Teaching Children to Live Like Jesus

Teaching Children to Live Like Jesus - Parenting Like Hannah
Photo by David King

One of my favorite parts of any new year is listening to people talk about all of the crazy new diets they are trying. I especially enjoy the ones where people eat like “____”.  I think I have heard everything from a Hollywood star to a “Paleo” to someone in the Bible. My guess is that each of these people represents people who were thin because they ate less and moved more in some fashion or another (personally I would hate to be the one who lived off of kale soup forever!).

What if, instead of focusing on what we eat (although, I could use a few more veggies in my diet) or what our children ate, we focused on really teaching our children to live like Jesus lived? Would it change the way the world views Christians? Would we and our children need to make drastic changes in our lifestyles? What would it even look like?

As I thought back over the life of Jesus, I realized there definitely were some patterns in his behavior. Some things he did as a child and many we know he did later in his life (although my guess is, he started as a child). I really believe most of them we can encourage our children and ourselves to model.  What if we picked one each month and really focused on it? Then each month, add an additional aspect of the way Christ lived His life to the way we and our children live our lives?

If I had to pick twelve to focus on with my child (and for myself!), I think I would choose these (I am giving ideas for January. For the remaining months, I will give more details the first of that month.):

1. January – Jesus KNEW THE WORD OF GOD. I understand Jesus is God and all that entails, but I also know he was human. As a child in that time and place, his school work consisted of memorizing the scriptures (our Old Testament) and applying them to the basic subjects in school. The visit Jesus made to the Temple at age 12, showed he already had vast knowledge of not only the scriptures, but the applications that would have been the topic of discussion amongst the “learned” people at the Temple.

So what can we do in January, to live like Jesus?  Study the scriptures with our children, or if they are older, encourage them to study on their own.  I-Bibles have tons of reading plans. I personally am doing the chronological one this year. Each day, the plan tells me what to read. It can even send me e-mail reminders or encourage a friend to remind me.

If you have smaller children, now is the time to start a family devotional. We used to have ours at the breakfast table before school. Maybe yours would work better before bed or right after supper. You may even have to have a “rolling” time that changes each day and a child who makes sure everyone remembers!

It takes two weeks to establish a new habit, so you may have to be extra vigilant this month. Maybe set up a reward jar, where you place a quarter every time your family remembers to have a devotional or for each person who completes a daily Bible reading. Use the money for a family reward or to serve someone else. The important thing is to find something that helps your family remember to study God’s Words every day.

Remember Satan will try to stop you. The last thing Satan wants is for everyone to really know what is in the Bible! On the other hand, the most precious gift you can give your child is to have God’s Words imprinted on her heart and in her mind.

If you already read your Bibles regularly, up the challenge and introduce memorization of scriptures. Memory work as we used to call it, doesn’t have to be dull and difficult. Use scripture songs and sing your way to memorizing God’s Words. You may be surprised to find some of your favorite songs are actually scriptures!

2. February – Jesus PRAYED TO GOD regularly and at length. Although only a few of Jesus’ prayers are recorded, we can suppose from the frequency and urgency with which Jesus approached prayer, his prayers were filled with everything in his life. Do you know if your children are praying on their own? Are they comfortable talking to God about everything, or are their prayers rote and formal? Check back in February, for ideas on how to nurture your child’s prayer life.

3. March – Jesus spent TIME WITH PEOPLE WHO LOVED GOD. Sure, the Apostles didn’t really understand everything, but one thing we rarely focus on is that they loved God very much. Even Paul, who was persecuting Christians before he became one, was passionate about God. Jesus spent much of his time trying to reach the lost, but he always had his inner circle who loved God with him. Our children need to be in church and spending time with friends at church who love the Lord. Christians build us up to face the challenges in our worlds and to have the strength to reach others for Christ. Does your child have friends at Church? Do your children go to Church and Bible class every week?

4. April – Jesus HELPED THE HURTING WITH LOVE. As you examine the days of Jesus, much of his time was spent helping meet the felt needs of the people he encountered. He served as many people as he possibly could. Our children need to constantly think of themselves as servants to those around them. They need to learn to notice the felt needs of the people they encounter and find ways to help meet those needs. Do your children notice when others are hurting? Do they naturally serve those around them? Do they know how to help others who need help? Do they know how to serve so the person feels loved and not pitied?

