Raising Faith-Filled Kids: Lessons I'm learning

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the foundations that we have built, as a family, to help us raise (hopefully!) faith-filled kids. This all came about because, off the back of an Instagram post, a couple of people had asked what it is we do to be intentional in this area.

To lay the foundations to this post, I talked about how one of our core beliefs is that there is no junior Holy Spirit. The same Jesus that conquered the grave lives inside of me, and He can live inside of my kids (if they ask him to!). The same power that is available to me, is available to my kids - it's not watered down, it's not meek and mild, there's not an age of maturity where suddenly God allows them to experience Him in all of His fullness, they can do that already.

The second core belief that we have, is that our kids's faith will be formed in the local church, just as much as it is formed at home. So we prioritise our local church, we place value upon it and we try to support the kids' ministry as best we can, so that our kids experience God on a Sunday, as well as during the week. If He's not showing up at church, why would they expect Him to show up at home.

Those two core beliefs form the foundations that we build upon when talking to our kids about God.

I also talked about how if you looked in on our family life, you probably wouldn't think of us as super spiritual. We don't say grace before dinner, we don't have family devotional time, we sometimes pray with the kids before bed - I guess you could say there's no real structure to our spiritual life at home. It's there, it's happening, but it's not immediately obvious. Why? I guess because as much as I would like to have traditions and routines, I can pretty much guarantee that we won't stick to it! And I don't like feeling like I've failed!

A key for me, when it comes to building spiritual focus at home, is that it has to be an organic, natural part of life. If it's something that we have to add to our list of things to do, then it won't get done. The only scheduled, spiritual activity that we do, is attending church. The rest just has to happen!

So to give you fair warning, this is quite a long post! Grab a cuppa, get comfortable and allow me to share with you seven things that I have found to work for us when making spiritual things a normal, natural part of our family life. They are lessons I'm learning because this is a constantly evolving process, but I hope you might find something in there that you can apply into your home, to encourage your kids in their journey of faith.

Make prayer a normal part of your life

I remember listening to a podcast where the speaker described how her grown children had told her one of the things that struck them about their family, was that prayer was such a natural part of life. The response to everything was 'let's pray about it', and I've really tried to apply that into my home.

Don't save prayer for bedtime or devotional time, if there's a problem - if your kid has hurt themselves, or is worried, or has lost something - put down what you're doing, stop for a moment, and pray with them there and then. And then make sure you give God all the credit when those prayers are answered! Make sure your kids know that prayer is a two way street and that God can speak to them too. Tell them when God has spoken to you. Give your kids the opportunity to pray - don't force them, just ask them "Do you want to pray about that, and I'll pray about this?" If they say no, that's fine, but it means they have the chance to practise prayer.

One morning, Jon and I were looking out the window bemoaning the fact that we were about to get absolutely drenched on the school run. Seriously, it's been raining for weeks and I am SO over it! Listening to this, Ruby said "Hold on!", she clasped her hands together, closed her eyes, said a silent prayer and whispered "Amen". And what do you know? By the time we came to leave the house, the rain had stopped, and the sky was blue! Of course I brought this to her attention and pointed out that God had answered her prayer... and she looked at me like I was crazy, like "Of course He did, Mum, why wouldn't he?"

Lead by example

For the first few years of motherhood, my Bible reading was sporadic at best. I had believed the lie that in order to spend time with God I needed to have a 'quiet time'. And who knows that when you have toddlers, life is anything but quiet! I would try to have my quiet time after the kids were in bed, but it never happened. And then last year I made the decision to just read my Bible whenever I could. And you know what happened? My kids actually saw me reading the Bible!

I realised (in horror!) that they had never been exposed to the fact that I did read my Bible! It was suddenly seen and understood. And the amount of conversations that have come out of that has been amazing - what are you reading? What does this bit mean? Why have you underlined that? What are you writing? Can I read my bible with you? (Or if you're Joel, it's more like "When we get home can you play with me instead of read your Bible?)

I want my kids to remember me as a person who actually set time aside to spend with God. And then I hope they might follow my example. I think that will probably only happen, if they see me doing it!

Know your kids, go at their pace

Every child is different. I firmly believe that every child has the capacity to experience God, but I also realise that they will experience God in very different ways, probably at different times, and they will walk their own journeys.

