How do you help your kids grow spiritually?
As our kids have gotten older, this is a question Katie and I get on a regular basis. It is one we’ve gotten right in certain seasons, and in others we’ve wandered around lost. Sometimes things that we do work really well, and other times they fall apart.
Here are seven ideas for you as a parent to help your kids grow spiritually:
1. Model your spiritual life to them. The reality of anything related to parenting is that you pass on what you do. If you want to pass anything on to your kids spiritually, you must model it for them. They will watch you for 18+ years. They will see you read your Bible (or not), how often you pray and what your prayers contain (so much is taught in this), how often you attend church and how important spiritual things are to you.
2. Involve them in a church. Just like the first one, they will often do what you do. So do what you’d like to see them do.
What if they don’t like church? Many parents will talk about how their kids don’t like to attend church, attend a worship service or something else. Many times I’ll hear parents say, “I don’t want to force spiritual things onto my kids.” This is often from a place of fear as a parent because you don’t know what to do, but also the fear that your kids will reject it and want nothing to do with Christianity. The problem with this is that we don’t apply this to anything else. We force our kids to do math, learn a language, eat broccoli, turn off their electronics and take a nap, often when they hate every moment of it.
If you don’t involve them in a church, when do you think they will learn that? If they don’t understand an aspect of a worship service, explain it to them. If you don’t know what to tell them, do some research together.
I think it’s important as often as possible for kids and students to be involved in small groups, serving in a church and attending the worship service in a church. Is every kid different? Yes. Should you force your kids to do something they dislike? Sometimes.
Our kids take out the trash and dislike it, but they still do it. I don’t think they’ll be scarred as adults because of that.
3. Read the Bible together. Part of why kids dislike church is they don’t understand the relevance of the Bible and the things that happen at church. It is something their parents do, apart from them. So do it with them.
I know this is difficult, and they don’t always want to sit still, but doing something is better than nothing.
For our family, we’ve tried things like the Jesus Storybook Bible when the kids were younger to using a catechism now so we have a question each week we are working through as a family. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something.
4. Read books to them. One of the things you can do is read books to your kids and discuss the spiritual themes in them. Whenever we watch a movie, we always talk about how it is like the one true story we see in Scripture. What are the themes and how do those themes influence us?
5. Listen to their questions. This might be one of the most overlooked aspects of your kids’ spiritual life because it is out of your control as a parent and doesn’t come on a schedule. But your kids have questions, and when they ask them, engage them. Don’t shoo them away or scold them for asking a question. If they are skeptical or have doubts, talk with them.
This is an incredibly powerful message you are sending them as their parent. You are telling them it is okay to ask questions, to wonder about something, to be unsure.
If you don’t know the answer, tell them and then study it together.
Ask them why they are curious about that. This engages their life. Is it in a book, a show, from a friend? This is an important window into their world.
6. Interact with their friends and talk with your kids about how to pick friends. Don’t sit on the sidelines when it comes to their friends.
You have an enormous impact on their spiritual lives, but so do their friends. Be involved in that.
7. Pray for them. If you’re a follower of Jesus you know this, but it is easy to overlook the power in it.
If you aren’t praying for your kids, who do you think is?
Pray for them. Pray with them. Ask them what you can pray for, even if they say nothing, which will often happen as they get older.
Are these sure fire ways to make sure your kids grow spiritually? No.
There isn’t a sure fire answer to almost anything in parenting, but parenting is about involvement and trying and faith. Lots of it.