We talk a lot around here about things you can do to build a strong culture of faith in your home, but what if it’s all new to you?
When I had my first child, I knew what I wanted our family to look like when he got big. I had tons of ideas about what I would teach him when he was 5, or 10 or 15. But what to do with a tiny baby? How were we supposed to begin planting the seeds of what we wanted to reap down the road? How could I create a culture in our home that would foster the discussions and lifestyle I wanted for my kiddos?
Maybe you, too, are a new parent, and aren’t sure when or where to start. Or maybe you’re new to faith in Jesus, and you’re starting from scratch. Or maybe, you’d relied on the church to train your kids in the past, and you want to take more ownership of teaching your kids about the Lord.
Where are you supposed to start?
Here are some basic things you can begin doing right now, even if your kids are very small, to help cultivate the type of home environment that will point your kids to Christ.
Commit to regular church attendance
This is a point that is often overlooked by families in today’s culture, but I want to start with this because it’s important. When we were pastors, we found that for most families, once or twice a month was the most often they were able to make it to church, and I find it to be a concerning trend.
Now, I recognize that going to church alone won’t save you, and if that’s all you do, even if you’re faithful to it, your children will eventually recognize your hypocrisy. But there’s an opposite hypocrisy that people don’t usually talk about that has just as much of an impact on your children: saying that serving the Lord is most important, but not backing it up with your life.
What does it say to your children if you refuse to let them miss a single sports practice, or encourage them to have perfect school attendance, but skip church at the slightest provocation?
Read Bible stories with your kids
If your kids are beyond bedtime stories, this one may not apply to you. But as long as your kids are young enough to enjoy bedtime stories, why not read Bible stories at bedtime instead of fairy tales? I’m not disparaging fairy tales–I love them and read them to my kids all the time.
But in our daily time before bed, when I know they’re going to want to hear a story, it helps me to have decided in advance that those stories are going to be from the Bible. It helps us ensure that no matter how crazy the day gets, we have a time already carved out to engage the Word of God together. I shared some of my favorite storybook Bibles for bedtime here.
Listen to worship music as a family
Music is a powerful tool in shaping the atmosphere of our home. We listen to upbeat music when we don’t quite feel like picking up toys at the end of the day. We listen to silly music when we’re in the car on a long trip together. We listen to classical music when we’re working quietly on school work. But we listen to worship music as often as we can too.
The Bible says that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people, so sometimes inviting the Lord into your home is as simple as turning on a song that lifts him up and singing along. We also have an old mp3 player loaded with worship music that we play in our boys’ room at night while they’re going to sleep.
Don’t use rote prayers at regular prayer times
I’m don’t want to downplay the importance of memorizing the Lord’s prayer, or the sweetness of a child reciting, “God great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.” But it’s important to me that my children grow up to see prayer as actual communication with a God who loves them.
Like most Christian families, we pray before we eat. But we try to avoid using habitual prayers that are the same every time. There’s nothing magic about invoking a blessing on our food; if we’re really talking to God and thanking him for blessing us, we want it to seem that way to our kids. Many times at meals, we pray for friends or family members who have needs, or sometimes, we just take a little extra time to thank God specifically for what has happened that day. We also do the same thing when we pray at bedtime.
As our children have gotten older, and are praying some on their own, we remind them of needs we’d like them to pray for if it’s their turn to pray, and encourage them to pray quietly along with us if it’s not.
Discipline your children
Now, when I say “discipline,” I’m not necessarily talking about punishment, although, sometimes that is a part of discipline. What I mean here is setting and enforcing boundaries for your children. I’m not going to get into the merits of different discipline methods, here, because I know tons of wonderful Christian parents that use many different discipline methods.
But all kids need boundaries. Even if you have little bitty children, this applies to you. Every time you say, “no, no” to a crawling baby, or pick him up to keep him from going somewhere dangerous, you’re enforcing boundaries.
As kids get older, this will look different, but boundaries overall communicate an important principle to your children: They cannot simply do whatever they want. There are behaviors that are healthy and good for us, and there are behaviors that are harmful to us. When you discipline your children, you help them understand the principle of Deuteronomy 30:19, which says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” God gives us a choice between His way and our own way, and choosing His way is always better for us. Discipline teaches us this.
Study the Bible Yourself
I cannot overemphasize the importance of this. As your children get older, there will be countless situations where you need the wisdom of God that comes from Scripture. They’ll ask you questions, they’ll experience heartache, they’ll need correction, and knowing God’s word will help you know how to speak into their lives, and will also help you as you strive to live a godly life in front of them.
I hope this helps you as you consider how to begin instilling faith in your children, and I want to hear from you. Do you do any of these things? What did I miss?