Creating windows into every aspect of our lives
Children learn about life by watching what goes on around them. Tiny children sit in the driver’s seat, brum-brumming, turning an imaginary key in the ignition. Older children repeat those phrases you swore blind you wouldn’t recycle from your childhood. Whether we like it or not, our kids will learn how to do life from us - sure, there’ll be other influences on them, but none as strong or as present as we are as parents.
In session 1 of the course, Rachel introduces the idea of ‘creating windows’ as an easy way to help our kids learn what an everyday life with God looks like. It’s simply about becoming intentional about giving them glimpses of how our relationship with God works, from how and why we pray to how we cope with death and everything in between. So much of the workings of our relationship with God is hidden from them. They know that we pray – but what does that sound like? When does it happen? Are you always in a special place? They know that you do stuff for God, but do they realise why and what goes on in your head as you do it? Creating windows is way to help them see what actually happens in your relationship with God so they know how to do it for themselves. It’s about showing them on the outside what is happening on the inside – just as a glimpse through uncurtained windows gives us a little snapshot of how our neighbours live.
Children and youth leaders and volunteers might also find the following helpful as they create windows for the kids in their care.
Windows are …
Not just about the good or the God bits
Our kids need to know what a relationship with God looks like in the bad moments as well as the good – when we fail or when things just go horribly wrong. They need to know how to handle letting God down and coping with sickness just as much as how to build a great prayer life or learn to love Scripture. This doesn’t mean that you tell them everything or create windows into things you’re not ready to share or aren’t appropriate for them. But when it feels okay, let them get glimpses of how you and God relate in those moments too.
A long term project
Occasionally there’ll be times when you create a window and the penny will drop and your kid will learn a big spiritual truth. Most of the time, however, it’s better to think about creating windows as a long term project. I was idly scrolling through Youtube the other day when I came across some watercolour tutorials. I loved this one that teaches you how to create a ‘loose and spontaneous’ picture of poppies. As I watched, odd splatters of colour and dots here and there, all blurred by a watery brush, gradually emerged into a beautiful painting. Every time we create a window for our child, it’s like one of those dots of colour going onto the blurry paper, which over time join together and make sense. So even if your child is tiny or you think they’re not listening, creating windows just helps paint that long term picture of what a real relationship with God looks like.
Don’t worry about creating windows all the time or you’ll get exhausted! Once you start thinking about intentionally creating windows you’ll find that it becomes more natural and you’ll do it without thinking – and your kids will gradually get a big and beautiful picture of what a real relationship with God looks like.
Not about explaining
It can be tempting to grab a window and turn it into a ‘teachable moment’, but the joy of creating windows is that it’s just a window. Just a way for your kids to glimpse you and God doing life together. Sometimes you might feel it’s right to frame something or your kid might ask you questions, but that’s just an added bonus. Very often, no words are needed – giving a lonely person a hug or giving up a night in to volunteer with Street Pastors are windows in themselves. We can also invite our children to do stuff alongside us as a way to create a window for them. Allowing them to colour their reflective journal as we do ours gives them a glimpse into our day to day life with God.
What windows might look like
We can create windows into every aspect of our lives – because every aspect of our lives involves God. To help you think things through, we’re going to categorise them under three headings: creating windows into the overtly ‘spiritual’ stuff, creating windows into everyday life and creating windows into our feelings.
1. Creating windows into ‘spiritual stuff’
Most of us worship, pray and read the Bible, whether its daily, weekly or rather more spontaneously. It’s great to create windows into these practices, so your kid can realise that they aren’t just religious activities, but things that bring life and vitality to your relationship with God. Here are some questions to help you see where you could create windows into these.
Prayer. Think about when and how you pray. Do your kids know about that or see it? What could you change to give them glimpses? If I’m praying in my head, could I pray that out loud? If I’m chatting to God, asking him to help me decide something, could I invite my kids to pray alongside me and see what they catch? If I use things to help me pray, like a rosary or a prayer list, could I share that with them and offer to show them how I use it? Do I share the emergency prayer requests that come in through the prayer chain with them? Could I put the names of people I’m praying for on the fridge as a reminder for me and a window for my kids? If I prayer doodle, could I give my child a pen and a piece of paper and let them doodle alongside me?
