5 Ways to Grow Your Children’s Faith…
When It Seems They’re Not Listening
by Cindi McMenamin
Taking your children to Sunday school or merely telling them about God may not be enough these days.
If you’re going to raise up your children in the way they should go, it’s going to take some creativity and effort on your part, especially if you tend to think they’re not listening.
According to Barna Research, most practicing adult Christians say their faith was passed down to them and discipleship occurred in their family of origin during their formative years. Since statistics now say most children leave the church for good during their teenage years, discipleship is imperative. Here are four ways you can begin – or continue – growing your children in their faith when they don’t appear to be listening at all:
- Look for everyday teaching moments.
Most of our parenting and discipleship happens in the everyday moments – the non-intentional moments – which is why we must be aware of opportunities to naturally focus on Christ and what He is doing in our everyday lives.
When living out our faith daily is evidence to our children, they will understand that our beliefs are more than a Sunday faith and more than a “head knowledge” or “decision to believe.” Understanding a relationship versus a religion of rules is essential for our children to engage their hearts and become Jesus-followers, rather than Jesus-fakers.
I believe this is what Moses ultimately had in mind when he gave us these instructions in Deuteronomy 6:6-8: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
As a young believer, these verses might even seem daunting. You may feel you have no idea how to do this, but as you lean on the Holy Spirit for His help, even audibly admitting to your children you don’t always know how to trust Jesus completely, but you will continue to try as you know it pleases Him, you will be disciplining them with your attempts – and admitted failures – to be a faithful follower of Jesus, yourself.
- Model it – and make it fun.
If your children are young, make your faith fun. Make it an adventure. Make it more than about just taking them to church or having a set of rules. The Christian life is not an assignment nor is it one of our “daily chores.” It is a love relationship with Jesus. And the more enjoyable and exciting your faith is, the more enjoyable and exciting it will be for your children.
My friend, Author and Speaker Rebekah Montgomery, came from a long line of influential and inspiring women. She said her fervor for the Lord, her heart for prayer, and her compassion for people that spurred her toward evangelism as a way of life didn’t develop by chance. Her mother made the Christian life exciting for her and her siblings.
“My mom made spirituality fun and natural,” Rebekah said, “We had our own Bible club – just Mom and us kids. On club days, we would fly through the housework and put on our club rings (especially made and engraved with IAH – I am His), and Mom would plan a romp in the woods with a lunch she had packed. She would teach us a Bible lesson about something specific.” Make it fun and your children will see their faith as an adventure – and something they want to be a part of – not a chore.
- Make it real – for you and for them.
In addition to having fun, Rebekah said her family also got real with each other by sharing their hearts with one another. “We had family devotions at night, too. What was shared there was kept inside the family. We knew about mom and dad’s financial situation, health, and other concerns because they shared them with us, and we all prayed about them. I don’t remember being worried about these matters because they weren’t. There was a sense of excitement and anticipation to see what God would do.”
What better way for our children to grab hold of our faith than when they see us living it out in the grittiness of life? No one, our children included, wants something that we just talk about but don’t live. Your children are – or will one day be – too busy to want to spend their Sunday mornings in church or take time to be in God’s Word regularly or put themselves in a place where they can serve God with their lives if it isn’t something they are convinced is worthwhile. And your greatest testimony to that is what you share with them about how God has come through for you, or what they see for themselves about how Christ has impacted your life. Our children see the reality of our faith, and our struggles and who God is in the midst of them when we share our hearts with them.
- Encourage them to share their feelings.
Think about it. You and I came to God either through Christian parenting and discipleship, ourselves, or when we came face to face with a need in our lives that we realized only Jesus could help us with.
Bringing faith into our children’s everyday lives involves cultivating in them a heart response and relationship with Jesus. To get our children’s hearts engaged with their Savior they need to know He is available and waiting to be there for them in the ways they need their parents. And recognizing their need for Him happens when they acknowledge their fears, anxieties, doubts, and insecurities, as well as their dreams, hopes and desires.
Our goal as parents is to make our children less dependent on us and more dependent on God, the older they get. They will do that as they see us growing in dependence on God, talking of how God came through for us at the last minute or sharing about the peace God gave us when we were stressed or anxious. Share your heart with your children (and where Jesus is meeting you) and it will encourage them to do the same.
- Know when to talk to God instead of talking to them.
I’ve learned through the years that sometimes it is more effective to talk to God about our kids than to talk to our kids about God. There are times they are stubborn, their hearts are hardened, their ears are not open to instruction. This doesn’t mean you tolerate disobedience or rebellion or look the other way instead of applying discipline. It means knowing when to talk to God about their hearts rather than talk to them about their hearts for God.
As you talk to God about your kids, pray for the softening of their hearts toward Him, and for their desire to be people who not only please their parents, and all authority figures, but who ultimately pleases God. God desires your children’s discipleship and spiritual growth even more than you do. Trust Him with their hearts and pray for them often.
Here’s a prayer for disciplining your kids when they don’t listen:
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving my children even more than I do. Please draw their hearts to Yourself. Please enable me to live before them a life of obedience and surrender to You so they will see my faith is real and want that kind of faith, too. Please put a desire in them to really know You, to love You, and to obey You. And help me learn more of Your patient parenting heart for me as I try to live obediently and grow in my love for You, as well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, mom of an adult daughter, and national speaker who helps women, moms, and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. She has authored more than a dozen books including When Women Walk Alone(more than 140,000 copies sold), When Couples Walk Together(co-authored with her husband, Hugh), 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband,10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, and When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter. For more on her resources to help strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.