Ephesians 6:4 tells us about parenting: "Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Our mandate as parents is to help our children see their identity as citizens of God’s Kingdom and to inspire them to live a life of faith reflecting his love. But why should they? How do they come to know this as their identity?
In studies like Soul Searching, it’s clear that parents are the most influential people in a child’s life, even when it comes to spiritual formation. More than pastors, or youth leaders, or the friends they hang around with, a parent’s spiritual beliefs are the most formative for children. And that influence continues into young adulthood.
Children are passion detectors--they care about what you care about. Some years ago, our family joined a mass bike tour. My kids were so excited about biking across Iowa as a family. You would not think that pedaling hundreds of miles in the hottest week of July would be something teenagers would anticipate gladly. So why were they so excited to spend a week in the heat of the Iowa sun? They caught our enthusiasm for the adventure! They had heard us talk often about previous trips. They saw all of our pictures. They knew our biking friends. They heard us laugh about the fun times and brag about some of the challenges we had weathered over past trips. We had shared our love for this place and activity and they wanted to experience it for themselves.
Can your kids see what excites you? A sports team? Gardening? Maybe a favorite vacation spot? What would they name as the thing that gets you excited? Deuteronomy 6:5 calls us to love the Lord with every part of us--our heart, soul, and strength! Maybe you should ask your family to name your top five favorite things and see where your faith ranks. If faith isn't at the top, it is time to re-prioritize.
We can't expect our kids to embrace spirituality if we are spiritually malnourished. You simply can’t give what you don’t have. Deuteronomy 6:5 continues by telling us to put God’s word into our hearts. Get into your Bible and get excited about what you are learning. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with a passion to learn more about him! Jesus made it clear that to produce good fruit in our lives we needed to be connected to him as true vine that gives life (John 15). Get curious and dig deep into God's word. Let it become the guide for the way you live your life.
After you dig into God's word yourself, the next step is to let what you learn spill over to your children. Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us to impress God’s word upon our children by sharing it with them throughout the day. Talk about how God is at work in your life if you want our kids to catch your spiritual passion. Talk about your quiet time, talk about your worship, talk about your life of service, talk about how God shines in through the cracks of your life each day. If you can share from your own learning, you can grow in faith together.
Let your kids catch your passion!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra