We’ve all heard it before but one of the most effective tools we have in teaching our kids about anything is to first be the example. We can tell our kids to do something, but unless they see you doing it, the chances of them taking it upon themselves to follow-suit is slim (especially as they get older). I don’t want to focus just on the negative: yes in order for your children to not smoke, not swear or not engage in disobedient behavior is to not do it either, but I want to focus on the positive, esp. when it comes to teaching our children how to walk with the Lord.
Teaching children scripture and basic biblical principles is incredibly important and essential to the building blocks of their faith – I do not want to discount that. But what I feel is more important is how YOU are working out your faith in front of your children. My parents tried but it didn’t hold water and as an adult I found myself floundering as to how to walk with the Lord. I was never taught how to study the scriptures, I was never encouraged to pray and to learn to pray by just the simple act of praying and I wasn’t affirmed in how important it is to spend time getting to know the Lord.
We teach our children a lot of things through direct means, but sometimes the things that have the biggest impact on their lives are taught by indirect means. I encourage you to learn more about the spiritual disciplines and not only practice them alone, but in front of your children. This can have an amazing impact on your own personal walk with the Lord, but also teach your children how to live in relationship with Christ. One of the spiritual disciplines my husband and I participate in each week is silence and solitude. We decide the day and the time and then take turns so there is someone to watch the kids. We have been doing this for a few years now and when one of us leaves for our appointed time, our four year old will now say, “Have fun with Jesus!” He knows where I am going and what it’s purpose is: to spend time with my Savior. He also asks when will he be old enough to go with me (talk about encouraging my heart!). While his time of silence and solitude may look different than mine when he is old enough to practice it, the fact that he is seeing mommy and daddy do it, and what we share with him about our time is setting him up with the knowledge and the confidence to be a student of the Master.
Some ideas to try to easing yourself and your family into the spiritual disciplines:
Thanksgiving and Praise. Spend a few moments everyday thanking Jesus for the gifts he has given you. Let the kids share whatever they feel like, no matter how small or silly, and encourage them to thank Jesus with their hearts and also their voices. This can also lead your family in a time of worship. Worship is basically telling God who he is and that you’re happy about it. If singing worship songs is easier, than do that. But it can be as easy as simply saying “God is so good to us. He is an amazing Father!”
Prayer. Chances are you are already praying for your children, so now extend this practice into praying with your children. Kids are very eager to talk so as you pray together, encourage them to pray to God on their own. My four year used to resist this but each time we prayed I would tell him there is nothing that he can not tell God, that God loves him so much he’s just happy to talk with him. Now I will hear him talking in his bed before falling asleep at night and the next morning he’ll tell me he was talking to God all night long.
Rest. While practicing the Sabbath for some families is incredibly difficult (this is one that we have done and are trying to do again and each week we struggle at some point in the day), allotting time each week to spend together as a family encourages children to understand the resting aspect of the Sabbath. To stop moving at such a fast pace and enjoy being together as a family. This specific time can then spread into talking about or partaking in other spiritual disciplines.
Practicing the spiritual disciplines can transform your own walk with the Lord, but it can have far-reaching effects in the lives of your children. What a blessing it is for them to know how their parents strive to seek God, but also that you are teaching them how to do the same. To learn more about the spiritual disciplines, check out this encouraging and informative message by my husband. Of course I am partial, but it has some great information and counsel in it as well.