By Bev and Phil Haas
My parents weren’t Christians, and I didn’t become a follower of Jesus until I was 21 years old. Now I’m a parent of two preschoolers and I want my kids to follow Jesus. Can you give us some suggestions on how to guide them in that direction?
Most of us realize how important it is to share our faith with our kids; the part we all struggle with is where to begin. In a workshop about nurturing faith in our kids, Dr. David Anderson started out by asking the participants in the room, “How many of you wish your child had a stronger faith?” Every hand in the room went up. Dr. Anderson then made a comment we won’t forget. He said, “While it’s good that everyone desires that our kids have a stronger faith, the truth is that what we see in their faith is a mirror image of our own faith. So the issue is not their faith, but our faith.” Wow, those are challenging words for every Christian parent. If you want your children to have a relationship with Jesus, then you need to have a relationship with him. If you want your kids to live a Christlike life, then you must live a Christlike life. Therefore, our single suggestion about pointing your kids to Jesus is to be intentional about modeling and sharing your faith.
Modeling Your Faith
The best way our kids learn is through examples. The apostle Paul made reference to the importance of being an example of faith when he challenged the Corinthian church to “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). What example are you setting for your kids to follow? Are you satisfied with the faith that you are modeling for them?
Intentionally modeling your faith is not about being perfect; rather it’s about being yourself and taking tiny steps of faith every single day. Do you have a regular time when you read the Bible and pray? Do your kids know it? Make sure there are times when they see you engaged with God’s Word and hear you talking to him. In other words, let your kids catch you in the act of doing something spiritual. Your actions will teach your kids a lot about what it means to follow Jesus—even more than your words.
Sharing Your Faith
As important as example is to learning, we still must use words. Lots of parents find it hard to talk to their kids about God and spiritual issues. Yet God specifically places the responsibility for a child’s spiritual development on parents. Along with the responsibility he gives parents, he also gives a simple plan for how to do this.
Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 instructs, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Notice that God encourages parents to look for natural opportunities to talk to their kids about him. Spirituality is to be part of an ongoing discussion with our kids. Although every family should look for the patterns that work best for them in light of their schedules, there are four specific times from this passage that any parent can leverage to build the faith of their children:
• Meal time. Eating meals together is an ideal time to have a focused discussion. The key word here is discussion. Don’t launch into a lecture.
• Drive time. Traveling together provides a unique opportunity to talk as well. Doesn’t it seem that the most time you spend together as a family is when you’re in the car, on your way to the next thing you have to do?
• Bed time. Tucking children into bed can be a meaningful time for families. Something about it opens the door for an intimate conversation.
• Morning time. Getting up in the morning provides a blank page for the family to start fresh relationally. The beginning of a new day has the potential for you to plant a few encouraging words to give your child a sense of value and purpose.
Your actions that flow from faith and your spiritual conversations are two of the best tools you have to point your kids to Jesus. Just make sure your actions match your words! If they don’t, your children will always believe what they see over what they hear.
Bev and Phil Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have two children and four grandkids. Send your questions about family life to Bev and Phil Haas in care of The Lookout (firstname.lastname@example.org). We regret that personal replies are not always possible.