Some Christian parents do not intentionally address their child’s spiritual development. Some feel inadequate in this area or think this is the church’s job. The church has an important role but the parents need to fulfill the primary role of spiritual developer. Ideally parents and churches will partner. Make certain you know your church’s theology and agree with it. Discuss what is being taught at church. Many children’s ministries have take-home papers available which can be utilized at home. Sunday school and children’s church lessons can be springboards for further, deeper discussions. As you study with and spiritually challenge your children your faith will also grow deeper. You may even be surprised at their faith and learn from them. Start having spiritual conversations with your children when they are young and continue to do so as they become teens and young adults. In time this will seem normal to them. Help them and yourself become comfortable discussing spiritual issues.
Don’t be like some parents who claim Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” as their spiritual insurance plan. John White exposes this as false comfort. “If you examine its [Prov. 22:6] context you will discover that the verse is not a promise made by God to anybody. It is a statement, a general statement about how family relationships normally work. Good parents usually produce good children.” Parents must first have a personal relationship with Christ and model godly living. Parents need to pray for and with their children. Help your child become so comfortable with praying that it seems inseparable from who they are and is their first response to every situation.
There are many ways to pray for your children. Dr. Anthony Evans suggests we model our daily prayers after Luke 2:52 which tell us that Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and man. Praying for wisdom would include gaining knowledge, intelligence, learning, common sense, discerning right and wrong, understanding, and the fear of the Lord. Praying for increase in stature involves physical growth, health, and development. In favor with God refers to a father and child relationship. Pray that your child will know, love, serve, and walk with God. Pray for them to be rooted in the Word and to love the church. Finally to pray for favor with man refers to their social growth. Pray for their choice of friends, relationships with siblings, respect for parents and authority, and even for their future mates.
Pray with your children. Pray at mealtimes. Pray at bedtimes. Pray anytime needs arise. Pray with rejoicing and thanksgiving for blessings. When our children were very young we prayed with each of them at their bedside at bedtime. Later we gathered as a family at bedtime and all prayed together usually beginning with the youngest child and ending with the oldest parent. When friends and extended family stayed overnight with us they were invited to join us and also pray or just listen as they were comfortable. Sometimes it was challenging to avoid rote prayers. Sometimes someone fell asleep before it was their turn. We knew someone was not focused when they prayed out of turn or even prayed twice.
Go to church every week. Keep it a priority. As a youth pastor I was often asked to be a reference for teens seeking employment. I willingly did this but always encouraged the teen to tell the employer they could not work on Sunday mornings. Whether it is work or sports or other activities, do not allow these to have more importance in a child’s life or yours than regular worship and fellowship at your church. Attend church as a family. Fitness and physical training are important. There is much to be gained from team participation which may even have lifelong benefits. However spiritual development endures longer than the body and this life, it is preparation for eternity.