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THE JOURNAL

Who’s In Charge of Your Children’s Spiritual Training?

When I look at these two sweet boys who are now grown up, I am reminded how they are worth all of the hard work of training that this mom invested.

Who is in charge of your child’s spiritual training? Some parents feel that if they go to church once a week, their child will have all the training he or she needs to mature. While the church community definitely supports growth, daily learning at home is best. Sometimes when a child is grown, parents look back and wonder why their child is not very interested in spiritual things. Consider how many hours a week a child spends growing their spiritual self. Even if a family goes to church regularly, this time does not surpass time at school or time in front of a screen. So much competes for a child’s mind. Childhood evaporates quickly. There is no time to waste.

One of my favorite verses is II Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” I believe that this verse encourages us to be prepared for life by learning to properly understand God’s Word. Our children need to be studying the wisdom of the Scriptures as well if they are going to be wise.

Consider that YOU, as the parent, are totally capable of guiding your child’s spiritual development. In fact, you may be surprised how easy it is to invite your child to spend time with you in these activities. Currently, churches are not able to gather for children’s activities. Now is the perfect time to stop and assess your plans for your child. Consider these seven thoughts concerning the spiritual growth of your child:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Do first things first
  4. Grow yourself, then grow together with your children
  5. Be consistent
  6. Keep a praise journal
  7. Enjoy togetherness

1. BE PROACTIVE

Take some time to gather context. You know and love your child better than anyone. Ask yourself what your child needs to experience and learn from birth through 12th grade in reference to spiritual growth. The development of a young mind begins when a child is in the womb. If you are expecting a baby, be sure to play music to advance your little one. Read out loud. Aim to create as calm and steady climate as possible. Talk to your baby.

No matter the age of your child, assess what they know currently and determine all they need to know. While churches have not been allowed to meet as normal, homes continue to be the consistent base for kids. With more time at home, plan to do spiritual things together. Children’s ministries are limited normally in the time available to invest in a child’s growth. The responsibility of a child’s spiritual training lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents. All outside ministries such as Sunday mornings, Wednesdays and summer options should act as a compliment to what is being taught at home. In reality, much of what is learned outside of home should be a review.

Ideally, if there is a dad in the home, he leads time with the family or individually as often as possible. Our homes need men. Sometimes there is not a male to lead. Moms and grandmothers are strong guides as well. It can be as simple as gathering your child to sit under your arm and reading the Bible together. Our children are adult size now. We love to sit on the patio in the early morning whenever we can and drink our coffee and read our Bibles together. This is a sweet time.

2. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND.

Time committed to the growth of a child’s spiritual life is some of the best time invested in each day. While looking at the routine needed to provide spiritual training daily, many feel that it is tiring to work on reading the Bible out loud, teaching scripture songs or work toward scripture memory individually and with children. Yes, it takes stamina. Look toward the finish line. Ask yourself what you imagine for your child’s best spiritual life as an adult. What does he or she need to be successful in this area? What does he or she need to be strong? What does he or she need to be dynamic?

A recent survey taken by Lifeway, July 2, 2019 indicates that among Protestant church attenders only 32% read their Bible every day. Only 11% read the Bible a few times a month. If a high number of the adults who claim to love the Lord and attend church do not read their Bible daily, what can be expected of the children growing up in these homes. Lead by example. Read your Bible daily. Establish prayer patterns. Sing together.

Do what is needed daily to create spiritual maturity in your children. Determine the end goal you have for your children. Back it up to the yearly, monthly and daily routines that ensure success. 

3. DO FIRST THINGS FIRST.

Spiritual patterns tend to be like physical exercise goals. They are just hard work. Can we say this? Yes. It is not easy to research and plan age appropriate goals. It is not easy to eat breakfast and then keep little ones seated to work on memory verse goals. It is not easy to read the Proverbs of the day in the car on the way to school with an unhappy junior high student. Your persistence will pay off. Remember, the window of childhood is very short.

Anything that is worth doing is worth doing well. My standard is not perfection. I cannot reach that goal, but my objective is excellence. What I can do is my best. As a parent, I believe that is all I can ask of myself. So, pursue excellence. 

