I took my Bible to college. I think.
Well, I meant to anyway. I was saved. In fact, I had grown up in the church. From as early as I can remember, we were sitting in the pew twice on Sundays and on Wednesday nights. I remember VBS, memorizing Scripture, favorite Sunday School teachers, rededicating my life as a teen, and what I thought were life-changing youth camps.
But I don’t remember opening my Bible in college. When exams were giving me ulcers and boyfriends were pressuring me for intimacy, I don’t remember ever opening it. I don’t really remember praying either. I think we went to chapel a few times in my freshman year. But then classes started and life got in the way.
If you’ve been a reader long, I don’t have to tell you where this story becomes a train-wreck. But it did. Two husbands, four kids, and a heap of brokenness later, I found my Bible.
My story is not unique. In fact, it might be yours too. But since I have children I find myself focused on figuring out what they can do in their lives to miss the train-wreck. You see, for me, it wasn’t a series of bad choices- at least not the kind you think of. I never did drugs, never drank alcohol, and have never once been in jail.
But I’ve known an insatiable emptiness that kept me dependent upon men who didn’t love me all the while not even acknowledging that I was already loved by a gracious and merciful Father. What I missed was the relationship. Growing up, church was something we did. So when I got to choose, it became something I didn’t do. And the lack of God’s guidance in my life cost me years of abuse, betrayal, and brokenness.
So how then can we encourage our kids to have spiritual habits that help them to grow in faith and develop that personal relationship with Christ? Oh, I’m so glad you asked. I’d love to share just a few simple steps in the right direction.
Be a good role model
Have you ever seen the video with the child trying to buckle herself in the car seat? Rose is probably somewhere between 2 and 3 years old and she’s trying to buckle her car seat despite her heavy winter jacket being in the way. Her dad asks to help and she says no thank you. Then he says, “What do you want me to do?” And she says, “You worry about yourself.”
Every time I see it I can’t help but chuckle. It’s so adorably cute. But it also reminds me that we are VERY much busted when it comes to the things we say as parents. Little Rose was simply responding that day in a way that she had already heard her parents respond. (Ahem… how many times have we told a child to worry about themselves?)
I’m glad kids are so cute and I really enjoy laughing when my kids mimic something I know they got from me. But it’s more than just something to make us smile. These fun times should remind us that our kids are literally watching every single move we make.
So, what about the big stuff? Are we modeling spiritual habits that will help our kids grow in faith? Or are they watching us check the watch during the sermon or make a grocery list in the bulletin? Do they see us pray, or listen to us run to a friend when we have a problem?
I don’t mean to point out just those two behaviors. There are a host of poor spiritual habits that we are all pretty guilty of. Most, we should work much harder on. But knowing that nothing we do will ever be perfect, we’d better also be doing some intentional teaching of the kind of spiritual habits that we want our kids to have.
Teach specific and intentional tactics
Hopefully my story is enough motivation for you to realize that it simply isn’t enough to take your kids to church. There absolutely has to be more. We’ve got to intentionally teach them about the habits that will help them grow in their walk with the Lord.
I think this should start with quiet time. It’s absolutely never too early to begin this habit. If we don’t start our day with God, it’s impossible to walk the path He has laid out for us. I’ve written an entire series of posts on how we teach the habit of quiet time step-by-step.
Second, and of course very closely related, is developing the habit of prayer. This is something that was very weak in my life even as late as age 33. I never really knew how and I never really saw a reason to learn. Sometimes churches make so little of this prayer thing with comments like “just talk to God” that we don’t stop to consider that it doesn’t really come that naturally. Teaching our kids and giving them tools will really help.
I also think it’s crucial to have some sort of family devotion. I’ve written a lot on this topic too, as I know it can be scary, frustrating, and easy to give up. But we can’t! Even five minutes together pointing our children intentionally to God will really help us. This is a great time to really teach your kids what you believe, too. Trust me, when they leave home (and maybe before) they are really going to need this foundation.
Have spiritual conversations often
Now I love my mama so I don’t want you to think bad about her. Trust me, she did a lot with some crummy circumstances. But she did neglect this and I imagine it was because she didn’t know how. She probably felt as though she didn’t have the knowledge about God personally to be giving it back to us. Oh friend, don’t believe this lie. It’s so not true. God can and will use anyone who is doing the best they can to be faithful to His Word. You don’t need to worry about messing up.
The Bible tells us to talk about God and His laws constantly in Deuteronomy 6:6-7. He says to do it when “you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” We can’t be taking this lightly. God didn’t say it because He thought maybe it would be fun it we got around to it. This one thing is EVERYTHING to our faith. Our kids need to hear us discussing God as a part of our lives.
If you need support, try Bible study materials, take a class, or even ask an older woman at church to be your mentor. You’ll be amazed at how much you will pick up from these sources. (I’ve linked to a few of ours below.)
~~~> It’s your turn. How are you developing habits to help your kids grow spiritually? What will you try next? Share with us!