Simple Ways to Point Your Kids to God

A recent Barna study found kids and teens who grew to be faithful, productive Christians as adults had been exposed to an average of about 2 hours of spiritual content a day.

Before you start to panic, the good news is that it doesn’t all have to be formal instruction (Note: Sending your kids to a Christian school, doesn’t remove the need for you, as their parents, to provide spiritual content for them.) Things like praying and having people over to eat count towards the total.

In fact, there are lots of rather simple things you can do to increase your kids’ exposure to spiritual content each day. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Have faith conversations in the car. If you’re a parent, you probably spend a lot of time in the car with your kids. As you talk about life, make sure to point them towards God whenever possible. These spiritual discussions are a key factor in building a strong faith foundation.
  • Have drive by prayers. Don’t close your eyes if you are driving, but get in the habit of having short prayers motivated by things you see as you drive. Anyone can notice something and lead a drive by prayer for it.
  • Make time for family devotionals. You make time to read your kids lots of secular books and encourage them to read independently. Why? Because you have heard it will help them do better in school. Make an effort to read the Bible to your kids and encourage them to read it independently. Having a strong faith foundation is even more important than doing well in school.
  • Make worship services and Bible classes a priority. When you regularly skip church and Bible class for other activities, you send the message that those are things are good to do only if there isn’t anything better available.
  • Serve others and share your faith. Serving others and sharing your faith should be as much of your family DNA as your last name and your holiday traditions. You will initially do these things as a family. As your kids grow older, their individual service and faith sharing should be as common as what you do as a family.
  • Let your kids have their friends over. Hospitality is a major part of the home life of kids who grow up to be faithful Christians. It doesn’t have to be formal entertaining either. Letting them invite their friends to your house counts. So do visits by neighbors and extended family.
  • Do things with other Christian families. Don’t wait for your church to plan something organized. Meet another family at the park, take a hike with a group from church or grab a fast food lunch after church with others.
  • When you take your kids to a museum, look for sections covering cultures in the Bible. Many museums have sections with artifacts from the Egyptians, the Romans, the Assyrians, the Greeks and other cultures in the Bible. You may find lots of artifacts mentioned in the Bible like oil lamps, Torah scrolls, mummies (Jacob and Joseph’s bodies were mummified in Egypt), even some of the idols like Baal. (Note: In some museums, artifacts from Israel will be found in a section called Levantine or Levant culture.)
  • Take your kids outside. The Bible teaches us that creation points to God. Take your kids on a hike, to the beach, to an aquarium or zoo. Point out how amazing God is and how much He loves us.

Helping your kids build strong faith foundations and grow to their godly potential takes intentionality. Once you make the time though, the things you need to do are actually rather basic. Don’t let anything stop you from teaching your kids about God.

Family Faith Stories Your Kids Need to Hear

Teaching your kids about God requires more than just reading the Bible to them. Your children need to understand why Christianity is so important to you. They need to know what all of God’s commands and principles look like in real life.

One of the best ways to have those conversations is to share family faith stories with your kids. Children love to hear family stories. Why not make some of your family stories about the faith you and your family have in God?

So what are good family faith stories to share with your children? Here are some of our favorites.

  • Baptism stories. Not just of the baptism itself, but what you were thinking at the time. Share why you think it was important to be baptized. Explain why you are glad you became a Christian. Talk about how you felt coming up out of the water. Sometimes the details of a baptism can have funny elements to them and it’s okay to share those, too. In fact, those little fun details can make the more serious parts of the story more memorable.
  • Stories of times you were aware of God working in your life. Don’t let words like “luck” and “coincidence” creep into your family stories. God is still working in the world today. Give Him the credit He deserves when those amazing things happened in your life.
  • Stories of experiences that made you keenly aware of God’s existence. Often these stories involve an experience in God’s creation – nature – but they don’t have to be limited to that. Sometimes God is just as present in a beautiful piece of music or art or something else we usually attribute to humans. God gives us talents, so the results of using them are also part of His creation.
  • Stories of answered prayers. Stories of times when God granted your requests are important for children to hear. Perhaps even more important are the times when God asked you to wait or denied your request. Share with your kids how you learned of God’s amazing wisdom as time revealed why granting your request would not have been in your best interest.
  • Stories of your Church family helping you become more faithful. Many young people struggle with seeing the advantages of being engaged in Christian community. They see the problems people cause, but miss noticing the advantages. God wants His people to be part of a vibrant Christian community. Telling your kids stories of how fellow Christians helped you through difficult times, encouraged you or helped you grow and mature can help your kids understand why God wants them to be involved in a local congregation.
  • Stories of times when you learned obeying God’s commands really was best for you. Some of God’s commands may seem outdated to your kids. Yet, God meant those commands for all time. It’s crucial to show your kids how God will always be wiser than people.

You may have other faith stories to share with your kids and that is wonderful. Encourage other family members to share their faith stories, too. The more faith stories your children hear, the more they will understand how God works and why being a Christian is so important.

4 Ways to Develop Intrinsic Motivation in Your Kids

When parents want a child to do something, they often fall back on two parenting standards, the “carrot” and the “stick”. The “carrot” is offering some sort of reward if the child obeys or accomplishes a goal set by the parent. The “stick” is some sort of negative consequence given for disobedience or failing to reach a parental goal.

The problem with both the “carrot” and the “stick” is that they are methods of external motivation. The parent has to continue supplying rewards or threatening consequences to get the child to exhibit the appropriate behaviors. While this can work in the short run, it has one large fatal flaw.

Extrinsic motivation does little to change the child’s heart. It focuses merely on the visible behaviors of a child. External consequences are a necessary part of parenting. They help remind a child that disobedience has consequences. Rewards can be helpful on rare occasions as an encouragement for a child to begin tackling a large task. Neither though really focus on developing the godly heart we want our children to have.

