My second child was born just a couple weeks ago and since that time I’ve thought a lot about my children. I think about their future and what kind of people they’ll be. I think about my actions as a parent now and whether or not I’m helping or hurting them. I think about the world we’re living in and what it might be like when they’re older. I think about the faith that they’ll one day have and whether I’m doing the right things to make them faithful in the future. Then I remembered something, I can’t make my children faithful.
For Christian parents there is nothing better than seeing your child grow up to have a great faith. Unfortunately, many go about trying to grow this faithfulness the wrong way. Here’s what I mean:
I’ve heard parents say that their child would have been more faithful if the youth minister had done a better job teaching them.
I’ve heard parents say that the lack of a youth group caused their child to be unfaithful.
I’ve heard parents say that they just couldn’t understand why their child was unfaithful because they went to every church service and activity.
You’ve probably heard, or maybe even said, these or other similar phrases.
In every one of these cases the mistake is the same: we’re depending on something or someone else to instill faith in our children. What’s sad about all of this is that many parents believe they’re doing the best they can when they dump their kids on the youth minister or take them to every church event. Those things don’t make children faithful. For the rest of our time here I want to talk about:
First, why you can’t “make” anyone faithful to God
Second, what the Bible says about leading children to faithfulness and
Third, some practical activities you can do this week to start working on the faith of your family.
I know the subject of parenting can be touchy, but I encourage you to read this through, take the good, ignore the bad, and offer any advice you have in the comment section.
Why You Can’t Make Anyone Faithful
You can’t force your children to be faithful. Every human being has the ability to choose. We can choose faithfulness or rebellion. We can choose to listen or to ignore. The same is true of your children and sometimes children choose the route of rebellion.
Adam and Eve chose rebellion. Nadab and Abihu chose rebellion. Judas chose rebellion. We so often choose rebellion and our children are not exempt from that decision either.
We can’t make anyone faithful in fact, trying to make someone faithful often leads to the opposite. I’ve seen kids of really strict families go in completely the opposite direction of their parents once they were out of the house. Why? Because they never chose faithfulness, but were instead made to be faithful as long as they were in their parents’ house.
I know you want your child(ren) to be faithful, but cramming undying faithfulness down their throats isn’t going to end the way you want it to. If forcing it upon them doesn’t work what should we do? We need to have conversations with our children about our own faith. We need to convey to them why following God is the best choice they can make. We need to model our faith daily in front of them. Don’t take my word for it though, here is what Scripture says…
The Bible and the Faith of Your Children
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
There are a number of lessons we could pull out from these verses concerning parenting, but the one that fits our discussion so well today, which is also the one we forget most, is this: parenting involves continuous training.
Deuteronomy describes a lifetime of teaching at home, when walking, before sleep, after waking up, etc. The passage out of Proverbs blatantly says the word “train” indicating a long-time investment in your child. Ephesians does the same commanding fathers to raise their children every day in such a way that they are brought closer to God.
Parenting, and the building of our children’s faith, is a process. Faithfulness is cultivated when we have discussions in the car about Bible class. Faith is grown when we sit down together as a family and study God’s word. Your child’s faith is shaped when you and your children take someone less fortunate a meal or pray with someone recovering in the hospital. Faithfulness can’t be cultivated overnight, it’s a process that takes a lot of training, a lot of patience, a lot of time, and most importantly a lot of involvement from the parents of the children.
How to Lead Children to Faithfulness
So parenting is a process. Great! What does that mean for us right now? Below are some practical ways you can start building the faith of your children. It doesn’t matter if they’re 16, 6, or 6 months old these are all good places to start the faith building process.
As a family, take some cookies to your neighbor or, if that’s not your kind of thing, ask your neighbor if you can mow their lawn for them.
Take your children with you when you go visit the hospital. Let them see how Christians respond when members of the body are hurting.
Start a weekly devotional with your family. There are great devotional books available for families of all ages, grab one and choose a day every week to sit down and spend the time together with God.
If your children are a little older, buy them all a copy of your devotional book, read it every day, and discuss what you learned over dinner with them.
Talk about Bible class in the car on the way home from worship. Don’t exception “good” as an answer for “how was Bible class?” Ask them what they learned, if they learned something new, and if they had questions. My dad and I still talk in the car when we’re together to this day.
Write letters to some of the older members in your congregation. Let them know that you’re thinking about them. Again, model for your children what the church caring for one another looks like.
Start every morning with a prayer before you go off to work and/or school OR end the day in prayer together before going off to bed.
Read to your child from the Bible before bed. My son is 2 and we read to him from the Action Bible (the illustrated graphic novel Bible), he absolutely loves when it’s Bible time and constantly reminds us to read it to him.
What are some other ways you can train faithfulness in your family? Let us know in the comments below. Coming to events and having a great youth minister might help your child grow, but it won’t make them faithful. The development of their faithfulness depends mostly on you. Don’t give up, keep training and keep doing things that, little by little, will help your child’s faith grow. You’ll be glad you did.