Christian parenting is hard. It’s complex. It’s also crucial if you want your children to grow up to be faithful, productive Christians. What if there were a way to simplify it a bit and know what you needed to focus on the most? It’s possible, but first, we need to define the type of Christian we want our children to be.
Is your goal to have children who identify themselves as Christian, believe in God, are nice and attend worship service a few times a year? Is your goal for them to attend church most of the time as adults, give money to their church and help with one of the ministry chores in their congregation? Or is your goal to raise a child who passionately lives his or her faith as an adult – obeying God’s commands and principles, worshipping God at church and in life, fellowshipping with Christians, serving others and sharing their faith daily? I believe God wants your children to grow up to not just believe in Him and be nice people, but truly model their lives to be like the life of Jesus – daily worshipping, studying, praying, obeying, serving others and sharing their faith.
Sounds great, but how do we get there? Our minister’s message this week wasn’t about parenting, but I think his points also work well as we Christian parent our children. Your kids are going to be involved in spiritual warfare. In order to get to Heaven and take as many with them as possible (making the world a better place in the process), they will need you to help them in three basic areas.
Preparation. They can’t live the life God wants them to live if they have no idea what that is. They can’t defeat Satan when tempted by quoting scripture (like Jesus did when tempted) if they don’t know any scripture. They can’t serve others and share their faith effectively if they don’t even know what they believe. Your job in this area is to prepare them as well as you possibly can. If you were sending your child into a dangerous situation and wanted them to return unharmed, you would do anything and everything possible to make sure they were prepared. The battle for their souls has eternal consequences and you should be just as passionate about making sure they are prepared for it.
Purpose. Do your kids know their purpose on Earth? Many young people struggle because they have no sense of purpose or meaning in their lives. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 is a good place to start. The New Testament is filled with commands and principles God gives Christians that help build an understanding of our meaning and purpose on Earth and how we are to think, speak and behave to be able to most fully reach those goals.
People. The people with whom we spend the most time impact us in lots of ways. Your kids can’t isolate themselves from people who aren’t Christian or never sin, because they wouldn’t have anyone to spend time with during their lives. Especially when they are young, however, they should spend the majority of their time with people who encourage them to obey God – whether or not they have the same beliefs. They should look for friends who help them be the best that they can be. Your children will be kind to, serve and teach others who are struggling, but their faith isn’t strong enough to weather having those people as their best friends. Even as adults – when they may spend much of their day ministering to others, they still need to have a core group of friends who are strong Christians and will not only encourage them, but also hold them accountable.
That’s it. Christian parenting boils down to three basic areas – preparation, purpose and people. If you help your children well in those three areas, they will very likely be faithful, productive Christians as adults.
Over the years, I have noticed that sermons and Bible classes discussing serving others and sharing our faith tend to go one of two ways. Either they are extremely general in nature or (if it’s a class specifically for kids or teens) it focuses on doing little basic things around the home or school. As a result, kids and teens often get more specific ideas and encouragement about ways to serve others from secular sources. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing except that they begin to believe serving others happens more in a secular environment and they don’t learn the importance of connecting sharing their faith to service (or how to do it).
You may not be able to change this dynamic in your church very easily, but you can do some things with your own kids to help them learn about some of the many ways Christians serve others and share their faith around the world. This more specific knowledge can help them begin dreaming about how they can serve God and share their faith using their own talents and opportunities – now and in the future as adults.
Here are a few ways to expose your kids to more specific ideas of ways to serve God, while sharing their faith.
Invite people to share their stories with your kids. Since hospitality has been shown to be a key ingredient in successful Christian parenting, get even more benefits by inviting over people who serve God and share their faith. Encourage them to share their stories with your kids. What are they doing? How did they get involved in those ways? What skills and knowledge did they need to be effective?
Share books, articles and social media posts with your kids. Many people in ministry share their stories in a variety of ways. Follow lots of different people to get a taste of a variety of experiences. In my own ministry, for example, I would have never mentioned ministering to children who have been through a war. Then this year, a war broke out in a country where I do quite a bit if ministry work. I had a steep learning curve about ministering effectively to young people who have lived through a war. I also shared what I learned with others through my ministry. Your teens could have read the ebook that resulted and learned about what would be involved in helping children of war (who are often underserved around the world). While they might not be ready to do much yet, it can plant a seed either for more skills they want to learn or for ministry they hope to do in the future.