Establish a plan to grow your kids spiritually and do it first thing in the morning. That’s it.

4.   GROW YOURSELF, THEN GROW TOGETHER WITH YOUR CHILDREN.

Truth tells us that more is caught than taught. Children who see their parent reading their Bible or praying are likely to copy this behavior. When I was a little girl living as a missionary kid on a small island in the West Indies, I would hear my mother get up in the morning and turn on the gas stove. She would start the day by boiling water for the day. This noise always alerted me that she was up. I would sneak to the doorway where she was singing to Jesus, reading her Bible and praying out loud. I listened. I learned. I copied. I have loved Jesus since I was a little girl. Her strong faith attracted me to the reality of God. Her sincerity was infectious. I wanted to do as she did. While she did not mean for me to hear her morning time with the Lord, she did speak Bible verses to me when correcting bad habits. She apologized when she was wrong. She demonstrated God’s love with her actions toward our family as well as those she ministered to outside our home.

5.   BE CONSISTENT.

Staying steady on course is hard, but especially needed when training your child spiritually. If you are false in what you teach in contrast with what you do, it invalidates your words. For me, I pray that God will see me reliable. Sometimes I reach out for accountability. My life journey with God has seasons just like every other part of my life.

In Deut 11:9 the thought of teaching a child spiritual truth as you are doing life is the way to live with your child. “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Everyday life provides so many opportunities to do life together.

Consistent might mean that you decide on what you will do with your child and do it at the same time every day. Perhaps you keep a certain pattern every week. For example, mom might read a chapter of the Bible every morning at breakfast and then lead the children in a prayer they can memorize together. Dad might take over on the weekend by working through a name of God each weekend. He could read verses that demonstrate that characteristic of God and pray that name with the children. Sunday might be the day that the family reads a hymn history and sings the corresponding hymn. If a new hymn is sung each week for a month, in a year twelve hymns would be learned.

Hold hands with other likeminded parents. Attend spiritually growing events. My youngest son and I launched his senior school year by attending the Getty’s SING Conference in Nashville in August 2019. 

6.   KEEP A PRAISE JOURNAL.

Select a lovely journal with lines. Place a pen near this open book somewhere in the flow of your home. Ours sits in our kitchen in a prominent location. Invite family members to write down things they are grateful for each day. Think of this as a place to give God praise for his goodness. Giving God credit for small gifts as well as significant is a pattern for finding joy in the everyday. What a great spiritual discipline to establish in your child’s life!

7.   ENJOY TOGETHERNESS.

Growing beside your child in a spiritual way encourages overall cooperation. You care for the deepest part of your child when you care for his or her soul. This closeness is unique. 

Creative cooperation or synergy invites you and your child to work as a team in this growing. My children inspire me all the time when they share what they are learning in their time alone with the Lord. Begin when they are young together. Launch them as they begin to read into their own time with their Bible and prayer. Continue to share this time together. 

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FIVE Quick Ideas for doing spiritual growing with your child:

1.  Read a chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with the day of the month. For example, on July 20, read Proverbs 20. Ask your child to listen for their favorite verse.

2.  Sing a scripture song together each day for a week or a month.

3.  Select a book of the Bible to read together like John. Read a chapter a day and use a journal to write your favorite verse from the chapter you read. An older student might be able to jot down notes from that chapter and tell it back to you.

4. Select a list of the names of God. Pray these outloud together each day.

5. Memorize an important prayer together. One of my favorite prayers is “Christ, be with me” by St. Patrick. Children need to know verses and songs for times of joy, times of fear and times needing comfort.

This prayer has be set to music in a most heart warming way by Stuart Townsend. Some of the words are as follows:

“Christ be with me, Christ within me

Christ behind me and before me.
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, 

Christ to comfort and restore…”

God gave you your beautiful child. Whether you are holding a new baby in your arms or your child is growing into a teenager, you are the primary spiritual teacher that God placed in their life. If your spiritual walk with God is strong, share it. If you are new or young with your relationship with God, jump in today. Don’t miss the opportunity to train your child spiritually!!

Each family and child is unique. Dream up your favorite plan for spiritual growing together.

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