3 Keys for Training Your Kids for Lifelong Faithfulness
I recently read a blog post that made these statements: “We are experiencing a rise in the unpopularity of our Christian beliefs,” and “Parents with Bible-grounded beliefs will have trouble passing along the faith to kids who are being discipled by a secular culture.” I believe the author’s conclusions are correct on several levels, especially when it comes to passing along faith to the next generation. Several days later I came across a blog post about children leaving home for college and the concerns their parents have about their children remaining faithful.
We cannot ignore the fact that as Christian principles are fading away in our culture, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pass on Christian values to our children when everything around our children says just the opposite.
When we teach them God’s values at home but then schools teach them other values, it can be confusing. Then there are the TV shows and the movies which are portraying lifestyles, ways of reacting to situations, and language that are completely opposite of what we want our children to be like. It is so prolific that it can become easy for our children to see these lifestyles and actions as being the norm.
To complete the influence circle, there are the family lives and actions of the neighborhood friends and school friends that our children are associating with. So many influences, what is a parent to do? Especially when you consider that, for most of us, our children spend more time under these world-centered influences than the amount of time they spend under our influence.
What is a parent to do? Do we try to protect them?
I have two responses to protecting our children. First, good luck with that, and I mean that sincerely and lovingly, if that is your current tact. But at some point they will be outside of our protection and at that point will they be prepared to protect themselves? Second, in our culture today, I believe it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to fully protect our children, at least in the way most of us think of protecting them, via removal from the influences.
So, we ask the question again. If we want to raise up children who will be faithful followers of Christ all their lives, what can we do?
The answer is not as much to protect them as much as to train them.
Many of us know the Scripture, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6 NASB). I know what many of you are thinking right know. You are thinking, “Good luck with that!” And I might agree with you, looking at the track record of much of our training. My concern, though, is not about the efficacy of this passage; rather it is that our “training” has often not been what it should be.
For many of us, training up our children has meant that we take our children to church and involve them in youth Bible classes. For others, it has been all about training the right behaviors by teaching and disciplining. I know this is the case because I have done this myself. These are all good things to do and need to be done, but there is more that our children need.
Well, if our typical methods are incomplete…what will make the difference?
If our children are going to remain faithful to God, we cannot just teach them about God. It will not be enough to just teach them what God says. If our children are going to remain faithful to God, we must raise children that walk with God. When we train our children, we need to be training them not just in principles of action and information but training them in principles of the heart.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).
When the heart is right, the right actions will proceed from it.
And, just how do we do this? God, in his infinite wisdom, gives us the keys to this training in a familiar passage, Deuteronomy 6:4-7:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 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.”
From these verses, we find three keys to training your kids for lifelong faithfulness.
#1 – Love God Passionately.
You personally must have a deep personal love and relationship with God. You cannot pass on what you do not have. Children learn by seeing, whether they are 2 years old or 18 years old. Your children must see you walking with God.
Children love to imitate what they see. You’ve seen it–your cute youngster making the same expression you make, holding the spoon the same way you hold yours. Your children cannot imitate what they do not see or experience.
But your example is more than just activity. Revelation 2:1-6 shows us a group of Christians who had all the right activity but they had lost their heart for God. Passing on our faith is not about passing on activity; passing on our faith is about passing on to our children the love and relationship we ourselves have with our God.
Parents, the way God wants us to live cannot be in our heads only. It has to be on our hearts. Our hearts have to be fully in the game of following God. When our children see us following God wholeheartedly, they too will follow wholeheartedly. Let your children see your passionate heart for God.
Passing on our faith is about passing on to our children the love and relationship we ourselves have with our God.
#2 – Impress God’s Truths.
Passing on faith is not merely an academic exercise of “teaching” truths or principles. It is not a series of classes or lectures we give. It is not even having a weekly devotional, as good as these things are. Unfortunately this is what it has become for many parents, even to the point of relegating this responsibility to the Bible class teachers and the youth group leaders.
God tells us, you and me, that we are personally to “impress” truths about God on our children.
This is our responsibility. We do this by showing our children how God and the principles he has communicated relate to our every day living. We must thoughtfully show our children how our personal relationship to God and the values he instills in us influence our decisions and our priorities.
Most importantly, we must convey to our children why God’s wisdom and God’s ways for living are far superior to that of the world around them. We must be showing them God in such a way that it impresses them more than what our culture is offering them, so that they want to choose God and his ways. Let your children see the impressive value of God.
#3 – Tell Your Story.
If our children are going to faithfully walk with God, you and I need to be giving personal testimony to the difference God has made in our life, how He has blessed us, how living the way God has designed us to live has often kept us out of pain and sorrow. Yes, we need to speak of beliefs and behavior, but we also need to be sharing about our own experiences of God.
Share with your children about your struggles and how God has worked in your life to overcome them. We need to be transparent about our failures and how repentance works in our lives.
We need to speak about God constantly, illustrating His greatness, giving examples of His love for us, speaking thanks to God, in the presence of our children, for his blessings and provision and protection.
Daily share something you learned about God or an experience with God as you eat breakfast or dinner together. Talk about God as you walk together or while driving somewhere together. Take your children with you when you serve or minister to others. Let them share in your ministries. Pray to God, with your children, as they lie down in bed. Begin their day and yours with prayer together.
Let your children hear and see that God is the center of your life, not some small addition to it. Let them see God at work in your life, so they can believe God will work in their life. Let your children see the reality of God.
Psalms 78:5-7 says,
“He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (NASB).