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We should start teaching the fundamentals of the faith to children as soon as they can talk. My parents followed that plan. The first word I learned to spell was J-E-S-U-S. When I forgot it, my mother patiently taught it to me again. She told me He was my friend, and that He loved me.
The basics go from there to an understanding of who God is, what He accomplished in Christ, and what He expects us to do. This teaching must begin very early in childhood and continue as the years roll by. The most effective teaching tool is the modeling provided by the parents at home.
Many parents have asked for practical help with the spiritual training of their children. I have turned to two experts, Robert and (the late) Bobbie Wolgemuth, who have worked extensively with boys and girls. Bobbie especially was a “guru” with little people. In their book, How To Lead Your Child To Christ, they share some ideas, stories, and explanations to help moms and dads teach basic Christian concepts at home.
Creating a spiritual climate in your home that can help nurture your child’s faith is your most important assignment. Here are some strategies that can help ensure that your child will be ready to accept God’s gift of grace when the time is right.
Bibles for Everyone
If you’ve not already done so, consider buying a Bible for everyone in your family, including the youngest children. Before you tuck your children into bed at night, read from their Bible. If they’re old enough, encourage them to read along. God promises that His Word will provide a lifetime of light for your children’s path… a cure for their lifelong struggle with sin.
How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You…Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Ps. 119: 9-11, 105 NKJV)
The path to obedience is paved with God’s Word.
One way to help pass on your spiritual legacy to your children is to help them memorize important Scripture verses. Their brains are like wet cement, and the verses they learn will be pressed on their hearts forever.
An easy way to help them memorize a passage is to write a version out on an index card and then look for chances to repeat it, phrase by phrase, to your kids. Riding in the car on the way to school or sitting around the breakfast table are perfect chances for you to work on your verse together. You can even turn the process into a game. A great verse to start with is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV).
When kids are struggling with doubt or temptation, the Holy Spirit can use His own words, which they’ve memorized, to strengthen their faith and resolve.
Teach Them to Pray
Bringing your children into God’s presence through prayer is an unspeakable privilege. Teaching them to pray also gives you the opportunity to show them another way to honor the Lord.
Mealtimes and bedtimes are ideal times for prayer. By your own example, teach your child how to speak words of affirmation and gratitude to God. The younger your child, the more likely he is to thank God for unusual things, like the frog in the creek or a new box of breakfast cereal. That’s okay—the older he gets, the more meaningful these thank-yous will become.
Also, teach your child to learn to ask forgiveness for specific actions. By confessing his own sin, your child will begin to understand the truth of a loving heavenly Father’s forgiveness.
Then invite your child to bring his requests to the God of the universe, who is listening carefully. Like his list of thank-yous, he may have a long list of everyday requests (“Bless the garbage man, bless my Hot Wheels and Rescue Heroes, please help my T-ball team win tomorrow…”). Again, it’s okay. Your child is learning to trust God to meet his needs.
Finally, help your child close the prayer by thanking God once more. The best way for your child to learn how to pray is for them to hear you pray with them and for them. Let them hear you speak words of adoration and worship, confess your sins, make specific requests, and then thank Him again for listening and answering.
So much of passing along your legacy to your children will be found in the ordinary moments… such as engaging in conversation around the dinner table. One way to initiate good conversation is to ask two questions: “What was the happiest thing that happened today?” and “Did you have any sad moments today?” This always evokes interesting family talk. This is a good way to get the kids involved in the discussion.
Another way of focusing family talk with your kids is to ask them, “Did the Lord say anything special to you today?” This is a great idea. Help your children learn to keep their eyes and ears tuned for God’s activity in their lives during the day, anticipating the time they could give a report to their family at dinner.
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