In my last post, I asked for your input; I wanted to hear from you some of the ways you've found to help you pass your faith along to your children. I got some wonderful responses, and am including four of them here, with only minor edits. There are links in a couple for some resources you may want to use in your own family!
From the mother of four: three sons ages 9, 7, and 5, and a daughter age 3:
Family Worship- our aim is to have a time of family worship every night (some weeks better than others) that is usually around 20 minutes and include collect or opening prayer, song, catechism & scripture memory, Bible reading & discussion, reflection (remembering the struggles and needs of ourselves and others, expressing joy and gratitude), and closing prayer. You can see more of my thoughts and favorite resources for this here.
Observing the Liturgical Year- Over the last decade we have cultivated a number of family traditions around the liturgical year that help our kids grasp the stories and principles of scripture and church history. The goal is to tie their story to the Big Story (both of the Gospel and its continuation through the church), to draw multisensory connections, and robust meaning into their faith.
Stories- Filling our kids with stories that echo the truth of God & the Gospel. This ranges from biographies of Christians via age-appropriate books or the Torchlighter video series to great fantasy fiction series such as Narnia and Wingfeather that point us so beautifully and imaginatively to the truths we hold dear. These stories give us more reference points, examples, common culture, and language as we continue to grow in our faith.
Other Practices and Helps:
· Regular church attendance & participation in church activities
· Prayer before meals
· Bedtime prayer- Chris prays and I sing the Aaronic blessing over the kids as we tuck them in.
· Bible Jeopardy- Weekly quiz game Chris created for the kids’ catechism and Bible memory
· Watching World Watch (news for kids from a Christian worldview) together and discussing the intersection of faith and real world events.
Additionally, it’s important to us for the kids to see our personal faith and some of our struggle as well. Telling them that I need time in the morning to pray and read the Bible before school, admitting when I have sinned against them or failed to do what I ought to have done and telling them that I too am under authority and am accountable to God for leading them well, sharing something cool that we have read, learned, seen or realized in our faith at the dinner table (Chris is really good at this), explaining why (in age appropriate ways) we make certain parenting and family choices because of our faith and convictions, etc.
From the father of a 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter:
Each night at dinner, once we have finished the main meal, we break out some form of dessert (because God’s word is sweet (we stole this from Ray Ortlund)) and I read the Bible. “Read” is a bit strong of a term: I basically open up the Bible, pick up where I read last, then skim over pages of scripture while simultaneously paraphrasing the text for my children (ages 1 and 3). Sometimes it is really bad haha! Like, when I tried to talk through the story of Samson – that guy was a mess, and trying to decide what was important for my children to know real time was tricky. But, at other times, it can turn out really good. The benefit of this is I cover a lot of ground pretty quickly – like, I did the whole book of Ruth in a night, and Judges flew by as well. And the whole story line of the Bible becomes visible to the kids, and they get used to having a bible open and sitting still.
When I can’t pull off paraphrasing scripture quickly, we watch a YouTube video from Saddleback Kids: Saddleback Kids - YouTube
Once reading is done (usually about 5 – 8 mins, max), we all sing a song together. Usually it is Jesus Loves the Little Children (my son’s favorite – we add in a new made-up line almost every night). Other evenings, we’ll choose a different song.
And then, we wrap up with some questions from The New City Catechism for Kids: Books | The New City Catechism.
All together, the whole thing takes like 15 minutes. Honestly, we just made it up as we went, and now (about 3 months later) we have a pretty good rhythm. It has been really satisfying to get to this point.
A couple other thoughts: Probably the biggest thing helping us here is our life that we live together with Crestview (our church). We have good friends from church in and out of our house every week. There are typically two events where we load the family up and go to church each week. The New City Catechism and the songs we sing are the same ones the kids learn in Sunday School. So, there’s a lot of continuity between church and life in our home. God has also given us a lot of unity between my wife and I on this, which I don’t know if many people have.
The other big thing, I think, is practicing faith in our lives. As in, when we are upset, going to Jesus in song or prayer in front of the kids. And there are a lot more ways to do this. One of my favorite things is my son is always up first, comes downstairs and finds me reading the Bible and praying in my chair, and he climbs up with me and joins me. It is really special and means so much to me, and I think this sort of thing will really stick with him.
From the mother of a 10-month-old son:
In response to your email’s question, I listen to Orthodox chant with my son in the mornings and *try* to remember to do morning prayer with him. I’ll often pray over him at night, as well. And we read a Bible story book almost every day. I don't know if any of that will make an ounce of difference to him, but it helps me.
I kind of think the only thing that will help communicate Christianity to my son is my own life (and my husband’s). Am I alive in Christ? Or dead spiritually? Can my son encounter Christ through us? Or do we just talk *about* God? Those are some of the questions I put (painfully) to myself.
From a Grandmother:
When I was a mother of a young son in Stillwater, OK a church there announced they were having a speaker present the subject of How to Raise a Christian Child. The speaker was Dr. Halligan’s (president of OSU) wife. All of us young mothers were so excited to go and hear about the secret to raising a Christian Child. Her answer to raising a Christian Child was to be a good Christian yourself. In other words model an authentic faith and biblical response to the daily tasks we are called to do. I have obviously never forgotten this Godly advice.
I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home with both of my parents graduates of Seminary and in full time ministry. My mother “encouraged” us to memorize scripture. Each morning we drew a scripture out of a bowl and were to quote it back to her that night. We memorized the Sermon on the Mount, many Psalms, the Lords Prayer, etc. These passages have been a rich blessing during dark, difficult times in my life when I couldn’t concentrate or read the scriptures. The Holy Spirit brought these back to me and comforted me and guided me with them, including during the recent pandemic 60 years later.
We of course were regularly part of our church community. We experienced the support of others, care, concern, joy and love of being part of a Community of Faith. My father modeled the love, grace and mercy he experienced as a Christian. When we disobeyed or made mistakes he was always quick to forgive and set us on the right path again. We saw God provide many miracles as children as our parents openly relied on God for help in times of need. As a result all 6 of us children are involved and engaged in a community of Faith and have a personal relationship with Jesus.
These habits I formed as a child were natural for me to carry over to my own children. I too attended seminary and wondered what God would call me to do. My brother became a missionary and I realized my calling was to be a wife and mother. Being a mother is a sacred and blessed ministry as well as a sacrificial and joy filled life. We raised our children engaged in a church that was our faith community. I read the boys classical stories at night as young boys and discussed what God might be calling them to do with their lives. Each one of my 3 sons was created with different gifts, talents and personalities and each was named after a prophet from the Bible.
Like my parents I tried to reinforce the Biblical lessons I learned as well as the Joy, Peace and Love of being a child of God. I have tried to model the Grace and mercy I have experienced as a Child of God. As my sons got older I have prayed for them daily that the Blood of Jesus would cover them and protect them from Satan’s arrows. The hardest part of course is watching your child struggle and grow while developing their own faith in God and relationship and friendship with Jesus. I openly discussed my dependence on God and how we relied on Him rather than ourselves.
I have taught classes at OU, OSU and OCU as well as other career highs but I feel my greatest joy and honor has come from being blessed to be the mother of 3 sons. All 3 of my sons and their families are engaged in their churches and 2 have leadership positions. My husband and I are currently working to intentionally pass our faith on to our grandchildren and thank God that He gives us this opportunity to continue to serve Him.
Many thanks to each of the parents quoted above; your experience is an encouragement to us all.
If you have something you'd like to share, questions you'd like to ask, or topics you'd like to see covered, let me know in the comments. And if any of this is helpful to you, please share on social media!
All the best,