Children are God’s idea, and He created them first and foremost for spiritual purposes. It’s, therefore, imperative that parents know how to nurture children’s faith so they can fulfil God’s plans for their lives.
But before we jump into the practicalities of nurturing children’s faith, we must recognize that neither the parents nor the church can begin, sustain, or mature a child’s faith. That’s Jesus’ responsibility. Nor can parents transfer or confer faith from themselves to their children. A child must personally choose to follow Christ and own their faith.
Children’s ministry consultant Julie Kurz paradoxically says, “The faith of your children is all about you, but not about you at all.” The part that’s not about you is the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit that convinces, convicts and converts a child so they can know and grow in a relationship with Christ. The part that’s about you is telling a child about Jesus in a way that helps them enlarge and enliven their faith. You can never make a child have faith. Your role is facilitating a child’s transformation by making it meaningful.
Here then, are six suggestions for how to nurture children’s faith:
Live for Jesus
Fostering children’s faith doesn’t begin with the child; it starts with the parents. Our priority should be how we’re living for Jesus. We can’t give our children what we don’t first believe and understand. Before we think about invigorating our children’s faith, we must examine ourselves and make sure we have an authentic relationship with Jesus. Do we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength and mind? (cf. Luke 10:27). Are we practicing the presence of God in our daily lives? Are we filled with His Spirit and exercising faith in what we say and do?Only when we have a genuine connection with Jesus will we have something of value to share with our children. Click To Tweet
Children notice what their parents do more so than what they say. We should aim to show children how much we love Jesus. If our children are going to open their hearts to Jesus, they must see us opening our hearts to Him. Only when we have a genuine connection with Jesus will we have something of value to share with our children. So, to significantly inform our children’s faith, we must take what God says in His Word about life and family at face value, then obey and apply His Word faithfully and consistently.
Love your spouse
A healthy marriage is part of God’s plan for inspiring children’s faith. When a husband and wife love and respect each other, their relationship is a source of security for their children. When children feel secure, they’ll likely want to have faith like their parents. The converse is also true. When children don’t see their parents in a loving relationship, their faith formation can be hampered. So, love your spouse, for in so doing, you create a more conducive environment for children to connect with Jesus.
“Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth” Malachi 2:15.
Listen to your children
Children may not listen to what we say about Jesus if we don’t listen to them. You may be hearing your children, but are you listening? As David Bennett from the Lausanne Movement reminds us, “Listening is a posture of humility. When I listen, I am admitting, I don’t know everything about what you think. And I don’t know everything that you have experienced.”Children may not listen to what we say about Jesus if we don’t listen to them. Click To Tweet
Active listening, going beyond simply hearing your children’s words and observing what verbal and non-verbal messages are being sent, is essential for identifying how to expand and invigorate their faith. So, listen with attentiveness and empathy. Listen to know and understand. Listen like a blind person seeking to cross the street at a busy intersection. And listen, not to judge or to condemn, but to rightly direct and encourage your child in the way of the Lord (cf. Proverbs 22:6).
Children’s faith formation requires you to be hands-on and hands-off. A spiritually discerning parent knows when to act and when not to get in the way of what the Holy Spirit is doing.
It’s good and right to set non-negotiable biblical boundaries for your children, to teach biblical values and beliefs clearly, and to establish transformational goals for your family. But do this wisely. Children require boundaries and guidelines, but we can’t look to rules to do what only God’s grace can do. So, don’t insert yourself as an informant between God and your children. And don’t do anything that would hinder your children from becoming increasingly aware of God’s presence and encountering Jesus directly. For the parenting battle isn’t the behaviour or attitude of our children; it’s fighting for who will rule their hearts.
Labour in prayer
When we pray, it practically demonstrates our trust in God. Accordingly, pray earnestly for your children and with them.Faith is stirred up in our children when we incorporate quiet time, contemplation and active listening for thoughts or direction that may come from the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet
Prayer, especially prayer informed by God’s Word, fuels faith. Pray the scriptures and teach your children how to use them to guide, shape and give language to their conversations with God. And make sure prayer isn’t a hurried affair. Author and revivalist Andrew Murray said, “Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue.” Faith is stirred up in our children when we incorporate quiet time, contemplation, and active listening for thoughts or direction that may come from the Holy Spirit.
Nurturing children’s faith isn’t a solo affair. Ideally, a child’s faith formation requires a four-way collaboration between Jesus, the child, the parents, and the church. Jesus initiates and perfects a child’s faith, a child chooses to follow Christ by faith, parents faithfully inspire and instruct the child, and the church encourages and equips parents and children to live by faith.
God wants your children to believe and belong to Him even more than you do. So, let’s intentionally foster children’s faith and prayerfully trust the Lord with the outcome.
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© Scripture Union, 2023