If you are a person of faith, one of the biggest concerns you face as a parent is how to instill faith in your child, a faith that lasts. If you desire to help your child grow spiritually, you are in the right place.
My husband Jeremy wrote the article below. I hope you find it helpful and full of encouragement.
How do you Help Grow the Faith of a Child?
As a young man, my assumption was always that faithful parents will produce faithful children. As I grew into adulthood, even before having children of my own, I came to realize that this doesn’t happen by accident.
I saw parents with a committed and active faith raise their children and watch them leave home without cultivating an active faith of their own. Sometimes this happened slowly over time; sometimes in a short burst because of a significant life event. And, sometimes, despite the parents’ best efforts, they were unable to instill faith in their child.
Of course, not every child loses their faith as they age out of their parents care. In some, the faith survives and roots. A select few even begin to produce fruit independently.
Teaching Children about Faith
I watched this process play out among my friends and mentors. These are people I respect for their own strength of faith.
At this point, I began to ask, to investigate, why some children pursued God into their adult years while others were content to assimilate to a faithless society.
What was different among those whose faith flourished and developed independently? What causes a child to lose interest and fall away?
As my oldest child began to leave her toddler years and become a child, I attacked these questions more vigorously. I desire for my children to know God, love God and take their faith seriously.
There were two ways I pursued this: Interviewing people with faithful kids and reflecting on what the Bible says about this.
Interviewing People with Faithful Kids
The Secret Service is the agency responsible for identifying and pursing counterfeit money. When they bring a new agent on board, they need to teach them how to spot a counterfeit. They don’t bother teaching these agents all the ways that counterfeiters have failed to produce spot-on money.
Instead, they drill into them exactly what US currency is like. They teach them the fonts, the colors, the watermarks, the inks, the papers, the metals, and so on. Knowing this, it becomes crystal clear when money is counterfeit, as it has failed at perfection.
This is the tact I took when identifying the familial behaviors that lead to faithful children. Rather than trying to identify the million ways that I could fail to achieve my intended result, I focused on asking parents of faithful children how they accomplished this.
I didn’t sit these parents down and record this with formal conversation. Instead, I asked parents while we were painting together, working together, eating together. At first people responded with humility, but when I pressed them further, these were the behaviors that stuck out.
Talk to Them About Things of God
If I could I only choose one answer that was given to me; this would be it. Parents who talk early and often about the gospel given, the hope we have, and the commandments we have been asked to hold to were the most successful to instill faith in their child.
This doesn’t mean these parents had all the answers. They just had conversations, asked questions, read together and explored together. There was no need for perfection here – just the act of bringing it up was enough.
Get Them to Church when the Doors are Open
We attend a conservative Christian congregation and have church services on Sunday morning “Sunday school” and worship, Wednesday night (singing and bible class), and Sunday night (Singing and bible class) so there are lots of opportunities to engage.
Parents of believing children were active in these services. Sometimes the parents were dragging the kids along and sometimes the kids were drawing in the parents. Going regularly to services allows relationships with other Christians to develop, and knowledge and faith to grow.
Develop a relationship with them
Parents of faithful children managed to cultivate an amicable relationship with them. Sure, every teenager will push boundaries and question authority as they develop their own presence in the world. Parents who managed to push through these barriers and develop two-way communication had the most success with raising believers.
Reflecting on What the Bible Says About How to Instill Faith in Your Child
The Greatest Commandment
If I only got to choose one scripture to tell you how to bring about faith in a child, I would point to the Old Testament where God first gave the Greatest Command.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
When Should we Talk about God?
Think about the various situations that God said we should talk about his Word.
Sitting at home – when you are relaxing.
Walking on the road – walking on the road was how they traveled akin to driving a car today.
When you lie down and get up – twice a day.
Tie them to your hand and bind them to your foreheads – figuratively as you take the word of God with you everywhere. (Some people of the Jewish faith do this literally).
And my favorite, to your doorposts & gates – talk about the commandments of the Lord every time you go in and out of your house on and off your property.
How often should we talk about God’s Word?
All. The. Time.
The Prodigal Son – Luke 15:11–32
The story of the prodigal son is a preacher’s tale given by the greatest preacher of all time. The father exhibits two characteristics critical to creating a safe space to cultivate faith.
Forgiveness – the father, no questions asked, forgave the son, welcoming him back home. A forgiving parent is one that a child can approach when they encounter the struggles of life.
Humility – the father exhibited great humility in throwing a party for a son who had squandered his wealth. He looked like a fool, even to his other son. He was reckless in his love.
Discipline is necessary
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Proverbs 13:24
Children can’t go undisciplined. We have to find, as parents, appropriate ways to discipline our children all the way through their teenage years. A child left unchecked will not respect authority and will likely not fear God either.
Pray about your child’s faith. Teach your child the importance of prayer and be active in your own prayer life. Pray over your child. Pray with your child. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
In closing, the number one key to connecting your child to faith is talking to them about it – all the time. It is not the job of the church. It’s not the job of a youth minister. It is not the job of a minister/preacher. It is your job to instill faith in your child and it is possible to do, but it will take work.
I hope you’ve found some encouragement in this guest blog post by my husband Jeremy! Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below!
Dealing with Uncertainty