5. May – Jesus TAUGHT OTHERS ABOUT GOD. Jesus spent time teaching the lost about God and strengthening the faith and godly knowledge of those who already believed in God. Do your children know how to tell others about God?  Do they have the tools to help others grow spiritually as they grow themselves?

6. June – Jesus ASKED OTHERS MEANINGFUL QUESTIONS AND REALLY LISTENED TO THEIR ANSWERS WITH LOVE. Jesus showed others he loved them, because he asked them meaningful questions about their lives and hearts. When they answered him, Jesus listened not only to their words, but to their hearts as well. Do your children know how to get to know others in a meaningful way? Do they know how to ask important questions? Do they know how to listen not only to the words a person is saying, but to try and discern the “heart” behind the words?

7. July – Jesus SPENT TIME ALONE (WITH GOD). Although Jesus was God, he was also human. There were times when the stress must have been overwhelming. Jesus knew to separate himself from everyone and spend time alone in prayer and refreshing his soul.  Do your children have “quiet” times during their week for prayer, thought, reflection? Do they know how to sit without any noise and think through and pray about what is going on in their lives? Do they know how to re-fresh their spirits when the stresses of the world get to be too much?

8. August – Jesus STOOD UP FOR GOD IN SPITE OF THE POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES. If you think about it, Jesus was constantly confronting anything he saw as contrary to the will of God. He was not afraid to verbally confront religious leaders or overturn the tables at the Temple. He was anything but, non-confrontational.  Are your children ready to stand up for what is right? Are they willing to do it in the face of opposition? Are they willing to confront anything or anyone who is contrary to God? Are they strong enough to remain faithful if there are worldly consequences for doing what is right?

9. September – Jesus WENT WHERE GOD LED HIM.  Did you ever think about the fact that Jesus made a career change at age 30? Up until then, we assume he was running or helping with the family business. Yet when God told Jesus it was time to start a ministry, he did. Are your children willing to go where God leads them? Do they know how to see God working in their lives? Do they know how to find out where God is leading them? Are they wiling to potentially give up a life of money, power and fame for a life as a servant?

10. October – Jesus was willing to TAKE THE TIME TO PREPARE for what God had in store for him to do. Jesus spent thirty-odd years preparing for his ministry. I have always wondered why God chose to begin the ministry of Jesus at that particular point. Was their some knowledge or maturity Jesus needed?  We know Jesus was spending at least some of that time studying God’s Words, but we aren’t sure exactly what else is involved in “growing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”  Even after his baptism though, Jesus went into the dessert for 40 days to fast and prepare (and be tempted!) before he actually began in earnest. Childhood is a great time for God to begin preparing people for future things He will want them to do in the Kingdom. Do our children view discovering and learning new skills as preparation for ministry or as a chore or a way to become rich and famous? What can we do to help prepare our children for ministry?

11. November – Jesus always KEPT THE GOAL IN MIND. Although I am sure Jesus was not looking forward to his crucifixion, it is obvious from his teachings that his goal for living here on earth was always on his mind. He lived his life so he would be ready when the time came. Although he asked for God to find another way, when the time came, Jesus did what he was here to do.  Do your children understand they are on earth to glorify God, worship Him, serve Him and help others learn about Him? Is their goal fame and fortune or a heavenly home? Which goals are they working towards? (I’m not implying you can earn salvation, but there are things God asks us to do.)

12. December – Jesus was WILLING TO SACRIFICE EVERYTHING WORLDLY FOR GOD. Jesus gave up his career, his family for a time (remember when they thought he was crazy?), a “normal” home and family, and ultimately his life, to do what God wanted him to do. Is your child prepared to sacrifice some of the possible “perks” of a worldly life, to live a godly life? Is there a line where your children will give “this” to God, but not “that”?

Wow! This is going to be some year! We have got some interesting topics to discuss and hopefully we can find some fun, creative ways to begin to teach our children how to truly “live like Jesus”. I hope you will join me on my journey each month. let me know what you are thinking about each topic and how you are incorporating the concepts into your family. I would love us to share with each other, so we can all live lives which are perhaps more Christ-like.

Published by

Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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