Worship. Where and how do you worship? In church, do your kids see you worship or are they in their groups? Could you keep them with you? Is it kids’ worship music in the car or do you share your own favourites? If you find you worship God when you are walking in nature, do your kids know that or do they just think you like walking? If silence and solitude help you worship, how can you give your children a window into that?
The Bible. When do I read the Bible and where? If I use a Bible app, do my children realise I’m reading the Bible and not scrolling through Facebook - how could I create a window into that for them? What might happen if I read my Bible while the kids were playing in the same room? Are they aware of the daily verse that pops up when I turn my laptop on? Do they know about the verses I’ve memorised that strengthen me daily - what might they learn if I wrote some out and stuck them on the fridge or around my mirror? Could I access the Bible in different ways like an audio version or film?
2. Creating windows into my everyday
A lot of what we do every day is influenced by our relationship with God, but our kids may not realise that – to them, it’s just what you do and they may not make the connection. We want them to learn that we are all uniquely made by God and He has unique ways for us to join in with the work he is doing. So how can we create windows into the stuff we do every day?
Think about what you do that is a response to God’s love or which echoes his heart, and see how you can create a window into that. If I know what I’m doing is influenced by my love for God, do my kids know that? For example, if you pick out food at the supermarket to give to the foodbank, let your kids see you putting it in the donations box. Or if you’ve met up with a friend who’s encouraged you, rather than just explaining ‘I had a nice time with Michelle today’, why not mention how she helped you?
Can you invite your children to do stuff alongside you? At church, if you are a welcomer, let your kids welcome alongside you. If you are one of those who get there early to set things up (thank you!), your children might want to come along and help. As you are planning to invite others over for a meal, could you involve your children in thinking about whom God might want you to include?
When there are things you do that you can’t involve your children in directly, can you create windows into them in other ways? For example, you can share stories about things that happened that day: ‘When this lady at playgroup got all upset this morning, I didn’t know what to say, so I had to quickly ask God.’
3. Creating windows into my feelings
It’s also really helpful for our children to learn how God is part of our emotional lives too so that as they experience similar feelings, they have an idea about how to engage God in them.
’Don't assume they know why you feel what you do. Most of us go through a whole range of emotions every day - from happiness to anxiety, curiosity to triumph. God often plays a part in how we feel about things, or how we manage our emotions, but our kids may not know that. As you become aware of the part God is playing in your emotions, consider ways to share that with your children. If you are tired, but remember Jesus’s promise to give rest to those who are burdened, why not tell them that? You might want to say those silent thank yous out loud - 'Oh my goodness God, thank you SO much for sorting this problem out! I'm so relieved', You may want to debrief your child later on how God helped you manage something: 'you know I was really cross this morning because I couldn't find the keys? Well, God reminded me that maybe I wasn't being fair when I shouted at you, so I wanted to say sorry'.
Don’t be afraid to share your negative emotions with your kids. Obviously we don’t want to share everything, but it is really helpful for our children to see how God makes a difference in the bad as well as the good. You can ask them to chat to God for you if you are nervous about a doctor’s appointment, for example, or may be mention over dinner explain that even though George made you really cross, you know God would want you to try to be a peacemaker so you are going to apologise to him.
When you are going through a difficult situation that your children are aware of, consider creating windows into how you are feeling and where God is in that. This may be an ongoing conversation that lasts for a while. 'You know mummy's lost her job? I'm feeling very worried about getting a new one so I’ve been chatting to God about what he wants me to do next ...'
Use stories to help your kids with their emotions. If they are struggling with a particular emotion, you might be able to create a window into how you and God dealt with something similar by sharing stories. ‘When my nan died, I was so scared that I’d get cancer too. But then I read a verse in the Bible that really helped me …’ This may be particularly helpful for older children who may be struggling with fear or doubt for example.