Introducing Your Child to God
No maps. No GPS. Few street signs. Those are three important reasons why I don’t drive in developing countries. I’d get lost. Raising our kids to follow Christ is a lot like trying to navigate in an under-developed country — there is no parenting map, no spiritual GPS. We head in the direction that seems best, trying to find our way by trial and error.
But we don’t need to feel lost. As we journey through each stage of our children’s development, we can point them toward spiritual markers that will help them find true faith — becoming vibrant followers of Christ.
by Larry Fowler
Spiritual marker for early childhood: Respect
For parents of young children, the journey of raising Christ followers starts with the task of instilling respect for God and His authority. The psalmist tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).
While most of us enjoy teaching toddlers fun Bible stories, we can’t stop there. Early childhood materials may solely emphasise how “Jesus is your friend.” Warm fuzzy feelings build affection for Jesus, but they don’t build the foundation for spiritual wisdom. Awe, wonder and respectful fear of God lay that groundwork.
So how do you instill this respect? Teach your young children these truths:
- God is strong. He can do anything.
- God always keeps His promises.
- God gives us rules that we must obey.
- Even if Mummy or Daddy can’t see what you are doing, God sees it.
- God disciplines us because He loves us.
Spiritual marker for early primary years: Wisdom
Wisdom is the ability to apply God’s Word to life situations. So to grow in wisdom, your children must first learn God’s Word. From ages 5 to 8, add biblical teaching to your daily routine. At this age, your children probably love to learn. Make sure you emphasise the following four areas:
Who is God? Is He an angry ogre ready to club you when you disobey? Is He a passive observer who is tolerant of everything? Is God what you make Him to be? Or is He the righteous, powerful and loving Creator found in the Bible?
Use Bible stories to teach about God. Take the story of David and Goliath for example. What can we learn about God from it? Many children’s materials conclude, “You can do anything if God is on your side.” But that is backward. The story’s application ought to be, “Make sure you are on God’s side.”
What is truth? Your kids will be bombarded throughout life by truth claims from the media, teachers and friends. If you are not successful in teaching them that truth and wisdom come from the Bible, they will struggle greatly with faith challenges later.
This means you must regularly include statements like the following in your conversation: “We can always trust what God says”; “God’s Word is always right”; “Obey the Bible, and you’ll never be sorry.”
Who is man? Our humanistic culture treats man as basically good. That’s why children often struggle with accepting the Bible’s claim that man is sinful. If they’ve not experienced abuse, abandonment, addictions or other deep hurts (as I hope they haven’t), they probably see the people around them as good. Your children will not appreciate the need for a savior until they see themselves and others as sinners.
Who is Jesus? Growing up in a society that professes to value tolerance will challenge your children’s faith. They may be called “intolerant” and “hateful” for claiming that Jesus is the only way to God. When your children sit in a classroom of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and atheists, will their faith in Jesus stick? To withstand this pressure, your children need a secure knowledge of who Jesus is and why He is the only Way.
Spiritual marker for late primary years: Grace
The primary goal for 9 to 11 year olds is to receive God’s grace. The majority of people who trust Christ as Saviour do so before they are teens. Said another way, if your children do not come to faith in Christ by the time they are teens, the likelihood begins to quickly decrease that they will do so.
That means you must do two things: First, make certain that your children fully understand the Gospel. Second, ask God to help you discern the authenticity of their decision. Countless kids “respond” to the Gospel outwardly because of pressure from a Sunday school teacher or parent, while in their hearts they remain reluctant to submit to Christ.
To understand your children’s faith, ask questions: “Can you explain why Jesus died on the Cross?” “What does someone have to do to go to heaven?” “Why do you think you are a Christian?” Responses such as “I prayed a prayer” or “The teacher told me I was a Christian” may indicate they are trusting in the wrong thing.
Beyond accepting God’s grace, your children also need to learn how to give grace to others. “That’s not fair” may be the most common complaint of middle primary kids. Siblings war over the size of a piece of pie, who sits in what seat in the car and who has to do the most chores. This age group is especially concerned with getting their fair share. But grace — forgetting what’s fair and giving others more than they deserve — is the best way to be like Jesus.
Teaching your kids grace is a tall order. Their selfish nature will battle it. Friends will take advantage of it. So if they are going to learn how to give grace, they will need to see it consistently modelled by you.
Spiritual marker for lower high school years: Trust
Young adolescents are beginning to wonder what their lives will hold. These years are a prime time for discussing the importance of trusting God with their future.
Here’s one way to begin that conversation: Discuss Proverbs 3:5-6 with your children. Talk through it carefully: “What does it mean to ‘trust in the Lord’? How about ‘with all your heart’? Why is God’s understanding so much better than yours? What does it mean, ‘He will make your paths straight’?”
