The new calendar year brings a fresh slate and a great opportunity to build new habits into your family life. Below is a list of five practical and simple ways to help build a love for the Lord into the lives of your children and home.
Your Own Spiritual Growth
Growing in your own faith is will be a model for your kids to emulate. Renew your commitment to Jesus and his call in your life. Pick up a devotional book. Buy a new Bible. Download a Bible app on your phone and make a plan to use it first thing each day. When you download YouVersion to your phone, you can listen to scripture while you’re exercising or commuting. Charge your phone in another part of the house so you’re not tempted to mindlessly scroll in the morning before getting out of bed. Commit to growing in faith and discipleship each day. It’s will be the strongest part of helping your children grow in faith. Join a small group or accountability group in your church. The most connected folks in the church are those who are involved beyond Sunday morning.
Weekly corporate worship is an important aspect to the life of a growing disciple. Your commitment to attend worship as a family will speak volumes to your children. Plan to be there every Sunday of the year. Mark your calendar in pen. Prioritize it now for the new year. There may be times when someone is sick or you are out of town, but letting other things take precedence over commitment to worship attendance teaches the next generation that one only needs to attend worship if there’s nothing else happening. Even when you’re out of town, gathering with the church online or as a guest in another church is a great habit.
Bible Before Breakfast
One quick axiom for a child any age is “Bible before breakfast.” It can be as elaborate or as simple as life will allow. The YouVersion Bible App has kid’s scripture story videos. The “Verse of the Day” can be easily read and discussed. You can also play the verse of the day on YouVersion, which might make things a little different. If your child has a device, encourage them to open the Bible each morning and read a verse (or more) of scripture.
No Screen Zones
The three most important times of day in the life of a child/student might be drive times, meal times, and bedtime. In a loving way, start building a tradition of no screens during any of these. Talk. Visit. Pray. Ask questions. Make eye contact. Drive times during commutes and drop-offs can be awesome times for stories and conversations. Depending on the length of the trip, your child may open up more when you’re not face to face. (Long trips are still the perfect time for screens.) For meal times, the mantra of “no phones during food” can help put a priority on family time. Meal times are also a great time to teach the basics of faith using a book like Hidden in the Heart: A Catechism for Children, or by asking one question at a time. Bedtime is a great time to invest a few precious moments in stories and praying for younger children; and prayer, follow up, and planning for the next day with older students.
Prayer Before Meals
Praying before meals may be one of the simplest and most consistent ways to remind your family to seek the Lord, thank God, and live a life of faithful gratitude. Memorize prayers to say together, or take turns having children and parents praying (if you have guests in the house, a parent should pray for the meal). Add fun to your prayer time using a prayer “dice,” especially if you have grade-school aged kids. With a habit of praying before meals, you can be a witness to your kids and the community when you have a meal at a restaurant.
Don’t stress over these habits. As the spiritual leader in your home, help your child build a life of commitment to Christ, love for his church, and a heart of faithful living. These can’t be announcements – they must be experienced and learned as a child is growing up. It’s been said, “So goes the family, so goes the world.” The family is led by parents who will be key primary influencers of faith for a child.
The church desperately desires to partner with families to help invite the next generation on a journey with Jesus. But with an hour or two a week, most of the heavy lifting is on the parents. Matt Friedeman says, “If you’re counting on the church only, your kids probably won’t be Christians in twenty years.” For the other 166 hours a week, you have the privilege and honor of raising your children in the Lord. We’re praying for you and are happy to help in any way we can!
A final word on the varied families and situations in life. We all would love for every family to be neat, tidy, and ready to include all these habits on a regular basis all year long. But it’s not cut and dried. Families deal with work schedules, relational difficulties, financial burdens, divorce, custody, special needs, sibling rivalry, chores, extended family, and any number of other things particular to each home. Be encouraged knowing that our kids are God’s children. God gave us these kids so we can be their parents. When we consider ourselves stewards of God’s gift, we begin to understand and put them in the Lord’s hands. We know things may not be perfect, but we’ll commit to do our best and trust God with the rest.
Blessings on your and your family in the coming new year. Time flies and this season will be gone before you know it. Some days you can take it all in and enjoy it. Other days, just survive. Either way, teach your children to love the Lord.