Four simple tools to build faith in children
I don’t anticipate my children will concoct scientific learning labs in the kitchen to reinforce the Bible passage they’ve read for the day. Nor do I expect that one will stack couch cushions to build the walls of Jericho while the other unearths Dad’s trumpet from his ’80s glory days to blow the wall down. As parents, we desire creative ideas for bringing faith into the home; however only the most imaginative thinkers (with similarly gifted children) will have the time or mental energy to do this.
Children need to know that practising faith is often quiet, reflective and expressive. But parents have to make it happen.
Northview Community Church hosted the Transform Conference, Jan. 17–18, 2014, where Mark Holmen of Faith@Home shared some distressing statistics: though teens say by far the greatest spiritual influencers in their lives are their parents,
→only 27% have experienced either family
devotions, prayer or Bible reading within
→only 28% have talked about faith with
→and only 13% with their dad.
“Spiritual training best happens within day-to-day family life,” teaches the MB Confession of Faith, heeding Deuteronomy 6:1–25, which stresses the importance of remembering the loving commands and provision of the Lord.
What does that look like with children? Here are some of my keep-it-simple strategies.
Devotionals are great, but they often don’t go beyond morals-based teaching. Reading full Bible passages plants the stories into the child’s mind, allowing children to gain an understanding of the narrative of Scripture, and more importantly, the character, actions and person of God.
Prayer should be heartfelt and honest. Teach your children ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. When life is far from simple and we don’t know what to pray for, let your child know the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26). Demonstrate that you can write your prayers, draw your prayers, walk or dance your prayers, and pray through music or poetry.
Teach children about tithes and offerings. My sister-in-law has three piggy banks for each of her children labelled “God,” “Savings” and “Spending.” For every dollar earned, each jar gets its designated percentage. If you’re grocery shopping with young children, buy something for the sole purpose of putting it in the food bank box after checking out. From your example, children will learn generosity and that everything they have comes from God.
For some this is easy; others break out in hives at the thought of it! My eldest son can memorize after simply reading a verse, but with my youngest, we make up actions or put the words to a familiar melody. Even if the words aren’t learned perfectly, the truth of the passage will stay in the child’s heart and mind (Proverbs 22:6). God will bring these words to mind when the child needs a particular truth in his or her life.
There are many simple ways to teach your children to fear the Lord your God and keep his commands. Do what makes sense for the children you love, and don’t burden yourself with guilt. As a pastor I know once said, “The one thing you do this week is better than the nothing you did last week.”
Once you start, it will become habit. Soon, you’ll be encouraging another family to bring faith into their home.
—Nikki Lanigan attends Northview Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C. She serves at Northwest Baptist Seminary and directed the Transform Conference sponsored by Northwest Baptist Seminary, Awana and FamilyLife Canada.