This month’s assignment in Teaching Our Children to Live More Like Jesus is to take the time to prepare our children to serve God. In Preparing Our Children for God, I shared some of the reasons I believe this is possibly one of the most important things we will ever do as parents.
Unfortunately, I am afraid many parents put more thought and effort into how they will potty train their child than how they will prepare that same child to follow and serve God. Admit it, when your first child was old enough to potty train how many articles and books did you read? How many experienced parents did you ask for advice? How many times did you call someone in the middle of the training process for support or emergency advice?
I think sometimes when we think about trying to be as purposeful about preparing our children to serve God, we just get overwhelmed. How are we supposed to train our child when we still don’t totally understand everything ourselves? Where is the training manual? Whom do we go to for the correct advice? You may even feel a bit embarrassed asking for help because you assume all of the other Christian parents have it down pat and will be shocked you don’t.
Being purposeful in your child’s spiritual preparation doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There are plenty of good books and experienced Christian parents to help you when you get stuck. And there’s no reason to feel foolish because you don’t have all of the answers. My daughter is a senior in high school and I will still occasionally return to my friends with grown, faithful Christian children to make sure I am on the right track or to get advice.
Whether you are just starting with the idea of purposefully preparing your children to serve God or are fine tuning what you are currently doing, here are some of what I believe are the training basics. Rome wasn’t built in a day and thankfully God usually gives us a couple of decades to raise our children. Don’t try to start a lot of new things at once. Just try every day to do at least one purposeful thing to move each of your children towards God. You may look back in ten years and realize how much you really have done to prepare your children to serve God.
1. Your children need to hear and read God’s Words every day. I know I have probably personally used every excuse in the book over the years to explain why this doesn’t happen as much as it should. Finally, I realized my days went better if I spent a few minutes every morning reading the Bible. Our family seemed more focused the days we had family devotionals. God’s Word helps remind your children daily of their purpose, their gifts and their responsibilities. Being in God’s Word helps prepare them not only for future service, but to get through their day right now focus on what God wants them to do.
2. Your children need to understand and experience the power of prayer. If you have been a Christian for very long, you have probably seen prayer work in amazing ways. Don’t just focus on teaching them to pray. Help them see God’s answers to their prayers. Teach them to see God actively working in their lives. Show them how to accept God’s “No” and “Wait” as graciously as they do God’s “Yes”. All are equally important answers from God.
3. Set consistent limits and consequences for your children. Teaching your children to obey you will prepare them for obeying God in the future. Sometimes they will understand why they are told to do something and sometimes (like when darting in front of a car) they will need to learn to obey immediately without questioning. God may require both types of obedience from your children at some point in the future and they need to be prepared to obey.
4. Teach your children how to serve others and share their faith at the same time. The Bible commands both numerous times. Serving others without actively and purposefully pointing them towards God is denying them the opportunity to become reconciled to God. Sharing your faith with a person who can’t hear through their hunger or other felt need is denying them the love God wants them to feel from Him through His people. Serve with your children and share your faith while you are doing it. Teach them the two must always be connected. Even when we are serving our brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be reminding them of God’s loving presence.
5. Help your children discover the tools God gave them to serve Him. The tools may be aspects of their personality, special gifts and talents from God and the places and people God places in their lives. Your children need to understand they can serve God where ever they are and in a multitude of ways. They need to be very aware of the people and circumstances around them and how they can be God’s ambassador’s to everyone they encounter.
6. Train your children to separate people and the Church from God. No, that’s not a typo. Your children need to understand how vitally important it is for them to worship with the Body of Christ every week. Christians can help them stay on God’s path and support them through the storms of life. Eventually though, some Christian or some congregation will break your child’s heart. Perhaps someone they admired as a Christian leader falls into sin and leaves God. Maybe someone they know and love at church turns out to be a dishonest boss when they work for him one summer. Maybe the congregation you attend implodes from some conflict or sin. Your children need to have the discernment to understand Christians are sinners who are given forgiveness. Satan is going to use whomever he can to get people to follow him instead of God, including Christians. Teach your children to be resilient in the face of human Christian frailty, pick themselves up, dust their wounded spirits off and get back to serving and worshipping God.
7. Use every teachable moment God gives you. How many teachable moments do we let slide, because we are in a hurry or tired? We only get a limited amount of time to have a daily influence on our children. Make the most of every moment. I absolutely understand my daughter has free will. Hopefully, she will use it to follow God. Whether she does or not though, I hope I have done everything I possibly could to impress upon her how eternally important it is to follow God.
If you need a little extra reminder to keep you focused on preparing your children, write this Bible verse on a notecard and tape it where you will see it. You may want to make several and place them in multiple places where you will be reminded of your mission several times throughout the day.
“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. Teach them diligently to your sons and talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7