Life is a balancing act, and so is parenting. When the kids are young, if we can be lucky enough to have some play time, get dinner in them, not have any tears and get them to bed on time it feels like a win! When they are teenagers, if we have gotten everyone to the right places, managed to watch the kid’s games, made sure the homework was done, get them dinner, not have any meltdowns and to bed, it can be a win. A question for the family win column is, “Have we added any spiritual direction to that list of family wins?”
Parents, you are responsible for your children’s spiritual health. Part of the very core of our being is spiritual. Part of raising our kids is to give them a healthy understanding of who God is and how God acts in the world. This is not something to hold off on or to “wait until they are older.” Rather, this is something they can participate in for the present time, no matter what their age. Just as a small child is learning about balance, and movement and talking and sharing, so too they need to learn now how to know God and how to participate in things that bring us closer to God. If part of their core being is spiritual, are we feeding their spirituality from a young age? If a child grows physically faster in the first 18 months, should not learning about God be a top priority during this time of intense learning?
Here are 5 things you can do now, no matter their age to help them grow into who God created them to be.
- Obviously prayer should be at the top of the list. Teach them to give thanks to God for meals and thanking God for the day and for family at bedtime are core wins. Teach them to pray to God at times of hurt. Teach them to talk and listen to God. Model that prayer time so that they can see you praying too.
- Story time can include a children’s Bible that tells them God’s stories. Whatever your bedtime rhythm might be, consider including a chapter each night from a children’s Bible that they can understand. (The Beginner’s Bible, or the Jesus Storybook Bible .) Bible story time began with my children when they were six months old. Now they are modeling that same rhythm of life for their own children. When kids are older this can be a time of reading the Bible together.
- Teach them the rhythms of the church calendar year. Today was the first Sunday in Lent and our Associate Pastor asked the children what season we were in. Lent is an easy four letter word that children can learn, and it is great teaching tool for young absorbent minds. They can learn that this is a season when we try to grow closer to God by doing something special for God. Pastor Beth suggested giving away a toy that we no longer need to someone who will need it. Maybe it can be a season to collect food for the hungry or maybe it can be a season to write love note to those in nursing homes. There are so many ways that a child can serve the world. Teach them about these times, especially Lent and Advent, that are designed to draw us closer to Jesus.
- Our children are never too young to teach them to serve others. Jesus calls us to serve the least of these. How do we help our children understand that we share our blessings with others. How do we teach them to have hearts that can break for the things that break God’s heart.
- Take advantage of teaching moments and show them what God is calling us to do in situations that could be major decision moments. When I was given too much change from the local cashier I stopped, showed the extra money to my kids and asked them what I should do. While it took a few extra seconds in the line, everyone saw that it was a moment to teach the kids the difference between giving back what was not mine or being dishonest and pocketing the extra money that I was mistakenly given.
Obviously, in addition to these practices at home, children will continue to grow spiritually if they are deeply connected to a church family; a place where they can go to worship, go to Sunday School and learn what it means to be a young disciple of Jesus. What spiritual practices can you add for your children today? What would you add to this list?