Explore secular non profits and discuss ways to adapt them so they would also include faith sharing. Secular non profits do some great things. They just don’t include the faith sharing piece God wants us to include in everything we do. Explore with your kids what different non profits are doing. How could a few things be changed to point those they are helping to God? (Note: For teens, the discussion should include funding. Many Christian groups become secular because access to government funds is often restricted if Jesus is mentioned. How could they find funding and still share their faith?)
Encourage dreaming, brainstorming and experimenting. Your kids need time to dream these godly dreams. Encourage them to brainstorm ways to solve the problems they see in the world around them by serving others and sharing their faith. Allow them to take some first steps towards something that interests them. Look at ”failure” as a learning experience. Not every idea will work, but sometimes what they learn from their mistakes leads to an idea that will work well.
Encourage shadowing, mentoring and apprenticeships. Do your kids seems particularly interested in a specific area? Is there a Christian doing those things that would allow your child to shadow him or her for a day or a project? Would they be willing to mentor your child? What about an apprenticeship where your child will be providing actual help on a ministry project? Encourage your kids to learn as much as they can and think of ways to make the ministry even more effective. Even if that ministry doesn’t like the ideas, they may be useful to your child in the future.
Don’t raise kids who have no specific ideas of ways they can serve others or share their faith. Or kids who think doing an occasional extra chore around the house or being kind to someone at school fulfills God’s commands for them to serve others and share their faith. Help them be prepared to fully serve God every day of their lives.
Because of the nature of the ministry at Teach One Reach One Ministries (the parent ministry of Parenting Like Hannah), it is easier for us to see needs not just in a specific congregation, but globally for the church as a whole. In spite of what you may have read, we believe the church will always have a need for people with certain skill sets and gifts to share their knowledge or talents with people in other locations. In addition, there are some people groups who are so unreached by Christianity that the harvest will at least temporarily need workers from other areas to help reap it. (Matthew 9:35-38)
The problem is that often the people most able to help don’t speak the local language(s). Even more challenging, people who are deaf worldwide have only a handful of people who can sign to them about God. In many countries, those who are deaf do not attend school and cannot read or write. It is estimated the deaf is one of the largest unreached (by Christianity) people groups worldwide. Complicating it even more, American Sign Language is just that – American. Often each country and sometimes each village can have a unique sign language which may bear no resemblance to the others.
You probably can guess where this post is headed, but there is one more area to cover. The Bible has yet to be translated into some of the more obscure languages which still have often thousands of speakers. Many times, Christians have to move to and live in these remote areas to learn the obscure language in hopes of aiding in the translation of the Bible. Some have even had to help develop a written language as the local language has only been spoken.
We need more young people to become truly fluent in multiple languages to serve as interpreters. Or to teach in a second or third language. Or to learn an obscure language and help translate the Bible. Or to translate written ministry resources into other languages.
Why do I say truly fluent? The American educational system makes us and our children think we are fluent in a language when most of us are not. When I have had native speakers grade translations by Americans, the average grade is a ”C” and most ministries need that to be an ”A” to be truly helpful. You and your children will have to go beyond the lessons most schools provide, doing extra work to become truly fluent. Consider mastering a more obscure spoken language or a sign language in addition to ASL. You may want to do a little research and find which languages would be most helpful. Surprisingly, Spanish is one of those languages, as it is almost impossible to find someone who will translate ministry resources on a volunteer basis. (The cost is prohibitive.)
Preparing your children for ministry may include giving them the opportunities to master additional languages. Not every child will be able to (or want to) do it, but for those who are, it will make them more equipped to help reap the spiritual harvest in areas that are underserved.
If the surveys are accurate, Christianity has lost sight of its primary mission. Before Jesus left Earth after his resurrection, he gave his followers a command that applies to every Christian since then. Our primary directive? To teach others the Gospel message, baptize them and teach them how to obey everything Jesus commanded. Yet the vast majority of Christians aren’t familiar with these verses in scripture, much less are they obeying them.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can break the negative cycle by teaching your kids at a young age how to share their faith. When children are taught to do something at a young age and are given lots of practice, it becomes very natural to them. It’s difficult for them to avoid doing those things. Your children need to be able to share their faith as easily as they breathe.
Sounds great, but what if you are unsure how to share your faith personally? What if you don’t know how to teach your kids how to share their faith? Thankfully, the basics of faith sharing are fairly simple.
Teach them how to ask questions to create a connection. When they meet someone new, can your kids ask questions to help them find things they have in common with the other person? Many kids do this naturally, but if your child struggles, give them some tips and guided practice. Others are more likely to listen to your child share his or her faith if there is an emotional connection.
