We need to move away from simply creating ‘God-smart’ children, who know all the right answers to the Bible quiz questions, know the life they should be living, are comfortable with how to do Christianity, but it all seems to stop at their head. A God-connected child is an entirely different reality. To get there, we need to deeply disciple our children from infancy as they live in a growing relationship with Jesus.
But I also know as a parent that the last thing I need is something to add to the to-do list. I want to deeply disciple my daughter, but I don’t have a lot of time going spare each week.
Is there a way to use our everyday life as families to have a deeper impact on our children’s faith?
I think the answer is yes!
Parenting for Faith are an organisation that help us as parents to disciple our children to help them see real faith and develop their own. They have highlighted five tools that we can use to help our children in what we already do and see every day, adding a little extra intentionality to how we do them.
Creating windows is about showing our children what an imperfect but real relationship with God looks like. We are created to learn by watching, and helping children to develop a relationship with God is no different. As parents we need to give our children glimpses into our relationship with God in everyday life. For example, leaving the door open so children can see you reading the Bible, listening to worship songs as you make the dinner, explaining when and how you are praying about situations you face every day. Your ongoing journey is the most powerful tool you have to help your child grow their own relationship with God.
Framing is about helping children to see God in the big and small of life. Sometimes, children know a lot about God from the Bible and the stories that they hear, but don’t necessarily see what he has to do with everyday life. One of the ways we can help is to give them a spiritual framework for life – to help them learn to see the world with God’s eyes.
Framing helps your child see how God works in all of life, tackling tough questions and preparing them for things to come. It’s a way to look at things happening in the world from little things that they see every day in school and with friends to huge world crises and death. We can help provide simple steps to aid them seeing God working in the world.
Unwinding involves joining the dots to find a big picture of God.Children’s experiences can sometimes lead them to a false perception of God. When they are bullied, for example, they can’t reconcile that experience with the idea that God loves them – if he does, why did he allow that to happen? Or if they have seen drawings of God in a cloud, looking down on the world, they may see him as a distant figure, not interested in them. Unwinding is the process of noticing and gently correcting misconceptions your child may have about God. There are two stages to this: understanding what might have contributed to their wrong view, and then helping them unwind it.
Chat and Catch
Chat and catch helps children hear God’s voice and speak to him in their own way. For children to grow in their faith, they need to find their own way of talking to and hearing God. Prayer is at the heart of that. ‘Chatting’ encourages children to use informal language, their everyday voice, to communicate with God. ‘Catching’ is simply training them to recognise and respond to God’s voice – however he chooses to speak – meaning that they can easily, naturally and directly connect with God in a two-way, ongoing conversation about anything, whenever and wherever they are.
Surfing the Waves
Surfing the waves is about letting children explore interests and emotions as they flow in new directions. As we disciple our children, we will find that their interest in spiritual things comes and goes in waves. One minute they love reading their Bible; the next it’s discarded in favour of YouTube worship videos; then you discover they are full of outrage about modern slavery. Childhood is a period of discovery, when children try different things before discovering what suits them best. Maybe they become interested in the AV team in church and you encourage them to get involved with that. Or supporting them as they join the welcome team on a Sunday morning. We need tolearn to ‘surf the waves’ of their interests, supporting and enabling them along the way.
Privilege and responsibility
As parents we are called to disciple our children. We desire our children meet and know God and we have congregations that encourage us. It is such an honour and privilege to help and support a child as they develop their relationship with God in a life-long relationship journey.
The key is to not be overwhelmed with the responsibility. We all have different skills and characteristics as parents and so how we disciple will look different. What is the one thing that you could do over these months to help your child? Could you focus on creating windows into your faith journey? Or think about how to help your child develop their prayer life with chat and catch? What are the ways that you see your child looking to serve in church – how could you encourage that?
For more information check out www.parentingforfaith.brf.org.uk
Ruth Bromley is PCI's Children's Development Officer.