If we want our kids to connect to eternal things, we have to be able to have some answers to some simple things. Why do we do the things we do spiritually? Why do you believe the Bible is true? Why does your family go to Church? Why don’t you endorse drugs and pre-marital sex? You will need to go beyond, “Because God says so and He’s the boss!”
One idea for connecting kids with God and God with kids is to understand the role and importance of spiritual disciplines. What are spiritual disciplines? Like weightlifting to a football player or a batting cage to a baseball player or a stretching bar to a dancer or a foam roller to a sprinter, disciplines are tools that will strengthen a person’s spiritual journey. They don’t exist as ends in themselves. But according to Cloud and Townsend, “They are habits that you should expect of your children, as part of what your family does.” Sometimes anxious parents will require these disciplines from their children without answering the why…this can be damaging!
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. – Antoine de Saint Exupery
The Disciplines are not God; they exist to serve God! Your faith and practicing of your faith matters to our child’s faith! It is a timeless truth… more is caught than taught as it relates to how your child will internalize spiritual growth concepts. Your child needs to see that a relationship with God, just like any other relationship, takes work, time and has conflict.
From Immature to Mature Dependency There is one major difference in your child’s relationship with you and with God. Your role as a parent is Temporary; God’s is not. You are working yourself out of a job!
Here is a chart that deals with some of the age-appropriate capacities and spiritual needs of your child:
|Stage||Child’s Faith||Parent’s Task|
|Infancy||This is a pre-faith period. Faith requires the ability to differentiate self from other, which is a task of infancy itself.
This is foundational to the later experience of faith.
|Help infant experience God “incarnationally.” In other words, infants can’t conceive of God, but they know when they are safe and loved.
Begin praying that they will soon quickly turn this into a God-centered view of life!
|Toddlerhood||Child begins to learn the do’s and don’ts of God.
Imitative behavior takes place as child prays and talks about God.
|Make toddler part of family worship, using simple Bible stores, songs and pictures.
Sing, have fun, play!
|Childhood||Faith becomes conventional. Child learns the beliefs and doctrines of God. Not much questioning, just absorbs what is told to them. Highly curious stage
Child conceptualizes God more personally
Child wants to belong
|Provide lots of teaching, both in stories and with concepts.
Involve child in worship and prayer experiences.
Give child sense that they belong to a larger spiritual family as well.
Include child in family ministry activities.
|Adolescence||The teen questions, challenges and owns faith individually and personally.
Has difficulty keeping God and parents separate.
Needs to investigate search and struggle.
Begins the early stages of owning faith and important integration into life.
Very emotional and very consistently inconsistent.
|Provide freedom with parameters for their own search.
Respect dependency-independence conflict.
Teach less, dialogue more.
Deal with skepticism with challenge to seek.
Keep church a requirement with room for them to try other groups.
|College||Young adult deepens and consolidates faith.
Integrates relationship with God to other aspects of life, such as life mission, life mate, and values.
Finds avenues of meaningful service and ministry based faith.
|Relates as spiritual sibling, not as parent.
Provide support for growth and deepening.