Ruby was quite an advanced toddler with very good speech. She had a thirst for knowledge. When she was 2.5 I was sat in a church service while her dad did an alter call. I whispered to her "Would you like Jesus to live in your heart and be your friend?" She turned to me wide eyed, not believing that this was even possible, and immediately said yes. Not wanting Daddy to miss out on the momentous occasion, we waited until the end of the service, sought out Daddy and we both prayed with her to ask Jesus to be her friend. I have no doubt that she understood, and that at that moment Jesus came into her life. How do I know? I remember that after that point she was filled with peace, she was a different toddler. I don't remember exactly what had gone before that day, but I do remember telling a friend that this was a different child!

Joel has been a bit of an adventure. He too has quite good speech, and he understands a huge amount. But he is too busy running around like a maniac to let you know it! For a long time, I didn't think that he cared much for the things of God, or took a huge amount in. If Ruby was ever afraid at night time, you could say to her, "Don't worry, who's with you? Jesus is here. He makes you brave." I've tried saying that to Joel and he looks around and says "God's not here, I can't see Him, He's gone away"! However, if you saw this Instagram post, you will have seen that he too invited God into his heart very recently, in such a natural, boyish, logical way. And this came just a day after me pondering with Jon about how Joel doesn't seem to have a clue or an interest in God!

Tonight's bedtime conversation with Joel, age 3.5: ♥️ J: "Mummy, does God live in turtle's heart?" M: "Ummm, maybe." J: "Does God live in monkey's heart?" M: "Er, I guess he might do..." J: "Does God live in Mr. Dinosaur's heart?" M: "Well, I suppose if Mr. Dinosaur asked him to..." (Theology getting slightly stronger at this point.) ♥️ M: "Does God live in your heart, Joel?" J: "He already does!" M: "That's wonderful! Would you like to ask Him to stay there?" Wide-eyed nodding. ♥️ M: "Let's get Daddy to join us." Daddy comes in, "Joel would like to ask God to stay in his heart." D: "Joel!" Daddy exclaims and leans in for a hug. Joel jumps up and head butts Daddy right in the nose. Daddy recoils, holding his face, checking for blood. Mummy tries to compose herself and bring back some order to this special occasion. (Keeping it real, folks!) ♥️ M: "Joel, would you like to say a prayer to ask God to stay in your heart?" Joel shouts loudly, jumping "STAY IN MY HEART, GOD!!" We all laugh. Mummy gives him a hug and says another prayer, with more words, essentially thanking God for the decision that Joel has made. Daddy leaves, mummy continues sitting in the dark, waiting for Joel to go to sleep. ♥️ 📸 Taken during the summer 🌞 #christianmums #faithlifestyle #christiansofig #faithblogger #kidswithfaith #faithfilledkids #salvation #lovesundays
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Ruby is a voracious reader and she is always writing something (lists, registers, stories, notes). To buy her a Bible and a devotional book or a faith journal is the most natural thing in the world and she will devour it! She reads her Bible alongside me and underlines all the bits she thinks are important (mostly everything!) - right now, I'm not sure how much of it goes in, or whether she understands anything she reads - but none of this goes to waste! She might be totally defacing her Bible, but she's learning that the Word is there to be processed and that can't be a bad thing (and we'll buy her another Bible!).

Joel won't ever be that kid with his head in a book. I expect we will have to find different, active and creative ways to read the Word with him. And that's ok. They're different kids, with different passions, gifts and interests. I know that I won't be able to squash Joel into a Ruby shaped box. But I trust that over the coming years we'll find ways!

Make space

In life, if you want to experience the supernatural, you have to leave room for it. If we're cramming our days with activities, travelling from one place to another, I've noticed that our focus shifts from God onto the task at hand, or how we're going to get to the next thing. In family life it's the same, leave room to talk to your kids, to share with your kids, to pray for your kids. Start bedtime 15 minutes earlier, walk to school instead of drive, stop rushing, go for an after-dinner family walk before bed - these are just some of the things that we've tried in order to have conversations. It doesn't happen at home. And if you're having conversations, you will naturally talk about the things of God. Don't shy away from it, make room, encourage it, leave time for it.

