Christian parents have one thing in common: We all want our children to grow up loving and serving God. Because of this, we take them to Sunday school, and as they get older, we make sure they are involved in a good youth group.
Unfortunately however, simply bringing your kids to church may not be enough. Children who are raised in church often rebel and practice lifestyles in exact opposition to the way they were raised.
How then can you encourage your children's spiritual growth? Here are some suggestions:
1. Check your spiritual barometer. A significant difference between your behavior at home and your behavior with other Christians is unacceptable. You can't expect your kids to embrace Christianity if you are only holy on Sundays. If you have a hypocritical lifestyle, you may encourage your children to reject God altogether.
Be open to your children's observations. Although I expect my kids to be respectful, their honest words shine a light on my shortcomings.
For instance, one morning my daughter came to me with an open Bible and pointed out the fact that I don't always do things without complaining (Phil. 2:14). I had to admit that she was right. Since then, she has mentioned other things that have been right on target. I've noticed that the more open I am to my children's observations, the more responsive they are to my instruction.
Ask God to show you areas of compromise in your life. Make changes, and when necessary ask your children for forgiveness.
2. Make ministry inside the home a higher priority than ministry outside the home. In our efforts to minister to others, many times we fail to see the needs of our own families. Although ministry responsibilities are important, God has made each of us directly responsible for our families.
3. Spend time daily teaching your children the things of God. With hectic schedules, this can be difficult. However, if you find that you don't have time consistently to teach your children about the Lord, you may need to reassess your priorities.
When our kids were younger, we had family devotions right before bedtime. Now that we're homeschooling, designating Bible as our first subject in school works best. Find the time that works best for your family and stick with it.
Use curriculum that suits your family. When I first started teaching my kids about the Bible, I tried to captivate them with dynamic devotions. I wanted the Bible to be fun! It was fun (for them!), but the preparation time was more than I could handle. I've taught Bible more consistently and the kids have grown more spiritually since I switched to a simpler curriculum.
4. Be enthusiastic about Sunday services. Throughout the week, talk positively about the coming Sunday. Together with your children develop the attitude, "I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD'" (Ps. 122:1).
In Bible times, the Sabbath actually began the night before. Spend time on Saturday night getting into the proper frame of mind for Sunday. Have a special time of prayer with your children for the services the next morning. If you have trouble finding time for family devotions on a daily basis, try making a habit of it on Saturday night.
5. Practice devotional living. Don't discuss spiritual things only at church or during family devotional time. Deuteronomy 6:6–7 illustrates the importance of teaching your children about the Lord throughout the day.
Ask God to open your eyes to the way He works in the mundane activities of your life, and then share those insights with your kids. When God provides for your needs, make comments about the way He is faithful in blessing you. If you see something in nature that illustrates a spiritual truth, share that with your kids.
Another way to live devotionally is to "drop everything and pray." When someone calls with a prayer request, gather the children together and immediately pray for that need. If you're out driving and see a car accident or hear an ambulance, briefly pray for the people involved.
When your children are having difficulty in various situations, stop right then and pray with them about it. If you blow up at your kids, immediately ask their forgiveness, pray with them, and ask God (and your kids) to forgive you.
As you begin to practice devotional living, talking about the Lord will become second nature to you; you won't even have to think about it.
6. Speak highly of those in church leadership. Teach your kids to respect those God has placed in positions of authority over us. Don't fall into the trap of griping about the pastor or other leaders within the church.
7. Most important, never stop praying. When there is a problem with a child, rather than reaching for the nearest child-training book, hit your knees. Although books give much practical insight, nothing compares to the wisdom and power that comes from seeking God.
Everyone—adult and child alike—has a free will and must make his or her own decision to follow Christ. Implementing these suggestions may encourage your children to do just that.