Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14 NIV).
Whether you were raised in a Christian home or are new to the faith and are currently developing your own relationship with Christ, finding ways to raise your own children in a Christ-centered home are essential to your family’s spiritual path. As parents, we have the unique and blessed opportunity to disciple our own children by helping them to learn about the love and grace that God has to share with them throughout their lives.
Below are 12 ways to incorporate God’s love into your family life on a regular basis:
1. Help your child know their identity in Christ—You and your family are loved. As a believer, you’ve come to realize that your identity is in Christ. Your child’s identity should be in Christ as well, rather than in the self-centric identities that the world would love to promote. How do you teach your child that this identity in Christ is glorious, most precious and gives extraordinary value to life? Regular conversation, a continuous effort to educate about Christ and the desire to model this identity will serve as a collective groundwork to nurture this identity in your child’s heart.
Conversation: God loves your child. The constant reminder that God created your child for a special purpose goes a long way. Your child should be raised with the belief that he or she can play an important role in building God’s kingdom on earth. Focus on your child’s special personality and how God can use these unique qualities and gifts to help make the world better.
Education: Make it a point to read Bible stories about Jesus’ life and his ministry and to teach your child about the emotions he experienced as he taught, his relationship with God and his glorious sacrifice for the world. Our Heavenly Father loves his children so much that he would do anything to connect with them.
Modeling: You can help your child to understand his or her identity in Christ by modeling how you live with Christ in your heart. Your child watches you more than you know. He or she will watch to see how you respond to challenges and various situations in life. The biggest thing you can do to teach her how Jesus would respond is to respond like Jesus in your own situations, and allow your child to witness these responses. Explain why you made the choice to be more like Jesus—why you made the choice to forgive an insult, why you decided to help an elderly neighbor and why you made the effort to be kind to someone in the grocery store line, as situations arise. Your ministry begins in your home with your children. Minister with grace, patience and love to the best of your ability and ask God to support you and help you with this desire.
We are all children of God, born for a special purpose, and this sense of value can be one of the greatest gifts you give to your child.
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).
2. Observe the Sabbath—God tells us to observe the Sabbath as a holy day to rest. Create a Sunday “fun day” tradition in your family that observes the Sabbath in a relaxing and enjoyable way. This might include ordering your favorite food for pick-up or an easy family barbeque each week, a short outing to the park, a relaxing walk around the neighborhood or a bike ride together. Whatever you choose to do with your kids, observe the Sabbath as a happy “day off” to honor God after church. Everyone needs this day to re-energize their souls for the coming week and to reconnect with God through peace, quiet and activities that provide refreshment for the soul. This means no homework, no work, no cleaning, no tough yard work…it’s simply a day of rest to look forward to time with God and your family.
“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:11 NIV).
3. Model prayer—There’s no better way to connect with God than to spend time in prayer. Because children mimic their parents, your kid will benefit from seeing you pray throughout his childhood. Let him witness your prayers and conversations with God as you pray for family members, sick friends and people in your community. Let him hear you pray for help or guidance so that he can witness an honest conversation between you and the Lord. When you feel your child is ready, ask him to join in prayer for others and help lead him in prayers for himself. The practice of praying in front of your child will help to engrain the idea into his mind that when he’s in a time of need, he can turn his face up to God and ask his Heavenly Father for love. The more you talk to God throughout your day, the more you open the line of communication between Heavenly Father and yourself.
As parents, the best thing you can do for your family’s spiritual health is to maintain a deep personal connection with God and Jesus. If you feel far from God, it will be nearly impossible for you to minister to your children. Therefore, it is imperative that you spend your own private time in prayer with God regularly to keep your heart in a healthy place and be spiritually fit. Wake up 30 minutes early every day to make time with Heavenly Father in the quiet hours of the morning. or find another time during your day that you can commit to God, even if it starts with just 10 minutes a day. Pray to him, thank him for all of the good works he has done in your life and then listen. Make sure that a part of this prayer time is spent reading the Bible. Becoming familiar with the Word gives you a better ability to talk to God and listen to him in prayer.
“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 17:6 NIV).
4. Memorize scripture with your children—Pick out a dozen or so verses to teach to your child throughout the year. Practice memorizing one every few weeks. Familiarizing your child with God’s Word is the best way for her to get to know God’s true nature. Reciting scripture helps in hard times, tempting times and can be used as a way to mold and shape our hearts to God’s liking.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT).
