often an intimate affair. Our behavior and our integrity are bound up with that of our children.

The apostle Paul recognized this in his relationship with his co-worker and pupil in Christ, Timothy. 

He was a disciple who had been with Paul from the beginning of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. He was a prodigy of sorts, and Paul quickly recruited him as a companion on the journey.

We have two letters in the Bible that Paul wrote to Timothy. They are instructional manuals to encourage Timothy in leading a church.

The second letter is the more personal and emotional one; it comes from the heart rather than the head.

Commentaries note that the reason for this language is due to the fact that, during the writing of Paul’s second letter, Paul was in prison in Rome for a second time and was scheduled for execution. 

The letter was, for all practical purposes, from a “dead man walking.”

Paul realized that once he met the executioner’s sword, his “beloved son” (see 2 Timothy 1:2) would be alone in the ministry. 

Paul acknowledged the tearful separation that had occurred earlier in their ministry (see 2 Timothy 1:3), but he also gave Timothy a broader perspective. They were not alone; rather, they shared in a Gospel ministry that was part of the larger purposes of God.

Paul stood on the shoulders of Christians before him (his “ancestors in the faith”), and Timothy stood on the shoulders of his mother and grandmother. They were not alone; they were in the company of so great a cloud of witnesses.

We must acknowledge that there are Christians who stand upon our shoulders and are coming after us – these, our own beloved children. 

Just as we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, we make up a cloud of witnesses for others. 

Like Timothy, who listened to the songs and stories of faith from his family, our children listen to us and need our support and encouragement for the ministry and journey ahead.

You never know, you may have the next great missionary – a Timothy – in your household. You never know, but one thing we do know: Our children are listening. 

What kind of Gospel message are you communicating?

Joe LaGuardia is senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Conyers, Ga. A version of this column first appeared on his church’s blog, The Center for Caregiver Spirituality, and is used with permission. He also blogs at Baptist Spirituality.

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