God has wired our brains, young and old, to learn by watching and trying things. Developing a relationship with God is no different. When parents give their children glimpses of their relationship with God in the everyday bits of life, it’s like creating a window for them to see a real two-way connection with Him.
Whether you‘ve been a Christian for years, or are just exploring for yourself, your ongoing journey is the most powerful tool you have to help your child grow their own relationship with God.
Things to try
Focus on what's most important to you
Which key things would you like your children to see about your relationship with God? How could you create a window into that part of your life? Perhaps one thing is how powerful the Bible is to you. Perhaps you could choose to read it while the kids are around, rather than during that well-earned moment of peace once they’ve gone to bed?
Verbalise your thoughts
Putting words to your thoughts can be a really effective way to create windows. For example, ‘I was feeling so hurt and angry about what Andy said. But after I chatted to God about it, I felt better,’ or, ‘When Paul told me their TV had broken, I remembered what Jesus said about loving other people just as much as we love ourselves, so I said he could have our spare one.’
Invite your child in
Look out for times when your child could join you in a spiritual activity or situation. For example, invite them to stay in adult church while you worship; if you have a fixed routine for reading the Bible, your child could sit with you with their own Bible; or perhaps you could let them be with you as you pray and chat with someone.
There’s no pressure to immediately create glimpses into every area of your life with God – as you get used to the idea, you’ll begin to spot more opportunities.
What do I do if...
I don’t think I’m a good example?
As long as you are on a journey with God, you really are perfectly positioned to take your child on that journey too. What is most powerful for children to see isn’t how ‘good a Christian’ you are, but the reality of your relationship with God. It is incredibly powerful for a child to hear a parent say, for example, that they don’t understand how God works but they do know he’s the most amazing friend. The best way for them to learn is to explore things with you.
I don’t live with them?
You can still be a powerful example for them. Allow glimpses into your relationship with God, creating windows and talking about it when you have the opportunity. Perhaps as you chat about your week on FaceTime, or when you play games with them. Letters and postcards are also hugely significant for children who rarely get post, and you may even get a letter back! Most importantly, don’t underestimate how influential your life example can be.
My kids are all grown up?
You may not be talking to your children as they lie down to sleep, or no longer walk with them down the road, but Deuteronomy 6:4–9 still applies – just differently! They are learning from you what older, wiser life looks like with God. Even if they seem uninterested, they will still be watching you and learning from you whenever they see you - even if they don’t say so.
As much as you can, create opportunities to share your life with your children, communicating with them if they don’t live at home and getting together when you can.