How You Help Your Kids Build Sticky Faith by Showing Your Own

Kara Powell is one of the key leaders today in youth and family ministry. This blog is a great reminder of demonstrating our faith to our kids in simple, visible ways. 

How You Help Your Kids Build Sticky Faith by Showing Your Own

“Mom, you’re not working out much anymore. You used to work out lots, but I haven’t seen you work out in a month.”

If you had heard my nine-year-old’s tone of voice, you’d realize it wasn’t really an accusation. More of an observation.

But actually, her observation wasn’t accurate. I was doing my workout DVDs (my favorite way to squeeze a workout into my mornings) just as much as always. But I had changed locations. Instead of doing them in our family room, I was gravitating to the back of the house as my workout space.

I was still working out, but my daughter never saw me do it.

Yesterday I spoke with a young woman in her twenties who has drifted from the faith. Once an active member of her high school youth group, she never found a church or college parachurch ministry that fit. One decision led to another and she is now pregnant. Her picture of motherhood had always involved a husband and a supportive community. The good news is she has the latter, but she’s about to give birth to a daughter and she’s missing the former.

I asked her how her parents and her congregation had responded well to her journey, as well as what she wished they had done differently. One description of her dad and step-mom haunted me. Natalie shared with me, “Our family always attended church, but I never saw my dad or step-mom pray or read the Bible on their own.”

One of the themes in our research for The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family book and Sticky Faith Family Training film curriculum is that our kids mirror who we are and what we do. More accurately, our kids mirror what they see us doing. 

As a parent, that’s both encouraging and terrifying.

Now let me try to throw a little more encouragement in your direction. As we interviewed parents who had intentionally developed long-term faith in their kids, they clearly made the cultivation of their faith a priority. But there were no universal steps these parents took to make that goal a reality. Each parent found his or her own unique way to stay connected with Jesus.

Some liked to sit and journal; others liked to walk and pray.

Some preferred to read Scripture in the morning; others who were anything but “morning people” carved out time before bed.

Some needed quiet; others preferred worship music or even the background music of family life at home.

As you dive into new back-to-school routines, how are you going to visibly demonstrate your commitment to Christ to your kids in a way that fits you?

Note 2 key words in the question above: “visibly demonstrate.”

Taking our research to heart, this summer I’ve rearranged my morning routine. I am a morning person (if you’ve received a 5:12 am time-stamped email from me, you have evidence of this). Before our research, I preferred to spend my time with the Lord first, workout second, and dive into email third. That way I could pray and journal before my kids woke up.

But that meant my kids never saw me.

Now some days I spend time with the Lord first thing (which is still my favorite time); other days I wait until my kids are up and I sit on the blue couch in our living room so they can see me when they pass by. My time is a bit less focused, but I’m choosing to visibly demonstrate my commitment to time with Jesus to my kids. Even if I do get interrupted and asked about the carpool schedule for the day.

My husband has an hour commute, so he often prays in the car. Thanks to our research, he’s talking more about what he’s praying about. That way, even if our kids don’t see him, they hear him talk about his prayer life.

For both Dave and me, these changes took us no extra time but increase the probability that our kids will have long-term faith.

Based on our research, I can’t help but wonder two questions:

  1. How are we as parents showing our kids our faith?
  2. What small tweaks could we make in our schedule, or our conversations with our kids, that would give them better glimpses into how Jesus has changed our life?
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Kara Powell

Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women to Watch”, Kara serves as an Advisor to Youth Specialties and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

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