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.
Let’s be honest. Friends can cause a lot of drama for kids and teens. Your kids will probably have struggles in this area from time to time. They may wonder how many friends they should have, worry about finding the “right” best friend, struggle with peer pressure or any number of other friendship issues.
They need your guidance. You can’t control their friendships, but you can influence them. The younger your kids are when you start teaching them about friendship, the easier it will be for them to handle whatever happens.
So what are some things you should be sharing with your children? There are a lot of things that may help, but these are some of our favorites.
Teach them how to find godly, supportive friends. David and Jonathan are a great example of this type of friendship. They both worshipped and trusted God. They were supportive of one another under extremely difficult situations. Situations that would have made most people enemies. Talk to your kids about ways to find out if someone will be a Jonathan type friend to them. Help them understand the value of a friendship that will make them grow in positive ways.
Teach them to be friendly to everyone, but choose close friends carefully. Kids and teens are more likely to become like the kids with whom they spend the most time. It’s a rare young person who would have the ability to convince a child who is constantly in trouble to change his or her behavior. It’s more likely your child will soon start to get in trouble with his or her trouble bound friends. That doesn’t mean however, your child should act in unkind or unloving ways to people whom they have not chosen as close friends. Their behavior should reflect God’s love to everyone – friend or not.
Teach them the types of people who can cause them to move away from God’s plan for their lives. Sometimes, those negative traits are hard for young people to see. They may only notice outward appearances or common interests – missing the warning sides this friendship could change them in negative ways. Teaching them proactively – from places like the friendship wisdom in Proverbs – can keep you from having to point out the negative traits in a new friend.
Teach them to be encouraging, kind, supportive, loving friends. Teach them by how you treat your friends. Discuss ways they can support, encourage and love their friends. Correct unkind and hurtful words and behaviors towards others. Help them correct bad habits that can annoy others and cause them to reject your children’s attempts at friendship.
Help them develop multiple friend groups. Some children only need one or two close friends to be happy. Others will have lots of casual friends. Unfortunately, for many young people, they are only in one friend group. When the drama of their friend group becomes hurtful or annoying, they are left feeling they have no friends. If they have several friend groups – school, church, activities – it’s more likely they can find friendship respite in a friend group not currently involved in drama. It also lessens the effects of peer pressure from one group – their entire social currency is not invested in making that one group happy.
When friendship blues happen, remind them of everyone who will always love them. Yes, they will quite probably roll their eyes or tell you that those people “have to love them” (so it doesn’t count). Deep down though, there is reassurance in knowing God, their family and others will love them in spite of any “mistakes” they may make.
Give them hope for future friendships. Some kids are mature for their age. Or have special needs. Or are extremely talented. They may feel like there is no one in their current environment who really “gets them” enough to be a close friend. It can become discouraging – especially in the teen years. Explain to them that as they move towards college and/or a career path, they will move or specialize more. It is often in those environments they will find those friends who are more like them. Sometimes just giving them that hope for the future is all they need to move through their current friendship woes.
Watch for serious signs of trouble and get help when needed. Falling grades, changing eating habits, lethargy, lack of interest in things they normally love, flat affect and other signs of depression are often red flags. Don’t let things go on so long serious issues like drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders or suicide become a reality. Start having conversations to try and find the roots of the changes in behavior and attitude. If you feel like the problems are serious, get professional help for your child.
Friendships are essential for your children’s health and growth. Preparing them to choose and be great friends can make it easier for them to form friendships that will encourage them to reach their godly potential. It’s worth your time and effort.
When was the last time you had someone in your home that didn’t live there? If you are like most Americans, it may have been awhile. A quick read through the New Testament though and you will notice it seems like people were regularly inviting others to come into their home for a variety of reasons.
Barna recently published research that had an interesting twist. They found Christian homes that worked actively with their children on spiritual things by praying and studying the Bible were not as successful in raising children to be active Christians as those that did those things and also practiced hospitality. The authors of the study aren’t sure if the hospitality made the difference or the types of people who were hospitable made some sort of difference, but they felt hospitality was key.
If you aren’t used to having others into your home, the idea of hospitality may make you break into a cold sweat. You may be fearful of people seeing your messy house, judging your decorating choices, hating your cooking or a hundred other nightmare scenarios.
Actually, most visitors to your home don’t really care about any of those things (unless perhaps your house was recently condemned by the health department!). They are just thrilled to be invited somewhere. They feel special someone thought of them and liked them enough to include them. Oh, they may pick at some food, but that’s probably more about them than your cooking.
In fact, make it easy on yourself if you are concerned. Invite people over for ice cream. Or popsicles. Or muffins from Costco. Use paper plates. Serve take out. Eat a picnic in your yard on plastic picnic cloths.
Evidently, it doesn’t really matter whom you entertain either. Family counts. So do your kids’ friends. So let them have that sleepover they’ve been begging to have. Let your daughter plan a tea party for her grandmother. Invite the neighbors to bring a lawn chair and sip lemonade as you watch the sunset.
Why does hospitality matter? We may never really know for sure. What we do know is that it is something God has always encouraged His people to do. Plus it’s a great way to build relationships that will give you opportunities to serve others and share your faith. Or to encourage Christian brothers and sisters. Best yet, it teaches your kids how to truly show God’s love to others. It really is worth taking the time to focus your family on hospitality.
Did you know kids need boredom to grow? A huge part of learning can only be done when you have unstructured free time to think on deeper levels and explore. This is just as true for spiritual growth as it is in other areas of your kids’ lives.
There’s a trick to this unstructured free time though. You have to create an environment where thinking and experimentation will actually happen. If your kids spend all of their free time playing video games or watching Netflix, there will be no positive growth.
So what does an environment look like that encourages growth when there is unscheduled free time? Here are some ways you can create that type of environment for your kids.
Summer break starts in just a few weeks. Most parents of children under the age of eighteen are currently in enrollment mode. The mantra seems to be, “The more things your children have on their schedule, the better.”
The average child will attend camps, lessons and classes. A privileged few will also spend hours at a community or neighborhood pool playing with friends. And let’s not forget a long list of summer school assignments that are due the first day of the coming school year.