Some children start pulling away from spiritual pursuits as they get older. They might not want to pray at dinner, seem to endure church, and are more interested in electronics and friends than spiritual things. Those tendencies are early indications of a trend in Christian families of kids who leave the church after they graduate from high school. Here’s what you can do now to reverse that trend and help your kids get spiritually engaged. Take the story of twelve-year-old Mark for example. He seemed to be drifting from the faith and his parents decided to do something about it. Here’s what they did. In fact, these are three things you can do with your family this year to engage your kids spiritually.
Energize Your Family Devotions
Dad and Mom determined to add an exciting devotional experience for Mark and his two younger sisters. They called it Family Time. Once a week, Dad and Mom would prepare an activity that illustrated a biblical truth. One week they told their kids to get their running shoes on for devotions. That puzzled them all and they came to the Family Time with a sense of anticipation. Dad read them the parable of the man who found the treasure in the field and sold all he had to buy that field so that he could own the treasure. Then Dad told them that he had created a number of clues in the back yard with a treasure at the end. He handed the first clue to Mark that said, “Look under the trash can.” Mark ran with his sisters out to the backyard and started the hunt. After about eight clues he ended up finding a plastic container filled with their favorite cookies that Mom had made. Then they talked about why the truths of God are worth so much.
The next week they talked about withstanding the fiery darts of the devil with the shield of faith as described in Ephesians 6:16. They took rolled up socks and threw them at each other and used a pillow as a shield to ward them off. Then they talked about temptations that might harm each of them.
Another time Mom read 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Build one another up.” The activity that day was to build a human pyramid and then talk about ways that they tear down and build each other up in their family. The kids became excited for devotions each week as these parents used the language of children to teach their kids about biblical truths.
Seeing God Work
Dad and Mom continued their mission by raising the bar a bit. Every couple of days they asked the question, “How did you see God work today?” At first, the kids didn’t know what to say, but Dad and Mom gave them ideas including ones they could relate to. Mom told about the beautiful sunset she enjoyed and Dad told about an answer to prayer about a difficult meeting at work. They prayed more specifically as a family, asking God to show them each how they could fit into his plan.
Dad and Mom were surprised when Mark came home from school and said,
“When are you going to ask us the question?”
“The one about seeing God work?”
Mark had a story to tell and as he shared it at dinner, his parents smiled because they were seeing their son become spiritually engaged.
Sometimes children view God as irrelevant to their daily lives. Asking this kind of question encourages Level-Three thinking. Level-One thinking is where children spent most of the time. It has to do with the activity they’re involved in right now, playing on the iPad, eating lunch, or walking around the house. Level-Two thinking asks responsibility questions such as, “What time is it?” “What else should I be working on now?” or, “Should I be sharing this iPad with my brother?”
Level-Three thinking asks the question, “What is God doing in the world right now?” It’s fun to watch children share exciting things that they’re seeing in the world right now about God’s activity. When parents become spiritually transparent, kids see it.
Serve the Lord as a Family
Some kids develop a rather selfish view of life, always thinking about themselves and rarely thinking of others. When this takes place, kids often lose sight of the value of church as a place to serve and miss out on opportunities to help others. Mark’s parents decided to make changes in this area of family life as well.
Dad and Mom also told the pastor at church that they, as a family, would help with greeting every other week. Mark began to see church as a place to give and serve, not just as a place to meet friends or learn.
Mark is growing spiritually because his parents looked for practical ways to engage him with what God wants to do in him personally. God wants to work in the lives of children, and parents can be the facilitators of that growth. The plan you use to strengthen your family must be intentional and engaging for kids. Parents pass the faith on to their kids. If parents have an unnoticeable faith, that in turn is the faith that they’re passing on to their children.
What might God have you to do in 2015 to excite your children about the Lord and engage them spiritually?
Dr. Scott Turansky is a co-founder of the National Center for Biblical Parenting. He and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN have written 13 books on parenting, trained over 120 presenters to teach live parenting seminars, and they themselves teach around the country most every week.