Cultivating a heart of faith begins at home. God has tucked a wonderful command to parents inside of Deuteronomy 6 and 11 in which He assigns the task of teaching children about Him to the parents.
So, how exactly do we help our children grow in their faith? How do we encourage the development of their relationship with Jesus Christ? How do we enable and motivate them to dive deeper into Scripture?
Many parents may not feel confident teaching these things because our own Biblical knowledge may be limited or our own relationship with Christ is underdeveloped. Or, we may simply lack the resources, ideas, and inspiration that can help us in this task. Whatever the case, if you feel your heart responding, "Yes! Yes! This is me! I want my children to know HIM more!" then you have come to the right place.
While there are many, many great tools for cultivating a growing faith inside your child's heart, listed below are the ones that I personally use in my own home that have proven effective for the faith-building task that I have been assigned:
1. Memory Verses. I often pray about and seek a verse that I feel will be especially helpful for the season of life that my children are in. Right now, our verses tend to emphasize the importance and weight of the words that we speak because loose lips and careless words are a parenting challenge that we have faced this school year. Since two of mine are mastering the art of cursive, I print out customizable cursive sheets here with a traceable verse. We also talk about the verse throughout the week, look up definitions and give illustrations if needed, and drill on occasion. Once this Word is hidden in their hearts, the Holy Spirit can use it throughout their entire life to teach, guide, and convict them. Psalm 119:11
2. Children’s Devotionals. A short, age-appropriate children's devotional is a great tool for helping children learn the stories, people, events, themes, and deeper meanings in Scripture. Our By Faith Kids Lord’s Prayer children’s devotional is a wonderful place to start.
3. Deep Talks at Bedtime. Nighttime is where children break down and process their thoughts from the day. It’s when their hearts are most wide-open. My children and I have the deepest theological conversations when snuggled up together in their twin-size beds.
4. Artwork. Sketching out or painting Bible verses or stories is a great way for kinesthetic or visual learners to engage with Scripture. When they were little, we would write verses on the sidewalk with chalk. Painting mini canvas magnets (Walmart), making bookmarks, and drawing pictures are current hits at our house. Scripture coloring pages are also very popular right now and can be found online or at Lifeway Bookstores. I always tuck a Scripture coloring book in my daughter's activity bag whenever we go on trips and I color along with her whenever time allows. This opens up beautiful conversation about the verse and what it means.
5. Lego Models. My boys are AVID Lego collectors! Sometimes they recreate Bible stories Lego-style and I love seeing their creativity! This is another great way to teach the Bible to your kinesthetic and visual learners!
6. Videos. Sometimes we just like to snuggle up and watch The Bible Project videos on YouTube or sing the Books of the Bible songs (this is how I learned my books of the Bible three years ago). Or, my children are even willing to listen to the YouVersion Bible app on audio at bedtime if it means they get 5 more minutes. We also watch Christian movies such as The Case for Christ (Netflix) or God's Not Dead and each one provides opportunities for great discussion afterward. These particular movies teach Christian apologetics to our children which is especially important as the need to defend their faith will one day come.
7. Fill Their Ears While Driving. With the exception of The Greatest Showman music (my girl’s current craze), we only listen to worship music in the car. For younger children, SEEDS Family Worship has a slew of songs that are straight up Scripture set to music that both children and adults can enjoy. Check out their YouTube videos here. Or, give podcasts, sermons, and audio books a try on longer car trips. You'll be surprised how intently your children will listen to them! My children don't make a peep when we have an audio book playing.
8. Bible and Faith-based Stories in the Bathroom. This sounds funny but it works! I have a child who can only read in the bathroom because it limits distractions. I got smart a few years ago and stocked it only with Bible stories such as The Action Bible and Answers in Genesis magazine. This child will stay in there for 30 or more minutes every day and pour over these books!
9. Celebrate Spiritual Birthdays. What is a spiritual birthday? It is the day of your child's salvation! I remember as a child (and into adulthood), I continually asked myself the common question, "Am I really saved?" We tend to celebrate these big days on the day of and then never look back. That shouldn't be so! By not looking back, we can forget the assurance and impact of this special day. I know some families who celebrate spiritual birthdays with ice cream, a special gift, a nice family dinner...just like a typical birthday celebration. In our home, I like to set reminders before our eyes. Each of my children have a picture of their baptism sitting in our living room. The looks on their faces tell us every single day that they were absolutely, positivity sure of their salvation on the day of their baptism. I also made monogrammed Bible covers with their birthdate, date of salvation, and date of baptism on it. I have also heard of parents having their children write a letter to themselves at the time of their salvation so they can capture how they felt in that moment and the sincerity of their decision. I wish I would have done this!
10. Pray Aloud Over Your Children. Praying aloud over your children, expressing thankfulness for God's goodness and protection, praising the Lord for a character trait that you see developing in them, interceding for their needs, and claiming His promises over them not only teaches your children how to pray, it also drives the words of their praying mama deep into their hearts. It speaks calm and assurance into their minds. It bathes them with feelings of security. It points them to God's activity in their lives over and over again. In addition to praying aloud, help your children keep a prayers/praises board, jar or journal.