To help children develop that godly heart, it’s important to find ways to encourage the intrinsic motivation that usually accompanies it. A child who is intrinsically motivated and has a heart for God will still make mistakes and sin. They are much more likely, however, to grow to be faithful, productive Christians as adults.

So what do children being raised in Christian homes need from their parents to develop the intrinsic motivation to obey God? Intrinsic motivation is based on a genuine interest and ambition towards completing certain actions. To have that intrinsic motivation to obey God, your kids will need:

  • Knowledge of God. They don’t need to just know a bunch of Bible stories and other scriptures that tell them what God wants from His people. They need this knowledge of what is in the Bible to understand who God is – in general – but also specifically to them. That knowledge can begin giving them that internal, passion for loving and obeying Him.
  • Understanding of God’s wisdom and plans. Understanding how wise God is and God’s plans are key parts of both having passion and ambition for obeying God. Who wouldn’t want to go through life following God who holds all wisdom and has a plan for them to live eternally in Heaven with Him? Obviously, there are many more details, but the principle is the same. Without understanding why God wants them to obey Him, it will be difficult for your kids to internally motivate themselves.
  • Valuing God. There are a lot of aspects of this valuing of God. Your kids have to have that passion and ambition for following, worshipping and obeying God. It will come in part when they truly value their relationship with Him and want that relationship to grow stronger and deeper. If they don’t value God in their lives, they probably won’t spend a lifetime worshipping and serving Him.
  • Gratitude. It’s often the gratitude for God’s gifts, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and everything else God has done for us that leads people to becoming Christians who are active, faithful and productive servants of God. A quick glance through the epistles in the New Testament reveals the immense gratitude the writers had for everything God had given them. If your kids aren’t grateful for God’s blessings, for Jesus dying on the cross for their sins, for the opportunity to spend eternity in Heaven with God, they will struggle to follow Him and share their faith with others.

Helping your kids develop the intrinsic motivation to worship, serve and obey God is vitally important. It’s worth taking the time and effort to help them develop hearts that are truly God’s.

Fun Way to Teach Kids About Building Their Lives on God

Have you ever talked with your kids about centering their lives around God? Do they know what it means to view the world through the lens God would want them to use? There’s a fun activity you can do with them that can help them better understand what happens when you use God as the foundation of your life and when you don’t.

Grab your kids, a Bible, some scrap paper or other materials. Read them the story of the wise and foolish builders found in Matthew 7:24-27. If your kids are younger, you may want to ask them to sing the song that goes with this story.

Explain that the story may be hard for them to understand since they have probably never built a building. Put out the stack of recycled paper. Give each child a pillow, heavy sweater or anything soft that will create an unstable foundation. Tell your kids they are to build the tallest tower they can using only paper on the foundation you have provided.

Give them a set amount of time to build their tower. Explain that you will now be a hurricane and see how strong their towers are. Go to each tower and blow on it, fan it, whatever you need to do to get it to start falling apart. Then have them repeat the experiment using the floor as their foundation. Can they build a stronger tower on this firmer foundation? (Realize your “building materials” are weak too, so go easy on the “wind” for the firmer foundation!).

Talk about what happened. Ask why Jesus wants us to build a firm foundation on God. Discuss what having a firm foundation in God means. What will they do differently than someone whose foundation is not in God?  (Note: For younger children, keep it very simple.)

Fun Activity to Help Your Kids Understand Miracles

Miracles are an important part of the Bible – especially the ministry of Jesus. The Bible tells us they were necessary so people could tell God from magicians and fake gods. Modern theologians often try to explain miracles as some natural phenomenon God used to make a point.

Unfortunately, that viewpoint undermines the very purpose of miracles – God being able to overcome natural laws only because He is the one who created them and is more powerful than those laws.

There is a fun activity you can do to help your kids understand how impossible it is for man to do a true miracle (Note: During the Ten Plagues the magicians could fake the first few plagues, but soon gave up as God increased the miracles).

You will need your kids, a Bible and a large paper or plastic plate, markers, sticks, optional masking or colored tapes. Tell your children the stories told in Joshua chapters 10, 11 and 18. Talk about the miracle involved. Explain that God uses miracles to remind people He is God and can control anything – including the sun.

Help your children understand the basics of how the sun normally moves during the day, creating a marker for time. By causing the sun to stand still, God was in effect making time stand still as well. (Since this is a difficult concept for children to understand, you may want to do the craft before telling the story. Take the finished sundials outside and have them note where the shadow is at that time. After telling the story and discussing it , note where the shadow is at this point. It won’t move much in those fifteen minutes, but if you have marked where it was, a slight difference should be visible.)

Give them paper plates. Have them decorate the center with something that helps them remember God as the Creator can change any “rules” of nature with miracles any time He wants. Have them mark the rim of the plate with numbers like a clock. (Plates can be pre-marked with tape at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions.) Help them insert the stick in the middle of the plate through the hole made there. Have them put a bit of play dough on the reverse side of the sundial around the stick. (This will keep the stick stable and more accurate.)

Take the sundials outdoors and line them up so the shadow reflects the current time. Have your kids try to make time stand still as reflected on the sun dial. The only ways they can think of (like casting a shadow over the sundial) are really tricks and aren’t actually making the sun stand still. Explain that in order for God to do that He broke several of the natural laws He created (like rotation of the Earth – technically if that were to happen all sorts of things would happen) But God was able to break the rotation for a time without the negative consequences only because He is God and it was a true miracle.

Remind your kids that anyone who tries to deny or downplay God’s miracles in the Bible is attempting to diminish God’s power. Fortunately, God is all powerful and His power cannot be removed merely because someone refuses to believe in miracles.