If you’re worried about your children’s relationship with God, you’re not alone! Parents are far busier these days than they were thirty years ago. What does our bustling lifestyle mean about our children’s relationships with God? The bottom line is probably scarier than we’d initially think. One child expert puts it this way:
“Parents used to think that schools should teach reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, and parents should teach ethics, morality and spirituality. These days, parents have shifted much of their training attention to academics as well. Time that used to be spent talking about ‘how to be good’ is now spent on ‘how to be successful.’ If a child gets caught with candy in his pocket from the store that isn’t paid for, harried parents are less apt to go through with the age-old custom of making the child take it back and confess. Doing so takes too much time–and costs gas!”
Who is handling children’s moral and ethical development these days? Even more importantly, who is putting in the daily time to make sure kids know Jesus and understand He is their friend?
God wants your children to know Him as much today as ever, and He’s willing to help out in fast-paced American lifestyles. Hence, here are 7 mini-challenges to strengthen your child’s relationship with God. Here’s the best news: They don’t require any additions to your already busy schedule! Rather, they involve using the time you have with your kids to God’s best advantage:
Challenge #1: Share your spiritual thoughts with your kids.
We Christian adults often think of God five, ten, fifteen, or times in a day—sometimes in an hour! We send up a prayer or imagine what God thinks of a news event, or even just feel His presence around us. Regularly sharing those thoughts with kids will speak loudly of how connected you are to their God. Just saying, “I was wondering today what God thought about the earthquake that happened last week,” can be a great conversation starter as well as a great example.
Challenge #2: Raise questions to your kids that make them think.
Kids of very young school age can take a stab at questions like, “Do you think God has a favorite candidate in the election?” or “What would God like our family to do to serve the poor?” When they give their answer, you can give yours. Great conversations often lead to Godly thinking, and they can be done while taking a walk, folding wash, or traveling. Honestly listen for their answers and kids will feel inspired to think things through!
Challenge #3: Share your personal spiritual challenges with your kids.
When you’ve been struggling with something spiritually, share it. Kids are much closer to understanding matters of the spirit than we often give them credit for. Sharing will not make you look weak in their eyes, but rather focused on finding answers. You can mention just about any daily challenge, anything like, “I watched a horror movie today…I kind of felt God was not happy I was doing that. What do you think?”
Challenge #4: Encourage your kids to speak to God.
Especially older kids feel uncomfortable praying with parents, unless they have been raised that way since birth. Even more important than praying with them, however, will be getting them in the habit of speaking to God when they are alone. When kids present you with a tough challenge, your input is important, but start including, “Did you ask the Lord?” You might say, “I would ask the Lord about that one. Let me know what you think He says. I’m really interested…”
Challenge #5: Show kids how God is in school with them all day.
School is crowded and noisy and, in many cases, not very godly. Kids can get confused about God’s presence there in ways that can hurt their relationship with him. They can subconsciously adopt the idea that they leave God on the bus corner and come back to him at the end of the day. Use conversation to remind kids that He is always there, both as a comfort and as a witness if they do something they shouldn’t When kids tell you about something bad that happened, be sure to include things like, “Wow, God saw that. He must have been upset.” Remind kids often: “God not only helped build that school, but he’s in there all day long! He wants to help you there as well as home, even though it’s noisy and harder to hear him. Trust me: He can always hear you.”
Challenge #6: Talk when you walk; talk when you drive.
Often when we’re driving our kids, we don’t think about talking to them. Maybe there are other kids in the car, or maybe we’re just not used to engaging our kids in great conversations. When driving, take time to share something with your kids about the Lord and how he was with you today. It may trigger a response or even a discussion! If not, at least you’ve gotten it out in the open how important God is to you. Many experts say walking is the best exercise. Instead of doing the tread mill at the gym, take a brisk walk with your kids. Often we have to walk the family dog anyway—take one of your kids with you and pour out your thoughts about the Lord!
Challenge #7: Don’t neglect your own spirituality.
Talk to God yourself during the day, and equally important, really listen when you’ve raised a question to Him or you need help and counsel. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” God will never tell you your question is stupid; he will never tell you to come back later, that he’s too busy. God wants to communicate with you, no matter where you’re at or what’s going on in your life. And the best way to get your kids to want to communicate with Him is to see the results in your own life. You will be more peaceful, more joyful, and you will have plenty more to talk about with your kids!
How to talk about God with your kids.
Some parents are great conversationalists, some don’t naturally come by it. However, one key ingredient to good conversation with your kids is not baby-talking. You can simplify a concept for young children, but don’t be afraid to make them reach. Such can not only make them feel important, but conversation exercises the brain far more than memorizing school concepts ever will. Second, experts who deal in grief therapy or who counsel young children agree that kids can take a lot of truth, and their understanding is sometimes astonishing. It’s more important to focus on including them in your spiritual thoughts than figuring out how to water a subject down.
The best way to make God seem bigger, more loving and more real is to make him a part of your regular routine, and the most logical place to start is with what comes out of your mouth. If you’re used to thinking of your spiritual time as something separate from your “parent” time, try thinking instead of your spirituality as something that infuses every other thing you do. No matter what else we do in life, we talk more than we do anything else. The most logical move is to talk about Him, wherever you go.
Here are 10 great conversation starters about God with your kids
Most Christian parents have thoughts about Jesus throughout the day, and all that is required is opening up about what’s already on your mind. Use the starters that feel natural to you, or think of others!
1. Something you saw on the news that made you think of God or made you want to pray for the person.
2. A scripture you read today or that went through your head and why.
3. Something you wrote in your journal or read in a blog that either had to do with God or made you think of him.
4. A personal difficulty that you’ve been praying about for guidance or direction.
5. A family matter with extended relatives that is making you want God’s guidance (make sure the kids won’t tell the relatives!).
6. Your latest tidbit about America’s schools, standardized testing, bullying, etc. and how you perceive God thinks of it.
7. Something you prayed about for yourself or your family, even if it doesn’t involve the kids directly.
8. Something you discussed with a friend or neighbor and your Christian take on it.
9. Something you felt the Lord shared with you, whether it was through an impression, actual words, or answered prayer.
10. Something you saw in nature that made you think of God’s artistry, or his love, or even his judgment.
You don’t have to teach unless that comes naturally to you. Talking comes naturally to all of us, so let’s use the natural forces that work in our day to work for our kids. Talk about their relationship with God via these mini-challenges is a great way to sow seeds daily!