Many parents find it hard to talk to their kids about God and spiritual issues. Yet, God specifically places the responsibility for motivating a child’s spiritual development on parents. In the Bible, in Deuteronomy 6:6-7 we read, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” God has given us, as parents, both the responsibility and the tremendous opportunity to help our kids grow strong in faith. If you need some suggestions about how to get started, here are ten practical ideas for you to try.
1) Be yourself. You don’t need a seminary degree to talk to your kids about God. You don’t have to speak using the language of the King James Bible to send the message that you want to talk about spiritual issues. In fact, if you do, your kids will wonder what’s wrong with you! So, be yourself! Share your understanding of who God is and why God matters to you—in a way that reflects the real you.
2) Don’t limit your conversations on spiritual matters to Sunday morning! This is not to say that Sunday mornings are off-limits for spiritual discussions, but don’t get caught in the trap of compartmentalizing faith issues to certain days or certain times. Let your kids know that spiritual issues are important in your life all of the time! This is exactly what the quote from Deuteronomy commands: talk about God when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up! Spirituality is to be part of an ongoing discussion in our homes, with our families!
3) Let your kids catch you in the act of doing something spiritual. Do you have regular devotional times—where you read the Bible and pray—that you spend with God? Do your kids know it? How about letting your kids “see” you engaged in your own spiritual disciplines. Don’t forget that your actions will teach your kids a lot about your faith—probably even more than your words!
4) Look for natural opportunities to raise spiritual issues. This takes some intentional work by parents to be on the lookout for opportunities “along the road” of life, where issues almost beg to be discussed in light of our Christian commitment and faith. Many opportunities will arise as your kids watch you live life. How do you, for example, demonstrate your faith when some jerk cuts you off on the highway? Perhaps, depending on your reaction, this may be a time to discuss the issues of revenge or forgiveness!
5) Take the posture of a “fellow-learner” as opposed to that of a “teacher and student.” Being a “fellow-learner” takes the pressure off as far as trying to send the message that you “know it all” (and your kids will already know this isn’t true). When discussing spiritual issues, you will most likely hear a question from your child that you can’t answer. It’s fine to say, “I don’t know. Let’s work on finding the answer together.”
6) Utilize media to launch discussions about God and the Christian life. While much of today’s media is negative in its influence and portrayals of values, it can provide a launching pad for discussions of how Christian values compare to whatever is seen, heard, or read.
7) Have a plan for family devotional and prayer times. First, find a devotional guide, sign-up for HomeWord’s Daily Devotional email, or order a copy of my book, Faith Conversations for Families. Then, devise a plan (daily, weekly, at certain mealtimes for example) and then stick to it. Build the habit so your kids learn, “this is what we do as a family.”
8) Have fun with your kids! Sadly, too many kids are taught through role modeling from their parents and other adults at church, that Christianity means being grumpy and bored. Perhaps one of the most spiritual things you can do for your kids’ spiritual growth is to model for them that the Christian life is filled with love, peace, and joy! So, plan fun times for your family. Let them know that the Christian life can be fun!
9) Get involved in ministry together as a family. The call to Christ is the call to serve. You can communicate a lot about your faith in Christ to your kids by your willingness to serve; by getting involved in ministry. For years, successful youth ministries have known that getting kids involved in ministry and service results in spiritual growth and in bonding together the youth group community. Do you know what? The same benefits will occur within families when they serve together!
10) Disciple and equip your kids. Actively participate in teaching your kids about God and what living the Christian life looks like. Why not do a weekly Bible study together with your son or daughter? Ask your youth pastor or youth worker for ideas for Bible study material. Youth workers will never be able to use all the materials that are available to them! Or, select a book together on a spiritual topic and then have a weekly discussion about what you’ve read.