Buy a plaque with this passage on it and hang it in their room. Have them memorise it. Underline it in their Bibles. Make it a strong focus in your conversations.
When I was 13, I told God I wanted Him to have complete control of my life. I strongly believe that decision kept me out of all sorts of trouble during my teen years. In the same way, God can use your lower secondary schoolers’ commitment to Him to guide your children through the coming years.
Spiritual marker for high school years: Perspective
“Why did God let my best friend die in a car accident?” The lack of adequate answers can send their faith tumbling.
Older teens may begin wrestling with tough questions for the first time: “Why is there evil in the world?” “Why is my teacher so unfair?” “Why did God let my best friend die in a car accident?” The lack of adequate answers can send their faith tumbling.
First, provide the perspective that God is sovereign in all things. Your teens need to hear your stories about the times when God worked difficult things out for good. They need to see you trust in God. Always stay open to your teens’ questions, even if they are hard to hear. If you don’t have an answer, admit it — then find the answer together.
As your children grow, take note of their life stage and adjust your spiritual training accordingly. My prayer is that each of your children will grow up to be, as author George Barna puts it, “an irrepressible follower of Jesus Christ who accepts the Bible as truth, lives by its principles, seeks ways to impact the world and continually deepen his or her relationship with God.”
Leading Your Children to the Saviour
by Kelly J. Stigliano
My children were 4 and 5 when they believed in Jesus for salvation. At that age, they were like sponges soaking up the love of Jesus and spiritual truth. Together we would watch for “God sightings,” such as ants carrying their heavy loads or seeds maturing into beautiful flowers. Observing the world around us provided many natural opportunities for teaching my children about creation and the Gospel.
In order for children to put their faith in Jesus, they need to understand several basic truths:
- Their sin and need for a Saviour
- The significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection
- God’s faithful presence in a believer’s life
One powerful way for these truths to be conveyed in the home is for parents to talk about them and live them out each day, so kids can learn from both their actions and their words.
Recognising their sin
My friends Tina and Harry raised their children with an open dialogue about sin and the importance of asking for forgiveness. Praying together before and after discipline showed their children the seriousness of their infractions and the value of having a clean heart before God. They also demonstrated God’s love by offering their forgiveness freely, and displaying unconditional love and mercy.
For the concept of dealing with sin to become real to children, they need to:
- Understand that they mess up (Romans 3:23)
- Admit to and accept the consequences of your wrong actions (1 John 1:9)
- Realise God loves them whether they succeed or fail (Romans 5:8)
- Accept that only God has the power to change their heart (Ezekiel 36:26)
The significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection
While this principle seems obvious, parents often neglect to tell their children the basic story of the Gospel, assuming they already know that Jesus came to earth as a baby, willingly shed His blood on the Cross, and died and rose again to pay the penalty for sin.
Children can understand the concept of grace — or undeserved favour — through our parenting. When you offer your child grace, relate it to the grace God showed us in sending His Son and forgiving our sin. We can model our own need for a Saviour when sin is evident in our lives.
My friend Blanca says each of her children came to know Christ while sitting on her lap. In each case, a simple talk about sin and the Gospel or a follow-up conversation about a speaker’s message on salvation opened the door for her to ask if they’d like to believe in Jesus.
For the truths of the Gospel to become real to children, they should first understand that:
- Jesus loves us so much that He came to earth for us (John 3:16)
- He taught us how to live and know His Father
- He died on the Cross in our place
- Jesus defeated sin and death through His resurrection — our Saviour lives!
God is close
When my friend Christie’s kids were little, she reminded them how important children are to Jesus. She read them Genesis 5:1: “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” Then she reminded them that God created them, too, and they are precious to Him. That prompted them to understand that Jesus wanted to be close to them.
I used to tell my kids that they could talk to Jesus at any time; He’s just a thought away and always with them.
- For God’s nearness to become real to children, help them understand that
- God promises to always be with them (Hebrews 13:5)
- Jesus came to earth, died and rose again to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)
- God gives believers a helper called the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26)
Leading by example
As hard as it is for us to comprehend, God loves our children even more than we do. He desires that they have a personal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus. The most important introduction I’ve ever made is the one that led my children to God through a relationship with Jesus. Showing them Christ in my everyday life was essential to them making this decision.
Angelica says she does her best to live out Deuteronomy 11:19, which instructs parents to talk about God’s commands with their children at all times of the day, both at home and while they are out. As she walks her daughters to school every day, she uses the opportunity to tell them the stories of Bible heroes, such as Abraham, Joseph and Esther.
As you live out your faith on a daily basis, leading your children to Christ can be organic and beautiful. We can help them understand their sin and need for a Saviour and teach them that God loves them and is always available to them. As we do this, we pave the way for them to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and put their faith in Him.