Parenting and Faith

At a recent Sunday worship I answered 5 questions that Amy and some others thought would be interesting to hear my response.  I did not know the questions ahead of time.  I was only given 1 minute to respond to each question.  To refresh your memory, the questions were:  

Why does God allow trials and suffering in our lives? 

Peter’s Baptism: September 2017

How do I deal with people in my life who have hurt me?
How do I know if I am hearing God’s voice in my life?
What one book other than the Bible has most influenced your life?
What are things parents can do to instill in their children a love for Jesus?
I thought I would take the opportunity to use this blog to give a more in-depth response to these questions.  They were very good questions and I know each of us has grappled with them in our own way.  This month let me respond to the question about what parents can do to instill in their children a love for Jesus.  
I’m going to start by referring back to a moment early on in our parenthood when we brought our children to the church for baptism.  There is a question that the Pastor/Priest/Minister asks us on that special day: As you present (name of child) for baptism, our Lord Jesus entrusts you with gifts and responsibilities: to live with him/her among God’s faithful people, bring him/her to the word of God and the holy supper, and nurture him/her in faith and prayer, so that he/she may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace among all people.  Parents, do you promise to help your child grow in the Christian faith and life?  The answer is “We do.”  As a Pastor and now Parent of two, I often wonder if parents really know what they are getting themselves into when they make that response.  My sense is parents hear or perceive that question as something like this: “Will you sometimes bring your kid(s) to church at least through confirmation and then let them go do as they please?”  My gosh have we gotten it so wrong!  We promise to do much more…we promise to share our faith and love for God with them, to bring them to worship, to teach them about what is right and just, to live in peace with others and to grow into a mature disciple of Christ.  We promise to teach them to pray, and to read the Bible with them and to then to actually pray with them!  We are promising to be good stewards of this most precious gift God has given us.   
So really the question of how we instill a love for Jesus in our children begins with us as parents.  Do we (you and I) have a love for Jesus?  Do we have a prayer life?  Do our children see us praying or talking with God (not cursing God when we stub our toes) but actually talking and listening to God?  Do we bring our kids to worship?  Do we teach them to live their faith in their words and deeds everyday every moment?  Are we a good example of discipleship to them?  Anna and Peter are like little sponges soaking in everything Amy and I do and say.  They see us fold hands at prayer and they do likewise.  They hear us speak about Jesus and so they do likewise in their own way.  They come to worship and hear God’s Word and see our family of faith come together.  They know they are part of something bigger than themselves.   
I see parents running their kids around from here to there for basketball, football, soccer, dance, (insert any extracurricular activity here).  We spend tons of money on traveling sports teams, staying at hotels for tournaments, equipment, outfits, etc.  We sacrifice time at home for time on the road sitting in bleachers and stands watching our kids play game after game after game.  Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not railing against sports.  I played sports.  Being part of a team teaches one good discipline, teamwork, hard-work and sportsmanship.  But I think we’ve lost some balance and perspective as parents.  Often faith formation, worship and prayer fall by the wayside for sports or other activities.  Do we really need Sunday morning games?  Remember to keep holy the Sabbath…is 1 hour of time on Sunday morning that difficult for us to manage?  
Our children and grandchildren take their cues from US.  If our relationship with God is important, they will notice that.  For me growing up the question was never “are we going to church?”  No, it was “when are we going to church?”  Many of our children get confirmed and stop coming or participating in church activities.  Why?  Actually the answer is pretty simple if you think about it.  If we ourselves don’t value and emphasize a love for Jesus in our lives, then our children won’t either.  I can teach and preach until I’m blue in the face but unless God, faith and prayer is not part of the home environment, I’m going to lose that battle every time.  Statistics tell us that if children aren’t regularly coming to church (any denomination) by the age of 3, they won’t really ever foster a relationship with God.  The age of 3!!!  I get it…bringing kids to church is a challenge.  But it’s not impossible.  We make it work for other things…make it work for the most important thing we will do as parents.   
I came up with a few practical ways to bring Jesus into your child’s daily routine:  
1)PRAY with your kids before naps, meals and at night.  The more we do it, the more it will become second nature for our children.  We want our kids to know how important and personal talking to God is in daily life.  We pray together at meals, all holding hands as a family. Even when we are eating at a restaurant we pray together.  It’s one of my favorite things we do as a family.  It’s not long, but it’s part of our routine now.  We ask Anna at nighttime “who should we pray for” and she lists all of our family members, church friends, school friends and others.  Amy and I then offer prayers.  You can learn a lot about what is going on in your child’s life when you pray with them We have pictures in our home of Amy’s folks and my parents.  We regularly talk about them and in particular about how my mom and dad are in heaven and that Anna and Peter have angels watching over them.  We pray for Anna’s teachers in school and her classmates.  We pray for those who have gotten sick or experienced a loss or tragedy in their lives.  Prayer changes our hearts.  It will change your kid’s hearts, too.   
2) SHOW them how to serve.  We have taken Anna and Peter the Community Clothes Closet in Mount Horeb and explained why it is there.  We have brought food up to the food pantry at church and talked about how we can take care of so many people right here in town. Put your faith into action.  Take your child and help a neighbor.  Do random acts of kindness so that your child can see you living out your faith daily.  Actions speak louder than words.  Give a kid a fish and they eat for day; teach a kid how to fish and they eat for a lifetime.  
3)READ the Bible to your kids. We have a children’s Bible with some great pictures and shorter versions of the most well-known stories from Scripture.  Anna loves the story of David and Goliath right now.  We sing “Jesus Loves Me” to Peter at bedtime and he gets the biggest smile on his face.  The Bible points us towards Jesus.  And its fascinating to hear Anna’s thoughts and questions about these stories many of us have taken for granted.  Let me add here it’s good to read the Bible yourself as a parent.  Read it with your spouse or alone for a few minutes each day so that the word of God is on your heart and lips. 
4)TELL them how God feels about them. 
We try and tell our kids God loves them every single day.  Before bedtime we tell them that Jesus loves most of all.  We will play CD’s in the car with those favorite childhood tunes from church.  Our kids need to know they are loved especially in those times and moments when they feel lonely or sad.  They need to know God loves them inside and out just as they are.  There are great kid’s praise stations on Pandora or you can find some great worship music for kids on Amazon.  Let those tunes and words truly sink in deep down in their souls and hearts.  Our kids need to know everyday they are loved and cherished.  We need to know that, too, for ourselves. 