Use music to teach them about God

I am a lover of worship music. If I have control of any of the devices in our house, they're playing YouTube videos of (mostly) contemporary worship music. I love to fill the house with it, to have it on as background and to allow the lyrics to strengthen my soul and to wash over whoever else might be in the vicinity. I love to sing, and worship music is very much a part of our home. And so the kids do tend to learn my favourite songs of the moment. But let that be an opportunity to you! Talk to them about the lyrics, teach them what that means, make those lyrics a natural part of your conversations. 

There was a time when the song of the moment in our kids church was Bethel Kids' version of You Make Me Brave. Now, Ruby might not remember the scripture "I have not been given a spirit of fear...", but she certainly remembers "Jesus makes me brave", and it wasn't long before she had memorised the song, knew all the actions and this phrase became a natural part of our language. "Scared? Who makes you brave, Ruby?"

Be honest

If you don't know the answers, admit it. You will have tricky conversations. But show your kids where you find solutions, show them where you find comfort - pick up your Bible and take them to those verses. It's in these vulnerable moments that your kids see that maybe life isn't perfect, but that your faith plays a part in how you cope - it's real to you, it can be real to them.

I had a situation earlier in the year which I described in this Instagram post:

My daughter is a bit of an old soul. One of those kids who wants to grow up way too fast, wants to know and be a part of everything, wise beyond her years and mature enough to carry herself in situations where you forget she's only six. * So we sometimes struggle with a balance between giving her the credit she deserves and shielding her from things that she shouldn't have to worry about. * This weekend we had some upsetting news which she had cottoned onto and, in her own way, drawn her own (mostly correct, but worst case scenario) conclusions as to what that might mean. And I was torn between being absolutely honest, or lying to her and telling her not to worry. * But instead of brushing it aside, I turned to the Word and began sharing with her from Psalms about all the things I had been learning and clinging onto, and what we can learn from David in the midst of crisis. * Then we prayed, and for the first time she chose to pray her own prayer, and it was the most beautiful prayer, full of faith that God was going to do the impossible. * Then today we received some good news. There is still a journey to be done, we still need to trust God for breakthrough but my little girl got to experience the thrill of answered prayer. * And I realised, that as much as we might want to, if we try to shield our children from all the ills of the world, they will never learn how to rely on Him. They will never learn that prayer works. They will never know where to take their worries. They will never know that there is a process to answered prayer, that there might be pain in the waiting but that there is joy in the fruition too. * She might be young, but she knows Jesus, and she knows what He can do - and whilst I may never intentionally involve her in things that she's not ready for, neither will I leave her to carry a burden in the notion that I'm protecting her from the truth. * #everydaywithjesus #christianmums #christianmama #kidswhopray #prayerchangesthings #prayerworks #intheword #faithlifestyle #christiansofig #christiansofinsta #christianblogger #instafaith
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A young family member was critically ill, and if the treatment didn't work then the worst case scenario was a real possibility. He's not out of the woods yet, but this was a time when the realisation of this was dawning and Ruby, being very perceptive, had put two and two together and came to the realisation herself. I couldn't change the situation in the natural, but I picked up my Bible and showed her The Psalms - poems of anguish when the writer doesn't think that God is moving on his behalf, when he's asking all the questions that we have all asked since the beginning of time - "Why?" "How long, Lord?" "Where are you in this, God?" 

It's ok to have those moments, and it's ok for our children to see those moments. Vital, in fact.

Know that this is a journey

I am under no illusion that this is an ever-changing, ever-evolving adventure. What works today, might not work tomorrow. What works with that kid, won't work with this kid. Three is different to six, which will be different to eight... and God help me when we reach the teens! But I'm learning every day. We're not perfect. We don't get it right 100% of the time, probably not even 75% of the time! But I guess you could say that as parents, this is pretty much our life's work, right? So we have time! We will mess up, give yourself grace! Each day is a fresh start. It's never too late to start.

And pray. Lots. We can't do this alone.

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Raising Faith-Filled Kids: Lessons I'm learning Raising Faith-Filled Kids: Lessons I'm learning Reviewed by Love Emily on October 26, 2019 Rating: 5

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