Do you worry about your children embracing faith? Maybe you wonder if their faith is deep enough to hold them through challenges? Or worry if they will engage their faith when they are outside your influence?
Christian parents desire that their children would have a healthy and active relationship with God. We want them to have the blessing of fellowship with God as well as an anchor to hold them fast to godly principles. We want them to know the joy of salvation and have the support of a community of faith. Our desire is that the depth of their faith would grow with them throughout their lives. We long to say, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John:4). We want our children to transfer the dependency they have on us to a relationship where they are dependent on God. But how can we help our children transfer their head knowledge about God into a heart knowledge that delights in relationship? Although there is no magic formula, there are things that we can do to help our children engage their faith.
Embrace the role of spiritual guide that God has given to you by leading with your own example. Studies show that parents are the most influential people in the faith formation of their children. Faith grows in the context of relationship. Discuss what you are studying in the Bible and how you are finding yourself being molded and stretched by God. Let your kids see your own Spiritual growth by sharing about your own faith journey. Regularly share together with your family and ask each person to talk about what they are learning from God’s word.
Model for your family how to take concerns regularly to God. Let your children hear you pray for them and for others. Prayer time can quickly become just routine without much thought if you don’t give it focus. Practice different approaches to prayer in your home to encourage genuine expression of the heart. When challenges arrive, stop and pray so your children learn how to handle worry--by taking concerns before the throne of God. This modeling of how to handle struggles will serve our children well throughout their life. When they start to worry they will remember to transform that worry into a prayer. Prayer is an essential element of a healthy faith life.
Help your children cultivate time spent with God through his word. God speaks through his word and in it we find ourselves in his story. It is in time spent in scripture reading that the Spirit plants his word most fully in our hearts. We always let our children stay up later at night if they were reading the Bible or their devotional book--it was a treat for them. Time spent time spent alone in scripture should be a regular part of your daily routine as it helps us to discover God’s identity and it anchors us in his truth.
When faith is just pat answers it is not compelling. Wrestling with the big questions in scripture helps us to grow in our understanding of what we believe. Exercising your creative imagination around gaps in the narratives of scripture is a helpful way to understand what God is doing in the Biblical text and begin to understand the nature of God. Choose to wonder together about how the Biblical characters felt and what the situation felt like from their position. What would you have done if you were in Daniel’s shoes or if you were facing Esther’s predicaments? How do you face similar challenges in your own life and what truths of scripture does God have for your life?
Doubts can scare us, worrying us that our children are walking away from their faith. Yet doubt can be an important path to faith if we use those doubts to wrestle with God. The Psalms are full of the language of doubt and struggling, but we recognize the richness of relationship with God that they represent. It is better to move forward exploring the things we don’t fully understand this side of heaven instead of brushing off doubts as something bad. If we are not allowed to question, then our faith will never grow roots. It is in pouring out our doubts and concerns to God that we find God faithful. As we search for God we find him and be drawn back into relationship.
Wandering through the local aquarium shows us God’s creativity in the variety of shapes, colors, and types of sea creatures--and that is just what he put in the water! In nature we catch a glimpse of our creator God that causes us to marvel at his power and creativity. Help your kids see the connections by pointing out God’s wonders. Stop to marvel at bugs and birds and changing leaves. From the power of the waves to the beauty of flowers, God’s attributes are on display. All of nature including ourselves carry God’s fingerprints.
We learn best when we put our faith into action with our own hands. Day by day, acts of living sacrificially demonstrate that our faith is more than words. Service learning and mission trips can also help to fuel a spiritual passion by taking us outside of our normal life to acquaint us with the needs in God’s world. Serving others helps us to see beyond ourselves and guides us to extend the love of God to one another. It is good for us to create habits of obedience to draw us into the rhythm of life in God’s kingdom.
Studies show that faith grows best when we can readily witness multiple examples. Close relationships with those who love God lay the path for faith to be transferred. The research suggests that youth need at least 5 adults invested in their life who demonstrate an active faith. This community of faith creates a sense of belonging among God’s people and helps them to feel at home. Enlisting mentors to help your children navigate their faith questions can be a real blessing.
All of these practices can be helpful for connecting our kids' hearts to the heart of God. There are no guarantees when it comes to faith formation within our families. We do our best and trust the God who loves our children even more than we ever could. He will draw our children close to him. We lean on God and continue to trust that since God started his work in the lives of our children, he will continue to carry it out to completion!
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster