In response to an email I received regarding some parenting advise, I want to post the answer to a commonly asked Christan parenting question. “How do I get my kids to read their Bibles and have a quiet time?”
As with any parenting question, including Christian parenting, there is not a formulaic answer. So much of how we influence our children has to do with our ongoing relationship with them. If the relationship is strained, antagonistic or mediocre, no amount of suggestion, cajoling or threatening is going to work.
So we always tell parents when it comes to influencing their kid’s relationship with God, work on their own relationship with their child first and foremost. When that relationship is positive, encouraging and tender, a child’s heart is so much more receptive to our leadership and the work of the Holy Spirit.
With that in mind, a parent must realize that when it comes to spirituality in our kids, much more is “caught” than “taught”. If a child or teen is going to youth group, maybe in a discipleship group or involved in a parachurch ministry like Young Life, FCA or Intervarsity (to name a few), then they are getting formal teaching. Our job is to make sure that our life and actions confirm rather than contradict what others and what we are saying about God.
With our own children, we used more of the Deuteronomy 6 approach:
5“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
–Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NASB)
As you can see from the passage, the emphasis of passing on our faith to our children is about us living it out and about us making it synonymous with our everyday lives. Our kids need to see how real God is in our lives.
We never did formalized devotions with our children where we sat down regularly and read them the Bible. Instead, they saw us reading the Bible every morning and knew that it was as important to us as getting dressed or eating breakfast that day. Occasionally, at breakfast or dinner, we would tell them something in our Bible reading that was very meaningful to us that day. We applied our faith and growing knowledge to real life in front of them. We let them see us being convicted by the God’s Word and allowing God to work in our lives.
Another favorite thing we did with our kids is read to them a lot about faith applied. There were story books when they were little (Veggie Tales, Adam Raccoon, Hermie, etc.) and then more adventures (missionaries, soldiers, real life faith heroes) when they were older. I also had a few children’s books with some great short devotionals that used facts about nature and animals that I read to them at breakfast when we had the time.
From about kindergarten on, we also did what we call “Dinner Dialogue” with our kids. If we saw something in the newspaper about a current event or a dilemma, we would read the article to them (all or part of it) and discuss it. Subjects like teenagers drinking and driving drunk, the plight of the poor, natural disasters, Y2K, celebrities and sports figures were all part of letting them see God’s Word applied in real life. As we talked about these news items, this was a great way for them to apply what they knew about God and righteous living to real life situations that they may someday face.
When our kids were growing up, there were times when they read their Bible consistently on their own, but there were other times when they either didn’t make the time to do it or they were not spiritually inclined to read it. Those are the times when a parent needs to zip their lip and pray. By the time our kids become teens, we have told them pretty much all they are going to hear from us. Our job then is to model our faith and get out of the way so that God can work in their lives.
Now all four of our kids are out of the house and they have each taken a vibrant faith with them. In fact, Tim and I stand in awe sometimes of their own spiritual walks. I believe if we had tried to force a formalized spiritual routine on them, they may not be that excited about God right now.
God has been very gracious to us to allow us to see all of our kids walking with Him. He is faithful and we are blessed.
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