5. Invite Jesus to the table —Make it a habit to take time before eating to thank Jesus. Praise God for all he’s provided throughout the day, instilling a sense of gratitude in your child. Ask your family to participate in the prayers once they become comfortable, but don’t force it. Forcing a child to pray can lead to rebellion. Your child can sit there quietly with her head bowed and fingers clasped if she doesn’t feel like speaking. If and when your child does participate in prayer or goes the extra mile to lead in prayer, express your pleasure and appreciation. Inviting Jesus to dinner each night is a small but powerful way to make the Lord a central part of your home life.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV).
6. Teach and practice grace and forgiveness — Parenting is a wonderful opportunity to learn about grace and understand areas in your life that you need to show more grace to others. It’s hard to practice patience and grace when our children are driving us crazy, but we must strive to produce the Fruit of the Spirit in our parenting style.
As parents, we also often find a need to show ourselves grace, with the understanding that God doesn’t create guilt or shame and he leads those with young children gently. Parenting is an opportunity to learn from the grace that God gives you and to take that same grace and show it to others. Isaiah 40:11 (NIV) tells us that, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
If you find it hard to parent with a graceful style that would be pleasing to the Lord, and really, who doesn’t struggle with this, then ask God regularly for help in this arena so that he can fill you with grace and help you to show grace to others. This is an important focus in parenting and in your prayer life.
Grace means that we understand the human condition of imperfection and show compassion and respect to all humans, regardless of how they’ve treated us. Practicing grace doesn’t mean that you erase all boundaries and become doormats. Jesus showed his amazing talent throughout the Gospels at confronting sin and showing grace. God isn’t a doormat, yet he shows immeasurable grace when we mess up.
Jesus came to save and forgive us. His blood washes away all of our sins so that we are acceptable in the eyes of God. Glory be to God. Let’s teach this same forgiveness to our children.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:4-10 NIV)
7. Talk to your children about God’s miracles in your life—Tell them stories at nighttime about the good things God has done in your life. Tell them about the big and little miracles that you notice around you on a daily basis. This builds faith.
“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” (Psalm 77:14 NIV).
8. Teach your children about waiting—There will be times in your child’s life when God doesn’t seem to answer a prayer the way your child wanted God to answer. Talk to her about God’s will. God answers prayers in his time and in his perfect way, though it may seem delayed or answered in the wrong way to our imperfect minds. To God, who lives an eternal life, time is different and we may have to wait for him to reveal his plan to us. And, because he is all-knowing and we are not, he will not answer all of our prayers the way we would have wished. But he has a perfect plan and we must teach our kids to trust in God’s perfect will.
“Though I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
9. Talk to your kids about heaven—Being in our Father’s eternal presence is every believer’s end goal. Keep heaven in mind as you raise your family, remembering that we do all of this for the treasure that awaits us in heaven—the ability to rest in our Father’s glorious, loving kingdom for eternity.
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told youth I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place fro you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:2-4 NIV).
10. Teach them the commandments—In the New Testament, Jesus made it clear that the two most important commandments are to: 1) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and 2) “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38 NIV). These should be hammered into your family’s hearts.
The ten commandments that Moses communicated to God’s people are also extremely important to keep in mind as moral standards to live by. God expects us to try our best to live by these 12 commandments—the two Jesus spoke of and the ten that God gave Moses. It can be helpful to post the commandments in your children’s rooms and to regularly review these rules. As children of God, we must try to obey these commandments to the best of our ability, though we’ll do it imperfectly, and that’s where God’s glorious grace comes into play.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV).
11. Help the needy—Jesus spent a large part of his ministry healing the sick and showing compassion to the poor. Jesus says in Mark 10:45 NIV, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” With this in mind, it is a worthy investment of time to find a cause to get involved with as a family. Whether you serve food to the homeless, collect supplies for children’s hospitals or raise money for needy families, your children will learn that serving those in need is a special way to share God’s love with others.
“We love because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19 NIV).
12. Point out God’s glory in nature—Pointing out examples in nature that mirror God’s glorious nature is a great way to simplify a complex topic for children. You can point out the colors and variety in nature and relate it to God’s love for variation. Point out the little miracles of buds forming on a tree before spring blooms to teach your kids about waiting for God’s promises, just like the tree does each winter. Teach your kids to notice and appreciate all of God’s creations and walk through life feeling connected to God’s presence by being close to his creations. For more ideas and inspirations, follow my God Loves Nature Facebook page.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15 NIV).
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