Recently we did a survey of our readers and asked, “What are the top 3 areas you’d most like to grow in as a parent?” As expected some of the top answers included the usual suspects – Character Development, Getting Respectful Behavior, and First Time Obedience. But the number one answer shouldn’t surprise you, it didn’t surprise me. The margin of victory was a little surprising… far and away the area our audience declared they most wanted to grow in as a parent was… drum roll please… Spiritual Training.
There is no way to be certain as to why it was the number one answer. Perhaps the thinking went something like this:
- “Spiritual training IS the most important thing, so I SHOULD list it as my #1” or perhaps it was more:
- “This is important. We’re good, but I want to make sure I’m not missing any important things on this topic” or maybe it was just like it sounds:
- “This is important and I need to grow in my understanding and parenting in this area!”
Chances are it is some combination of these three scenarios. What’s important, is to recognize a few key truths.
- Just as Jesus declared that loving God was the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40), our children’s spiritual journey certainly is of utmost importance.
- Faith is better caught than taught… in other words, what we model is at least as important as what we teach.
- If this is an area of concern for you, you’re not alone! In fact, you’d be “strange” if it wasn’t a concern.
- There isn’t some magic bullet or secret formula that if you follow it, then your children are guaranteed to grow up to be spiritual giants.
But, the bible does give us some practical guidelines for parenting our kids, especially as it applies to “Spiritual Training”. We find these principles in Deuteronomy 6. I’m probably not the first person to point out these principles… but repetition is the mother of learning and my prayer is that you read something today that sparks an idea or encourages you or simply affirms something you are already doing.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
6 From D6
Here are 6 principles from Deuteronomy 6 about spiritual training.
- Shall be on your heart – it is the heart of our child that God is after. It’s not about adhering to a bunch of rules. Chase after your child’s heart. Pursue the relationship even harder than you pursue telling them about God or teaching them obedience.
- Teach them diligently to your children – there will be many other important adults in your child’s life, but you, the parent will always be the most important disciple maker of your child. I don’t care what the “experts” try to tell you.
- When you sit in your house – talk about spiritual things. Draw spiritual connections to the activities in your child’s life. Help them to see God in everyday happenings of life. We call them teachable moments. They are everywhere, but you have to look for them and then you have to talk about them. When someone lets them down, teach them about the character of faithfulness… when they are afraid of something at school, teach them about courage and trusting God. Look for the teachable moments in whatever activities your child participates in. Our kids were involved in athletics so we had many opportunities to talk about what happened during a practice or a game.
- When you walk by the way – talk about spiritual things when you are in the car driving them to and from school. Obviously, take an interest in their life and what happened with their day. But don’t be afraid to use those times to do a “Question of the week”… or a “Verse of the day”… or just a check in time to see how their heart is doing.
- When you lie down – obviously one of the sweet moments of the day is often the ending when you are putting your children to bed. It’s a great time to read to them and pray with them. Too often we do a good job of this with our young kids, but drop off as our children get older. If you have teenagers, consider this; do our kids need more prayer or less prayer now that they are teenagers? Of course, the resounding answer is “MORE!” We’ve had parents tell us their teenagers don’t want them praying with them at night. Fine, then pray for them. We’ve spent many a night simply praying over our sleeping teenagers.
- When you rise – much has been said over the years about family devotions. We certainly don’t want to suggest some legalistic practice of morning devotions in order to check a box on a list. But, the sad reality is, according to the book “Revolutionary Parenting” only 10% of Christian families actually open up the bible and read it together. If you believe that the bible is God’s word, then it stands to reason that we would want our children to understand the importance of reading His word. Remember the caught not taught truth we spoke of earlier? The easiest way to send the message to our kids that this book, the Bible, is important is by making it a priority. Wake up and read it together as a family. There are lots of reading plans you can use, or bible helps, or you can simply just open up the bible and start reading. For sure the benefit of reading God’s truth and hiding that in their hearts is of utmost importance. But equally critical is watching you place a priority on the things of God. We can’t begin to express the impact it will have on your children when they see you place a priority on reading the bible, praying together, and hearing you pray a prayer of blessing over them.
None of this will just happen. But if it’s important, then you will emphasize it. Someone once said, “You don’t get what you want, you get what you emphasize.” What do you want!? What are you willing to emphasize?