It’s funny to me how I have no struggles with how to keep my kids healthy. I know to feed them good things and make sure they get plenty of sleep and such. I’m even pretty confident about how to make them smart. I read to them, play with them and make sure they have constructive activities. I even know how to make them behave. I discourage bad behavior and encourage the good. Why is it that I feel confident about the physical and mental aspects of my children… but when it comes to the spiritual side of things… I suddenly feel incapable and maybe even afraid? Can anyone out there relate?
I believe that training up a child to know their Creator is one of the most important thing a parent can do for their children. The world is full of people who have great minds, great health and even great talent… but don’t have the spiritual fortitude to stand for anything other than their own wellbeing… and watch enough VH1: Behind The Music and you’ll see how well that works out for most of them. We can take our kids to Church but their primary source of spiritual input should be their own parents. After nearly 10 years of ministry to children I have seen that my lessons only last until they leave for home, unless what I have preached is reinforcing what has already been taught and lived out in the home. What I teach will only apply in their church. What parents teach reaches everywhere, both inside and outside the home.
How do we raise up our children spiritually? Most of it is actually pretty simple… there’s only one part that can be difficult.
The Easy Stuff:
1. Read to them.
Tell your children stories from the Bible. You don’t have to read them from the Bible. Get a storybook that is age appropriate. If your children are older, let them read it to you. Discuss the stories. Ask how the characters involved felt and what they learned. Tell them how the message applies to their life.
2. Share with them.
Tell them stories of times when God was there for you. Anyone who’s spent any time trying to live right has stories of success and failure. Don’t be afraid to share those moments with your child. I don’t think spelling out dark details of your past is healthy… but keep your sharing age appropriate and your children will see how your relationship with God has shaped the family they’re a part of.
3. Involve them.
Church is important. The older your child is the more important you will find it will become. Children have four main sources for friends: their neighborhood, school, church and activities. Where do you want the majority of their friends to come from? When you consider that Middle School and High School students put more trust in their friend’s opinions then their own parents’, then you will probably want those friends to have similar moral standards to your own. Find a church that cares about families and offers programs that provide opportunities for children to grow in their faith, character and dedication. I’m also a fan of churches who allow families to worship together once in a while. Kids learn by imitation. They can’t learn how to worship from you if they never see you worship.
The Harder Stuff:
4. Live out your faith.
The number one reason most families don’t discipline properly or raise spiritual children is because the parents are not disciplined or spiritual themselves. They know it’s ridiculous to expect behavior from their children when they aren’t modeling it themselves. Raising up children is like duplicating yourself. In many ways children will become what you are now. They will do what you say for only so long… then they’ll do what they see you do. Is your life worth duplicating? If not, work on that. Even if you struggle, it’s a better example than not trying to live for God at all. The only way you can really do it wrong is to quit.
5. Hold them accountable.
Living a life of faith requires living by a set of Godly standards. There is no reason to have them if we don’t enforce them. This is where proper discipline comes in. Proper discipline isn’t always punishment… it’s not trying to make a child be well behaved. It’s training up a child to become a person who prefers good choices over bad, who prefers Godly ways over sinful ones. When we model a Godly life, they get to share the benefits of obedience with you. When we properly punish bad choices we help them see the consequences of sin.
6. Let them choose.
The hardest thing a parent will ever do is let their child go to make their own way in the world. The Bible has a promise that we can trust in. It says that if we show our children the way they should go, then they are older they will go that way. That’s why it’s so important to model our faith for them. We’ll always be parents… but there will be a point where we are no longer parenting. We have to sit back and hope that what we invested in them will carry them through. I will never assume that my child will become a Christian. I will never force it on either of them. I will model a life dedicated to Christ and trust that if it is real, it will be attractive to them.
This article doesn’t have all the answers. It’s not really a how-to. This is simply a call to parents who may not have considered the importance of this aspect of their children’s lives. It’s also an attempt to take the ‘weirdness’ out of investing spiritually into our kids. I’d love it if you would share your feedback and tips on weaving faith into your own children’s lives.