Teaching Children about God at Home
Teaching Children about God at Home
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
In 2016, Lifeway Kids and Lifeway Research surveyed 2,000 parents of current young adults. The goal of the study was two-fold: to evaluate each adult child's spiritual health by looking at that adult child's upbringing, and to determine what parenting practices are most likely to keep children from exiting the church in their young adult years. The results of that survey's findings, released in a book in 2017 entitled Nothing Less, by Jana Magruder, had both some surprising and not so surprising revelations about what parenting factors positively influence a child's spiritual health for long-term impact. What are some of the parenting habits that did not make the list of things that have a positive influence on a child's spiritual health? Surprisingly enough, some of the things that do not appear to have significant impact include:
limited screen/social media time,
parents who served in their community,
eating together at least once a week,
church size and consistency at one church,
attending all of a child's special events, or
an emphasis on doing the right thing.
These things, though beneficial to a child's overall growth and development, were not the most influential in determining whether or not children grow into spiritually healthy young adults.
So, what did make the list of things that positively influenced a child's spiritual health in the study? These practices were reported to have a moderate impact on the spiritual health of young adults who regularly engaged in these activities as children:
spending regular time in prayer,
serving in the church,
listening to Christian music,
participating in mission trips and projects,
parents pointing the child to Biblical principles in everyday life,
having Christian friends,
and connecting with other adults at church who invested in them.
But by a large and an overwhelming margin, the one practice that had the greatest impact on a child's spiritual health was regularly reading their Bible. Those children who grew up in homes where regular Bible reading was a part of their environment showed the strongest spiritual health and were least likely to leave the church during their young adult years.
Every other habit listed, though they are still a very necessary part of Christian growth, did not have the same impact on a child's spiritual health as consistently reading the Bible. These findings aren't all that surprising. As Christians, we place an emphasis on reading Scripture because it is through God's Word that we get to know Him. The Bible is God's revelation to us. It is through reading and hearing His story, seeing His saving grace through the pages of the Word, and learning about His truths throughout history, that we further develop a relationship with Him and deepen our faith. And spiritual activities such as prayer, service, missions, church attendance, and church-related activities tend to serve as both a strengthener of and an outgrowth of that deepening relationship with Christ that comes from a steady study of Scripture. Amid busy schedules and often misplaced priorities, the question for most Christian families is not "Why should we read the Bible?" but "How can we get started?" It helps to begin by thinking of this as a long-term process. It takes time to develop new habits, set new routines, and establish new priorities. You will have to spend some time rearranging schedules, forming a plan, tweaking that plan, and then getting that plan into place. Also remember, the results are not instantly measurable. This is truly a case where one is parenting for the long haul. The long-term goal of creating young adults who have a deep faith in and a healthy relationship with Christ, who stay involved in the church, and who impact their communities for the Kingdom of God is truly a life-long pursuit that begins in infancy and continues into adulthood.
Start with yourself. Make sure that you as the parent establish and keep a consistent daily quiet time that includes both Bible reading and prayer. Find a routine that works for you and stick to it. Be the example.
Make sure that everyone in your home has their own Bible. We are blessed to live in an age when Bibles of all sorts are readily available. From chunky board Bibles and picture-filled easy readers to children's devotional Bibles and student study Bibles—there are many options for age-appropriate Bibles for every family member. The important thing is that every person in your home has a Bible that they can call their own, and that they can read and use on a daily basis. (And make sure that you clearly write everyone's names in their Bible—especially if they like to bring it to church, where it might get misplaced)
Read the Bible to your children. It's never too early to read the Bible and Bible stories to your child. Start reading to them the day you bring them home from the hospital. Read Bible stories to both your preschoolers and your young elementary age children on a regular basis. Not only are they learning about God and His truths, but the added educational and emotional benefits of reading aloud to children is well documented.
Set aside regular times when your family can read the Bible together. For each family this time might look a little different. Some families may find that reading Scripture together during breakfast is the perfect way to begin the day. Other families may find that ending the day with a Bible story is more their style. Either way, the Bible is being read. And don't forget to take advantage of other times such as carpool or road trips to read the Bible together out loud.
Encourage and help older children set aside times when they can read their Bible themselves. Help your child establish a time and space where they can read and pray independently. Some children may benefit from having a reading guide, either as a paper copy or an app on their phone, where they can keep track for themselves of the Bible chapters they are reading. Others may just need subtle reminders and encouragement each day. Help them develop a plan that fits them because the ultimate goal is to help them develop a healthy reading habit that they look forward to and enjoy, which in turn will feed their relationship with God.
Use the Activity pages sent home from Sunday school each week as springboards. Look up the Bible stories that were studied on Sunday morning and then either re-read them in the Bible with your child or encourage your child to read them for themselves. Ask questions about the story and discuss what is happening in the story together as a family. These activity pages also have some great conversation starters and family activities that you can use to re-emphasize the main Bible point from Sunday morning at home.
Find ways to have simple, God-centered conversations with your children each day at home. As your family goes about the day, find ways to talk about God, His truths, and Bible stories. It may be as simple as counting blessings throughout the day. Or using simple things like rain to remember stories like Noah's Ark, Jesus calming the storm, or the parable of the wise and foolish builders. And as you remember the stories, review the details together and/or re-read them from the Bible.
Get creative with Bible stories. As you read Scripture, some children may enjoy acting out the different characters and actions that are happening in the story. Other children may enjoy painting or coloring while you read. Some may even enjoy setting Bible verses to music. Find new and interesting ways to get your family engaged and having fun.
Provide supplemental resources that can direct your children to answer their own questions. As children grow older and deepen their faith relationship, they often have questions. Questions about God, His will, world events, cultural trends, and general questions about what they believe. Encourage them to ask questions and help them to refer to both Scripture and to some supplemental resources, such as commentaries, to answer those questions for themselves.
Live out your faith. Show your children what faith in action looks like. It's not just about volunteering, but also about become an active participant in the life of the church and furthering God's kingdom here on earth. It's about taking the truths that one is studying in the Bible and directly applying them to life. Make those connections for your children and your family.