Teach them how to find out where someone is spiritually or share something non-threatening to start a spiritual conversation. Sometimes, people will initiate a spiritual conversation with someone they know is a Christian. At other times, it can be quite natural to ask them if they are a Christian or where they attend church. Many times, your kids will need to look for natural ways to take a regular conversation and turn it towards more spiritual things. Your kids don’t have to do this in every conversation, but they need to learn how to recognize an opportunity someone gives them to talk about God or how to be intentional about creating an opportunity to talk about Him. This is another area where brainstorming and guided practice can help.
Teach them how to take the person from where they are spiritually one step closer to God. Maybe the person needs a Bible or an invitation to church. Perhaps they are ready to study the Bible with someone. Maybe they need to have a question or doubt answered. Your kids don’t have to have all of the answers, but they need to learn how to figure out the next step in someone’s spiritual growth and how to encourage them to take it.
Teach them the overarching story in the Bible. From Creation to the Fall to waiting for Jesus, his arrival, ministry, death and resurrection and the origins of the church, your kids should be able to explain God’s perfect plan, how sin disrupted that and how Jesus gives us a way to be restored to God. They don’t need to memorize every detail in the Bible or a script of some sort, but they should be able to explain the overarching story naturally, in their own words.
Teach them how to explain the need for baptism for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Lots of Christians avoid teaching about baptism – going as far as to teach Acts 2:36 and 37, while carefully avoiding verse 38. Why? Who knows, but if you and your kids read the book of Acts or notice the example Jesus himself set, baptism is necessary to become a Christian. Once most people understand that, they willingly comply if they want to truly obey God. Any objections are more process oriented- like what will I wear – than actual objections to obeying God. Teach your kids to be brave, but willing to listen and address any concerns.
Need more advanced help? Our website (www.teachonereachone.org) has free faith sharing tools under volunteer resources as well as a free baptism study with leader guide, when your kids are ready to study the Bible with someone. Feel free to use any resources you think will help your kids. Let’s break one of the cycles that is shrinking the church. Prepare your kids to share their faith. You may just be surprised how much fruit they bear.
Yesterday in worship service, I had to smile. The sermon was based on the passage John 1:1-14. I knew it well. Why? Because my third grade Bible class teacher had us memorize it and several other long passages of scripture.
Scripture memory used to be common a few decades ago. It weakened a bit in generations after that when scripture memory work was limited in many cases to reciting just one verse (called a memory verse). It wasn’t as helpful because many kids looked at it for a few seconds then repeated it. Close enough was good enough for most teachers and the verses never made in to the long term memories of children. Now, it is the rare Bible class teacher that even asks students to memorize any scripture at all. It’s considered boring and therefore, thought to add no value to their spiritual growth and development.
Actually, the truth is that scripture memorization is a critical part of spiritual development. It doesn’t matter how easily they can look up a verse on their phones. Having it stored permanently in their brains provides benefits a Bible app cannot give.
Memorized scripture gives your kids immediate knowledge of what God wants them to do when given a choice. Your kids will have to make many choices during their lives in a split second. They won’t have time to do a Google search for applicable scriptures and read them in their Bible app. Having important verses memorized gives them immediate access to the information they need to make a godly choice.
Memorized scriptures serve as constant reminders of God’s promises, principles and commands. When your kids have thoughts rolling around in their heads, memorized scripture can provide some helpful input. For example, if your kids are thinking about how unpopular they are, memorized scriptures about God’s love can remind them they are indeed loved – no matter how it feels at the moment.
Memorized scriptures can make it easier for your kids to encourage others and share their faith. When a peer asks a question about life or God or needs encouragement, your kids will already have ideas of what they can say stored in their brains. Adults may patiently wait while you search for answers in the Bible, but your kids’ friends want some wisdom in the moment. Your kids can provide wisdom beyond their years by quoting the appropriate scriptures (or at least a summation of them).
Oldest memories stick with us the longest. Robot’s Law states that early memories are less likely to be lost than more recent ones. Other studies have found memories that are regularly reinforced stick with people the longest. Translation? Getting your kids to memorize and then regularly repeat key scriptures means those will be the last memories to fade as they age. Want your kids to have God’s words on their hearts for their entire lives? Start them on scripture memory early. It’s why many Christians tell stories of relatives in late stages of dementia who can still sing church songs and quote scriptures from memory.
Scripture memory work doesn’t have to be boring. Many verses have been made into songs. Singing them together over and over can cement those scriptures just as well as standard memorization. Plus the tune can serve as a trigger to bring those memories flooding back later. Take the time and effort to help your kids memorize scripture. It’s a great gift to give your kids.