5)BRING your kids to worship to hear about Jesus. 

Make it a routine or ritual on Sunday mornings…have breakfast and then come to worship or eat a special meal after worship.  Recapture Sunday mornings as a time to pray and worship together.  They get to see, hear, taste, touch and smell the sights and sounds of our worship.  Use the “Taking Faith Home” insert in the bulletin as something you do at home in your prayers and rituals.  Each week there are great suggestions offered for families. 

Anna’s Baptism: November 2014

We made the promise at baptism.  We need to remember that promise everyday.  Our children really are not ours.  We are stewards of these precious gifts God has given us to care for, raise and love to give back to Him one day.  Our sons and daughters belong to God.  Have we seriously considered that God will ask us how we cared for his creation including his children?  We will be asked when the time comes.  Start today if you haven’t done so.  Start simple and small.  Reignite your own faith so your kids see your love for Jesus.  Incorporate your faith in to your daily life and that of your children.  We all want well-rounded, well-formed, good-hearted, faith-filled, loving children who will make a difference in this world.  It starts with us and that profound promise we made on the day of their baptism.  Be the parents we were meant to be.  Put faith first in your home.  Talk up God.  Bring your kids to church.  As the fall church seasons kicks off, use this time as an opportunity to rekindle a love for Jesus in your home.  Be a person of joy who infects your kids with that same joy!     

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