~A great question from a mom came through my Facebook page following a teaching I gave on helping parents find their children's spiritual giftings.~
I would like to know if you can suggest some things I can do with my kids to help them more to lean on GOD and His purpose in their lives?
Such an important question. And there's something in the wording of her question that I think is so critical...'things I can do with my kids'.
1. With My Kids
This to me is the hallmark of equipping our kids to see God working in their lives. We need to walk the faith walk with them. Too often we try to protect our kids from the challenges we are facing in our own lives. We think it would make them feel insecure, would make them feel scared, if they were to know about the times we are struggling and are facing difficulties. But our kids need to see us lean on the Lord when job challenges or financial pressures or relationship hiccups are looming. It's not that we have to expose every details or serve up the unedited version. However, they benefit when they see us lean into the Lord in a deliberate way. If they experience us modeling this, it will become instinctive to them in their own lives. It speaks to the axiom, "More is caught than taught." Deuteronomy 6:7 gives a great recipe for incorporating GodTalk throughout your day with your kids: "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
2. Active Prayer
More than asking our kids what they want to 'be' when they grow up, meaning a vocation, we should be praying with them and over them for God to reveal His purpose in their life. Rather than focusing on what 'jobs' our kids are considering for the future, at a young age forward we should be praying with them about their passions, where their hearts are pulled, what captures their attention. In equipping them with the understanding that God has a purpose for every life, we help them develop an inner dialog and an active conversation with the Lord for His guidance and plan.
We can also model going to prayer in the midst of life. I've prayed with my kids over skinned knees and hurt feelings and lost Barbies. Small things, but big powerful prayer habits can be the result.
3. Be a Tour Guide
From the time our kids are little bitty through their approach toward adulthood, we can point out the God moments and God design evident in our worlds. Everything from the delightful design of a ladybug to the wonders of space to the mysteries of life at the cellular level, we can be the tour guide, helping our kids navigate a creation full of incredible exhibits. We have the ability to help 'train' the eyes of our kids to look for the fingerprint of God, for His holy signature, across the experiences of our lives. As Romans 1:20 states, "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Just as we are intentional about exposing our kids to great art, music, cuisine, so we should be intentional in talking about and showing and experiencing the places and creations and connections that God weaves through our lives.
It's not the Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop's job. It's not the teacher at school's job. It's not even the youth pastor's job. It's ours, as parents. We have to teach and make priority and live a life of service. Have your family serve as a team at church. Choose a project to work on together for your community or neighborhood. And talk about the 'why'. Why we serve. How God serves us. How Christ served the church with His life. Make serving the lifestyle of your family and watch what God will do.
5. Be Real and Visible
Let's face it...our kids see the 'real' us, the habits and quirks and reality of who we are more than anyone. We can claim a walk of faith to our peers and Bible study pals...but it's our kids who know if that rings true. Our kids need to 'catch' us reading the Word, listening to teaching, singing praise songs while going about chores. They need to experience that we are patient even when it's tough, apologetic when needed, consistent in our characters. One of the greatest hindrances we can create in wanting to point our kids to the Lord is if we walk in hypocrisy, when we allow our expectations for our kids' behavior to be tougher than the expectations we have on ourselves. Even when our kids are toddlers, they know the aspects of our characters that are dependable and the places where we stumble. Own it.
6. Keep Resources Available
Just as we keep educational resources around the house, so too can we keep faith books, puzzles, DVDs, music around the house as well. While I'm not a parent who thinks that every single play toy or movie and soundtrack has to be 'Christian', I do think that having those options available allows kids to incorporate it as part of their play life, entertainment and home experience.
7. Don't Force It
I've seen it. Maybe you have too. A very well intentioned parent who pushes, pushes, pushes all things faith and God and Bible and Veggie Tales...and you can see the kids' eyes glazing over. At the end of the day, our kids will have to make faith decisions of their own. Yep. We can't make that step for them. We can create a great environment. We can model a life of faith. We can teach them Bible songs. And those are great things. But the idea here is to create an echo that resounds in their hearts long after our time with them tucked into the bosom of our home has come to a close. There's a verse I love from Isaiah 30:21 that says, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” I want the tenor of my voice in my kids' hearts to be one of authenticity and love, not of agenda and control. The goal is for my kids to walk their walks of faith, to live boldly with their God.