The idea that there is a formula to follow to insure that our children will grow in love for the Lord is simply not true. Faith in Christ is a supernatural process that we cannot control. Jim and I prayed from the beginning that our children would develop a genuine faith in Jesus and follow Him all of their days. Years ago my sister asked my thoughts of fostering a love for the Lord in my children. I responded, “All I can say is that today they are walking with Jesus. We don’t know what the future holds!” This is a source of deep ache in many hearts as sometimes, regardless of upbringing, children make decisions that are not what we desire. I pray that the following principles provide encouragement as you seek to raise your children to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength and mind. (Matthew 22:37)
1) Model A Christ-centered life for your Children
1 Thessalonians 2:8 speaks to our roles as mothers: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Children will model what they see in their parents’ lives. We can model seeking to know God through His Word and depending upon Him through prayer.
Many of our friends have enjoyed great success with family devotions. Our story is characterized by a series of starts and stops. (We failed A LOT). We tried new things when our old way was not working. We were intentional and when the boys got older, we found that praying through Scripture was something that we all enjoyed doing.
Just as Jesus trained His disciples in the context of life, there are endless unplanned opportunities that can be teachable moments. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 encourages us; “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Keep your eyes open for real life opportunities to engage with your children. Notice when they are anxious, fearful, angry, prideful etc. and utilize these as teachable moments.
After one particularly challenging Little League baseball game, in which Jim was coaching one of our sons, Jim and the boys complained profusely about the umpiring and the other team’s poor sportsmanship. Upon returning home Jim felt convicted about his sinful behavior, confessed this to the boys and asked for their forgiveness. He also called the other team’s coach to seek his forgiveness. This unplanned teachable moment became one of our family stories concerning what it means to be a “fast repenter.”
2) Allow Others to Influence your Children
Raising staff children can provide unique opportunities to hear the Gospel. Consider how to utilize the ministry to influence your children. We had students and staff in our home and asked them to share their testimonies. Over time, these men and women became heroes to our boys. It was helpful as parents to have others sharing the same message we were seeking to impart to our children.
When our sons were older, they had opportunities to attend large group meetings, retreats and STP’s. During STP’s we asked student leaders or staff if they would get 1:1’s with our sons on a regular basis. It was an honor for our sons, and they grew from these older men speaking into their lives. One son came back from a 1:1 and exclaimed, “I had no idea how much you can get out of just one verse of Scripture!”
Involvement in a local church, Sunday school, Awana, Bible Study Fellowship, MOPS, etc. can be helpful to reinforce what you are teaching your children in your home, as well.
3) Allow God to Work in the Lives of Your Children According to His Timeline
Honestly as a mother, I anticipated the day when my sons would pray to receive Christ. While this is a natural and good desire, we need to be careful not to manipulate our kids into a decision. One son observed communion and was fascinated. We explained that to take communion one needed to have put their trust in Jesus, and ask forgiveness from sin. He wanted to pray right then! Perhaps he genuinely did so, but now he would say that it wasn’t until he was older that he truly understood a saving faith in Jesus. Still, if your child wants to pray to ask Christ into their life, pray with them and help them to understand at an age appropriate level.
If we are not careful, we will focus on behavior instead of the condition of their hearts. There will be days, perhaps seasons, which drive you to your knees and cause you to wonder if God is at work in your child’s life. May I encourage you to remember that God is the Author of each of our stories, including your children? The challenging or difficult pages in your child’s story (and the pages we would love to remove from their story) may actually be the very pages that God uses to bring them to Himself and to transform them into His likeness. I know this is true because I have lived it out!
Pray for your children and ask the Lord to make Himself known to them. Trust that the Lord hears your prayers and ask Him to foster a love for the Lord in your children’s hearts.