The home is the primary place of faith development, not the church. Family has a greater influence on children’s spiritual development than clergy or children’s ministry leaders.
The cells in the chart below represent all the hours in a 30-day month.
If you participate in a worship service plus an additional hour such as Sunday school every week, the yellow cells indicate the time spent in formal faith development at your place of worship.
Those hours are absolutely important. Worshiping together is a vital part of our spiritual growth, and it is what God desires of us. But what happens during the other hours have a bigger influence on the spiritual life of children.
My role as Director of Family Ministry is to equip and empower families and to partner with parents as you lead, disciple, and help your children walk with God.
So what can you do?
- Encourage discussion about God. Expect wondering questions, and don’t pretend you have all the answers. “There are things about the Bible that I don’t understand,” or “Let’s see if we can figure that out together” are honest answers that will lead to more spiritual searching. Sometimes the very best response to a faith question can be “I wonder about that, too.”
- Children are learning how to live as Christian disciples by watching you every day. Do you show patience with others? Are you at peace in difficult times? How do you demonstrate the priority you place on worship? Are you thankful for what God has done for you and do you show that generosity by sharing your resources?
- Faith develops with conversation. Talk about a time you trusted God even when life was hard. Discuss what you learned at church and what you will do with what you learned. Let children express their ideas, even if (especially if) they are different than yours. Faith can’t be owned until it is wrestled with.
- Help a child see God in everyday experiences. Thank God for a beautiful sunrise, a lovely flower, or the opportunity to work. Tell where you noticed God in your life today. Talk about how God helped you be kind or to show love to someone who was difficult to like.
- The Bible is a powerful way that God is revealed to us, but there are some passages in the Bible that are more developmentally appropriate for children to start reading and hearing than others. Here is just one list of scripture texts that you might use with children. You may use it as a summer reading challenge or choose a text and read it aloud together at dinner once a week.
- Read children’s storybook Bibles, but also read books about kindness, giving, love, and humility. Be sure to talk about the stories. What happened? How did the characters feel? How would I feel if that happened to me? What can I learn about God from this story?
- Serve God by serving others. To live as disciples of Jesus we follow Christ’s example to serve. Look for chances to volunteer as a family. Give to others without expecting anything in return.
- Encourage children to talk with God about anything. Pray aloud, but don’t use fancy words that you wouldn’t use in conversation. You can pray standing up or lying down or while driving (with your eyes open). Let your children hear you pray for them and for others.
- Help children develop a positive image of God. Please, please, please do not threaten a child with God’s punishment for misbehavior or tell a child he must be good because “God is watching.” Being afraid of God is not the same as being in awe of God. God is loving, forgiving, trustworthy, and patient. God will always listen and will never leave us. God cares about us and wants to be near us.
If you have questions or would like more resources to use at home, contact your local clergy or children’s and family ministry leaders.
Your word is like a lamp that guides my steps, a light that shows the path I should take.Psalm 119: 105 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)