The statistics are frightening. Years ago, I don’t ever remember hearing about a child committing suicide. Teen suicide was even somewhat uncommon. Today elementary school teachers have to be trained in suicide prevention. Why? Because for the last few years a child under the age of 13 commits suicide every 3.4 days. Most of these children are 11-12 years old, but the youngest was only six. If you are African American, you have even more cause to be alarmed as roughly twice as many African American children commit suicide as their Caucasian peers.
Most Christian families begin teaching their kids about prayer by using rote mealtime and bedtime prayers. While that often works well for very young children, as your children get a little older, they may be given opportunities to pray with others.
Visiting grandparents may ask your young child to pray in front of the entire extended family for a meal. Or perhaps your child has been asked to lead a prayer in a class. As your kids enter the teen years, they may have a friend ask them to pray with them during some sort of struggle they are having. Any of these situations can cause a young person to panic and refuse the chance to lead some sort of prayer.
You are holding your precious baby in your arms. This amazing gift from God will hopefully have almost two decades growing up in your home. At the moment, he or she can’t speak, walk or do much of anything. It’s too early to even think about teaching this little soul about God. Or is it?
The sooner you develop healthy Christian parenting habits, the more likely you are to help your child build a strong spiritual foundation. Every child is different and there really isn’t a good way of measuring when each one begins processing what is said to them. That’s why it’s so important to start teaching your sweet baby about God from birth.
So what should you be teaching a baby about God and how?
I would guess of all the things Christian parents do at home to build faith foundations, the most consistent is teaching kids to pray. For many families though, the instruction stops after teaching kids how to say a couple of rote prayers like “God is Great” or “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”. To have a rich, full, active prayer life, there are a few more things you to need to teach your children.
Fortunately, prayer is extremely concrete in many ways. There are a lot of fun things you can do with your kids to teach them some prayer concepts and to help them develop good prayer habits. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Praying Colors: This activity is great for the very youngest of children. Cut up little pieces of paper in different colors. Then when you pray as a family, have each person draw a slip of paper. They then need to thank God for something that is that color. So if your child pulled a green slip of paper, he may decide to thank God for frogs. This activity is great for kids who aren’t quite old enough to easily think of things for which they need to pray. It also reinforces the concept that all good things are from God – even frogs!
- Prayer Jars: Find empty, clean containers of any sort. It can be a jar or a juice can (make sure all rough edges are removed and small children have unbreakable containers). Encourage your kids to decorate their containers. Then give them slips of paper or wide craft sticks. Talk with them about all of the different types of things they might want to share with God in their prayers. Have them write each type of thing on a separate slip of paper or craft stick. Then when it’s time to pray, they can pull as many as they want out of their container to remind them of something they can share with God. This activity is great for all kids, but especially those transitioning to their own more private prayer life. It helps them to remember that the entire time in prayer shouldn’t be about them giving God some sort of to-do list of everything they personally want from Him. It encourages them to make their prayers a little broader and less selfish.
One of the hardest things about this ministry is seeing all of the wasted potential in the church and in the lives of children and teens. God gives each of us potential to make an impact on the world by serving the church and others and sharing our faith. Yet much of it lies untapped for a variety of reasons. Most are living lives that are a mere shadow of what God had intended for them to be.
Those who reach the potential God gives them have some of the richest, fullest lives I have ever witnessed. They know their purpose. Their lives have meaning and their connection to God is strong. Their faith allows them to cope with the problems of living in a fallen world with grace.
So, what do you need to do to help your kids reach their godly potential? These tips should get you started.