There is no doubt about it. Parents have influence over their children. Whether you want to admit it not, for good and for bad, planned and unplanned, a parent’s influence will be felt and lived out in their children’s lives. This is especially true when it comes to a child’s spiritual development. There is an old saying that postulates that “Faith is not taught. It is caught.” Though it may not be entirely true, I think there is some truth in that statement. No matter how much you teach kids about Jesus and the Bible on Sunday morning, in the end their faith is much more likely to mirror the faith of their parents that they see lived out in front of them day in and day out. For parents who resolve to be intentional in helping their children grow in their spiritual development, this influence can be directed for more effectiveness.
To celebrate some of these parents and their ideas, I surveyed some more intentional parents and asked how they leverage their influence in their children’s spiritual growth. The following are some of the answers I received to that question:
- Some families carefully watch throughout each day to identify opportunities to point out God’s hand in their and their children’s lives. Everything from food for meals to birds building nests on the porch light, God is observed at work in their world and celebrated as Creator and Sustainer.
- One family I spoke to prays very specifically for whatever they need or want, even if it seems a bit trivial or silly. They keep track of specific prayers and, more importantly, the answers that God gives. There is a sense of excitement in their family as they wait upon God to answer their prayers. They also share evening devotions centered around a chapter or a verse that the children are curious about, something taught at church, or just an unusual story they want to explore.
- I spoke with one single mom who uses every day interactions between her child and others as a starting point for discussing what kinds of actions and responses would be most pleasing to God. If another child on the soccer team is being a bad sport, on the trip home, Mom will ask her child what he thinks would be the most Christ-like way to handle it.
- Several families I spoke with have evening prayer times together with their children. Some use a prayer calendar to pray for specific family and friends each week.
- I spoke with another family that covers their dining table with banner paper and writes on it at dinner time answering questions like: What did you see today that reminded you of God? Who did you see today that acted like they needed God? How can we help them know God?
- Finally, I spoke to a family that likes to go on walks together. As a family they pick something that God made and count how many times they see that on their walk – birds, flowers, squirrels, etc.
I could go on and on with what works for others and things other families have tried. Perhaps some of the ideas listed above strike you as something that your family would like to do. In the end though, you need to figure out what works for you and your family. Here are three points to keep in mind as you do just that:
- We are not in the business of making cookie cutters. What works for one family may not work as well, if at all, for your family. If you live in an urban area, daily nature hikes are not likely to work for you. But you can take the basis for what they did, and tweak it to fit your family and your lifestyle. God is everywhere. Point Him out to your children.
- You have to start from where you are. If your family has never had a family devotion time, you probably don’t want to try and start by doing an in depth study of the book of Revelation for an hour each night. What does your family do? Can you celebrate God in that? It’s a great starting point. Then move to the next level.
- You need reminders of what God has done in, through, and for your family – prayers that were answered, needs that were met, wishes that were fulfilled. If these are visualized and made prominent in our homes, we can see and hear them often and help us to remember God’s hand in our lives. We read in Joshua 4 that each tribe brought a stone from the riverbed of the Jordan river, and were instructed to prepare a place where their children could say, “What does this mean?” and the account would be told again and again of how God had provided for His children. Likewise, find ways for your family to remember what God has done for you – perhaps a photo album or journal, a bulletin board of God’s answers, or maybe a shadow box holding symbols of answered prayers. Find some way that we can echo Joshua’s reason for the Israelites’ symbols:
“So that all the people of the earth (including your children) might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful.” Joshua 4:24
Just a reminder, we are giving away three free copies of a new family tool called Cue Box. Here is how we are doing it. The purpose of Kidmin1124.com is to spark conversation and discussion. So, we’re going to offer two different ways to enter to win one of the Cue Boxes. First, leave a comment on any of the Orange Week posts through October 5. Tell us about your experience with Orange, comment on something raised in an article, or just come right out and tell us that you’re commenting because you want to win a cue box. For every comment or reply, we will enter you in the drawing. Also, we’re trying to get the word out if you tweet or retweet any of the articles on Twitter from this series, we will enter your name in the drawing once for each tweet. Just make sure to include @Kidmin1124 in the tweet somewhere so we can find it. The more you comment, and the more you tweet, the greater your chances of winning. We will close the contest on Sunday, October 10, 2010 and draw our winners on October 11.