11. Family Dinner Conversations. Family dinners around the table are sadly a long lost important time of the day. What rich opportunities for faith-filled conversations we miss out on when we don't make this a higher priority! One of my favorite quotes ever is from Mike Huckabee. He was interviewed once and the question was (I'm paraphrasing here), "What has been the biggest influence in your faith?" His response deeply convicted me. He said, "My faith has not been influenced by one big thing. Instead, it is the result of thousands upon thousands of family meals shared around the table." Wow. His deep faith was developed bit-by-bit, day-by-day, meal-by-meal, and conversation-by-conversation. THAT is the net result when we intentionally gather around the table, free from distractions, night after night after night. Isn't that worth all the cooking and dirty dishes? I think so!
12. Love Notes. I wrote about the importance of writing love notes to your children here.
13. Holiday Faith Focus. It's so easy to fall into the commercialism trap that comes with the holidays. I know that my family did this for years. Then, about four years ago, as I was staring at a Santa Claus decoration sitting right next to a stained glass nativity, the Lord deeply convicted me about the opportunity to focus on Him and only Him that we were missing out on. Since then, our home only reflects Jesus during the religious holidays. Yes, we still "do" Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. But, the focus is not on them nor do we decorate our home with them. Christmas is decorated with nativities and nature. Easter is decorated with crosses and nature. Yes, we have a couple of bunnies, but they look more like the bunnies that hop through our backyard every spring and less like the mythical bunny who fills Easter baskets. We also find ways to celebrate the true purpose of the holiday. At Christmastime, we have a Jesse Tree. On Valentine's Day, we celebrated with our first Jesus Loves Me party this year. For Easter, we celebrate with Resurrection Eggs hunts (I will do a how-to make these post with free printable sometime in March). Having our house decorated with Christ in mind keeps our focus on HIM and less on the other stuff. Kirkland's, Hobby Lobby, Lifeway, and online vendors such as Etsy make decorating a home that reflects Christ and affixes His Word before our eyes easier than ever.
14. Join a Christian-based Character Building Group. Check your local area for groups such as American Heritage Girls, Trail Life USA or church youth groups. This is a tremendously impactful way to grow your children in godly character as they come together with peers and leaders who share a Christian worldview and learn useful skills, form friendships, seek adventure, and grow together.
15. What the Bible Says About ___________ Sheets. As a child, I got into big trouble once and had to write the entire chapter of Psalm 119 as my punishment (FYI, it's the LONGEST chapter in the Bible). Since then, I cringe at the thought of having children write Scriptures as a form of punishment. So instead, I created a sheet that will guide them through a Bible story pertaining to that same sin or heart issue that we are dealing with. In a series of questions, they examine the story, the motive behind the sin, the consequence of the sin, and glean other valuable insights. By doing this, my children are able to personally relate with the people in the Bible and learn the application necessary for true heart change. Attached below is a sample sheet that you are welcome to use! You may need to help younger children with it.
16. Build Mentor Relationships. Connect your children with trusted Christian men and women who can help grow them in certain areas. This is especially effective if your son/daughter does not have a male/female role model in their life, needs to learn a certain skill, or can grow in their character under the influence of someone. This can be a much older person like an adult or a slightly older peer whom they look up to. I personally love for my daughter to hang out with the daughers of the other three By Faith She girls because their girls possess the godly character that I hope my daughter will have in just a few short years when she reaches their age.
17. Mission Trips. Each year we look for an opportunity to plug our children into mission work. We take an annual Family Mission Trip with our church in which we help with property upkeep at any of the Baptist Homes for Kids in our state followed by a time of fellowship with the children who live there. And, a big milestone in our house is that when our children enter into their teen years, they get to go on their first foreign mission trip. My oldest got to experience his first trip this summer when he went to Kenya with his dad. This 12-day trip changed my boy! It grew him spiritually and matured him in ways that only God can do!
18. Claim Scripture For Them on Every Birthday. This is a way to indirectly impact your children as they grow in their faith. On their birthdays, I consider the season that each child is in and thoughtfully choose a verse for them. I share this verse with them and pray it often in my prayers for them. In addition, I have also chosen a family verse for this year: Psalm 128:1-4. It has already been a great guide for keeping my heart and my thoughts Scripturally aligned as I pray for our family.
19. Let Them See You Read Your Bible (often). The one thing that I encourage moms to do above all else is to let your children see you read your Bible. Even if the house isn’t quiet and dishes are stacked up in the sink, take 10 minutes and read the Bible while your children are present. Model for them what reading the Bible looks like. You’ll be surprised how quickly they catch it! My life has been in the pit at times, wayward at others, and always in need of guidance. Knowing that my own mother has stayed connected to the Lord through His Word and prayer throughout my life has been a lifeline for me to hang onto during each and every step. She has always been steady for me and it's because I know WHO her anchor is by the spiritual disciplines that I have watched her faithfully carry out.
20. Read Parenting by Paul David Tripp. All I can say about this book is that it is life-changing! It is transforming! It is the book that I needed 10 years ago!! I am almost done reading it for the second time. This time I have met with a group of mamas every other week, taking one chapter at a time, for the entire school year. I already have plans to reread it a third time so that my husband and I can do it together. It has changed the way that I view and approach parenting moments. It is having a profound impact on me and thus on my children.
There are so many wonderful tools available to help us encourage our little kids grow a big faith. The message that I hope that you will receive today is that our children are ready for more and they need us to show them what more looks like. Hand them engaging materials to learn God’s Word. Practice spiritual disciplines in front of them. Carve out quality time to converse with them. Whatever you do, keep the conversation going and going and going. Pointing them to Christ every single day is our highest and greatest calling. It is an important and ongoing task that should start and end at home.
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First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.
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