Do you want your children to believe? Do you wonder what your role is as a parent in bringing your children to faith? I came across several chapters from the book “Faith-shaped Kids – Helping your Child Grow Spiritually” by Stephen and Valerie Bell, which challenged me to take serious my role of parenting my children spiritually.
I share excerpts directly from the book for you to selah about.
a) First, as long as God honors free will, there are no guarantees that your children will come to believe. That means Christian parents can still have children who reject the Christian faith. But even with such a scenario, parents are not impotent when it comes to their children’s faith.
b) Parents are far more influential in a child’s faith development than most realise. Parents, to an incredible extent, are the number one defining factor in a child’s ability to embrace God. Parents and children are so intimately linked spiritually that you cannot talk about a child’s faith without also talking about the faith of the parent. Faith formation in children is actually a group experience; it’s not something we teach kids but something we all get to learn together.
c) The solution to the Christian parent’s most pressing question, “How can I help my child to believe?” is not answered primarily through a systems grid but through the relational grid. Relationship is the greatest faith-shaping tool a parent posseses.
d) Faith formation in kids is never just about the kids. Parents, for better or worse, are joined to their children at the faith hip. One’s growth stimulates the other. One’s pain hurts the other. We intimately travel the faith journey together.
e) God also parents our children and He always writes the final chapter. God is closer, more caring and much more involved in your children’s lives than you may have understood before.
f) No parental passion is more worthy for any parent’s child than that the child should be gifted in faith. Why faith? Because no other life blessing is more crucial and determinative. Next to faith, all other blessings pale. Faith is life’s most outstanding asset. It gives the greatest leg up in life. It boosts other giftedness to supernatural levels. Faith sustains life – it is the food of the soul. A trusting relationship with God is life’s greatest treasure.
g) Without God’s influence on your children, their intelligence is just brain cells – sometimes poorly used, misused or not used at all. Inspiration makes the difference between someone who is just a card-carrying member of Mensa and someone whose genius is inspired to labour and sacrifice on a focused cause that will change the world for the better. High IQ without the ability to tap into God’s wisdom is a highly limited resource – one that always falls short of its world-impacting promise.
h) Athletic ability and a well-trained body are great gifts. But don’t overlook the importance of having a spiritual edge – the ability of your children to renew their strength in the Lord; they will soar on wings like eagles. In life, it’s often faith – that spiritual edge – that achieves the impossible win.
i) Even the resources of great wealth stand powerless to buy the most precious commodities of love, contentment and belonging. A secular life, even one with great privilege, is the most underprivileged life of all. Secular thinking reduces life to the cold hard facts of cause and effect. Mystery and miracle cease to exist. Awe and wonder are topics left unexplored.
j) Faith is the recognition that God is with us and is for us. Faith is the spotlight that shines into life’s darkest moments and shows the way through the seemingly impassable abyss. Faith is the interior muscle that refuses to give up when swamped by tears and discouragement. Faith is life’s sweetener. It is the midwife of hope, the birther of comfort. Faith is the crazy courage that moves mountains that reason declares immovable. Faith is the limitless spiritual resource when human reserves are depleted. It is the smile of the Spirit, the hug of God, the knowing beyond knowing. To live a life of faith, to experience life as a friend of God is to live the most privileged life.
k) Your passion shapes your kids’ values. If you hold the conviction that faith is the greatest life advantage, you must set your heart toward it. Look at your heart. What passionate messages are you giving your kids? Kids just know. They read us at a deep intuitive level. Sometimes they read our passions better than we do ourselves. It seems children are intrinsically skilled at two things: happily for us, forgiveness is one of them. The other skill they seem to universally possess is the uncanny ability to clearly read their parent’s passions. Say what you want but if the passion is missing, they will sense what really matters to you. If faith is not “impassioned” by parents, a child quickly learns that spirituality is probably not worth much of a life investment, certainly not something worth the intensity of long-haul discipleship.
l) God gives faith but parents shape it. Spiritual education that leads to true spiritual formation is about relationship more than curriculum. Faith-shaped kids are most readily developed through faith-shaped parents. Dad and mom matter more than peers, environment, school, church or any other form of formal religious education.
m) From the parable of the sower (Mathew 13:3-8) God plants the seed of faith freely even in places that are not reasonable for growth. He is indiscriminate, desiring that all should come to Him. As the seeds of faith are scattered, we do not need to spend an ounce of worry concerning whether the planted faith can grow in our child’s heart. God always does his part.
n) The daily sharing of family life gives you access to your child’s soul like no other person. If there’s authentic connectedness in the home, a child will benefit immensely often not only to the point of faith but to a special spiritual sensitivity, even a rare kind of spiritual giftedness.
0) Living with faith-shaped parents gives children an opportunity for exposure to God and to more mature faith. Until children have lived through their own God-rescued moments, until they recognise the signs of God leading and are spiritually mature, before they know how to trust God themselves, they will need to see that God is trustworthy based on the track record in their parents’ lives. Children with immature root systems grow in the garden of their parents’ faith.
p) As parents, look to become spiritual opportunists, finding ways “whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning” (Deut 11:19) to say, “This is my God. This is how you recognise Him working in your life. This is a sign He’s here with us. Learn to look at life from a bigger perspective than human eyesight. Trust God.”
q) You can show your children how eternal truths can jump of the pages of Scripture into real life, how words from sermons can be especially intended for us, how God becomes part of our internal dialogue through prayer. You share a walk of faith with your children, not just a set of beliefs.