“Mommy, I let Jesus into my heart.” What blessed, wonderful words to hear as I hugged my daughter after a week at camp. Yet, as happy as I was to hear these words and know the light of Jesus had been lit in her heart, I felt a twinge of disappointment and guilt. Why hadn’t I been able to reach her and light that fire? After all, I write and teach about growing faith and she’s my daughter. Isn’t it my responsibility to make sure my own kids know Jesus?
It’s not that I haven’t tried, but I’ve really struggled to get this one’s attention. I’ve tried to get her to read Bible stories with me, we go to church, and we pray together, but that spark wouldn’t light. Then, in a week at camp, her heart opened and she came home inspired to know more. Now that she’s home, she’s reading in her Bible and wants to discuss questions she has about Jesus.
God gently reminded of this verse in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9. Even as the mom, it’s not my job to do it all. Sometimes it’s only my job to plant the seeds. It’ll be someone else’s job to water the seeds and tend to the soil. Yet another person will be called to reap the harvest. As parents we need to remember that it’s not our job to do it all.
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. ~1 Corinthians 3:6-9 (NIV)
7 Ways to Grow Lasting Faith In Your Children
We all know the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I always thought that phrase was about having help with babysitting when they’re young, but it’s so much more. It’s about sharing the responsibilities of their emotional, educational, and spiritual growth. Parents aren’t solely responsible for all of that. We need to ensure the right people are around our children to nurture them and we need to lead the way, because it’s not entirely up to us to fill them, inspire them, and teach them. In fact, sometimes they need to hear from a variety of voices – and sometimes the voice that’s “not Mom” will be one they’re more open to hear.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. ~1 Corinthians 3:10-11 (NIV)
So, if we can’t control the outcome, what can we do to help our children know Jesus and develop a meaningful faith? Below are 7 ways we can invest in our children to help them grow a lasting faith.
1) Plant seeds of faith whenever you can, even if you don’t think they’re taking root.
As parents, we are responsible for planting those seeds of faith in our children to lay the foundation of faith. Get your child an age-appropriate Bible (the ones we use the most are on my Resources page). Incorporate it into your bedtime reading schedule or get together for a weekly family devotional. Even if you’re met with resistance, keep offering and show them that the Bible is an important part of your life.
Talk about prayer, Jesus, faith, and the Bible in your daily conversations. Answer questions and show how your faith is relevant and active in your life. Discuss your relationship with God and what difference it’s made in your life. Share the gospel and help your child know the basics of the Christian faith.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. ~2 Corinthians 9:6 (NIV)
2) Model the Christian life for your child.
You’ve probably heard the statistics on the alarming percentage of our children who leave the faith when they go to college, with only about half returning by their young adult years. The key theme I pulled from the research is that our kids need to see how faith is truly relevant in our lives and have it become relevant in theirs. Faith isn’t just the ‘feel good’ we get on Sunday morning. Rather it’s developing that personal relationship with Jesus, knowing the fundamentals of his ministry and message, and leaning on Jesus as your North Star through good times and bad.
We need to model this for our children. Let them see you read and study your Bible. Let them into your prayers, modeling how you pray, when you pray, and why you pray. Share when you’re struggling and how you turn to your faith to help you through those times. Discuss your decision-making process and how faith and prayer influence your big and small decisions. Above all, be authentic in your faith.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. ~1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
3) Pray continually for your child to know Jesus.
While the burden to bring our children to Jesus isn’t only ours, we do have the responsibility to pray for them. Pray for your children to know and love Jesus. Pray for the door to their hearts to open to him. Pray for them to stay close to Jesus’ teachings and not stray too far from the path God lays before them. Pray for your children to live a life led by love.
Don’t just pray for your children, but pray with them. Show them how to pray and let them know you’re praying for them.
“If you determine to circle your children in prayer, you will shape their destinies … your prayers will live on in their lives long after you die.” ~Mark Batterson in Praying Circles Around Your Children
4) Place your child around others who will be Godly influences.
We aren’t supposed to do life alone, so make sure the community you choose is a good and Godly influence for your life and for your children. Surround your children with others who set examples of living a life a faith. Provide them ample opportunities to hear the Gospel from others and see other examples of how to live a life a faith. Let them hear how Jesus has made a difference in someone else’s life.
Take your children to church, get them in a Sunday school class or Bible study, send them on mission trip, take them to Vacation Bible School or another Christian-based camp over the summer break. If you don’t have these opportunities available, start a group yourself. Partner with other moms to do a Bible study for a group of your children.
Guide their music and TV choices (as you can). Play Christian music in your car, especially when they’re young. Discuss what they’re hearing on the TV, radio and internet. Help your children learn to make good decisions about what influences they choose in their lives.
Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm. ~Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)
5) Celebrate each faith step with your child.
As you see your child make good choices or take steps in their faith, celebrate those with your child. Show them you’re watching and you value the good steps they’re taking. Let them know faith-building is important to you and you’re by their side as they step further, even if they choose different ways to explore their faith.
Be supportive, not restrictive. Allow them to ask questions. Encourage them to explore different expressions of faith, different forms of worship.
Start children off on the way they should go,
And even when they are old they will not turn from it. ~Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
6) Answer questions sincerely, even if your answer is “I don’t know.”
As your child has questions about faith, take them seriously and answer those questions sincerely… even if your answer is “I don’t know.” Don’t fill them with platitudes and cheap answers. Do be age-appropriate in your response, but don’t shy away from sharing your view and digging deeper to find the answer. If you don’t have the answer, commit to finding the answer together. Meet with your pastor, read and research together, dig into the Bible and discuss what you find.
Our children, especially as they reach the teen and young adult years, are looking for real answers. If we avoid their questions or gloss over the answers, they’re likely to keep looking elsewhere for meaningful dialog and answers.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, ~1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
7) Encourage next steps as your child is ready.
Don’t leave your child’s faith to chance. While you don’t own the sole responsibility to ensure they know Jesus, you do have a primary role to lead and guide them. As they show readiness for the next step, encourage and lead them. Get them a Bible and teach them how to read and study it. Show them different ways to dig into Bible passages and commit the words to their hearts. Encourage them to begin leading family prayers and devotionals. As they’re older, invite them to age-appropriate retreats or conferences. Sign up for a Bible study together.
If they’re not already baptized, encourage this crucial step. Once they’re baptized, encourage further commitments, such as confirmation or other rites as appropriate in your faith tradition.
Serve together – support an outreach program, go on mission trip. Volunteer in the church together. Encourage your older child
to find their own place to serve and make a commitment of their time. Model financial giving, too. Show how you give of your money, time, and talents to the church and community and encourage your child to do the same.
Share your faith with others. As your child begins to have a solid understanding of their faith, encourage them to share it with others. Help them identify what faith means to them their own life and what difference it makes. Faith that sticks is one that makes an impact, so help your child identify the impact of their own faith and how to share that story with others.
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” ~James 2:14 (NLT)
Don’t give up Mom! Keep praying and planting seeds!
How are you encouraging your child’s faith? Do you feel like you’re striking out, no matter how much you try? If so, keep planting those seeds and praying. Bring Godly influences to your child’s life and pray for God to work through every opportunity.
Or, is your child showing interest in growing their faith and knowing more about Jesus, but you’re not sure how to answer their questions or take the next steps? Keep praying and seek counsel in your church. Grow your own faith so you can also lead your child.
What have you found most successful in nurturing your child’s faith? How have you encouraged them to get into God’s word and learn to pray? What ideas do you have for other parents to lead their children to a lasting faith?