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I have served in a variety of children’s and youth ministry roles over the years and every fall, I would look forward to that new group of incoming students. Every year, you would have 1 or two students who would just knock your socks off. Not with their magnetic personality (though some of them did) but with their desire to know Jesus.
They were young men and women who were unabashed by their hunger for Jesus, they served others with a humble heart, spoke life over the people around them, and were never content with their current experience of Jesus.
They were in a word… Inspiring.
The crazy thing is that those same students are now grown, starting their own families, and are still pursuing a life WITH Jesus.
What made them so different from their peers?
I believe there are four practical steps YOU can take to influence the spiritual life of your child.
2. Focus on Heart Transformation
3. Trust in the Holy Spirit
4. You can’t Lead where You Haven’t
1. Experience God
Children learn primarily from their experiences. Think about it, how did your children get to know you? Did they ask other people questions, did they study your family tree, did they spend time talking to others about you? OR did they experience you from before they were born; the sound of your voice in the womb, the touch of your skin as they entered the world, the snuggles, the safety of your presence, the hugs? They know you by EXPERIENCE, not by words.
A life of faith is not school but a real, breathing, organic relationship with Jesus. Your child needs to experience it, not just hear about it. I am not downplaying the crucial role of the Bible in our lives but we need to marry experience and knowledge together to grow as a thoroughgoing follower of Christ. You can do this by intentionally including God into your everyday life.
Light a candle to remind you of God’s presence, use art to help you listen to God’s voice, take a walk in God’s creation, observe Sabbath, use play to help focus your child on Jesus words, etc. (See this post for more practical ideas). Experience is critical for children to establish a strong relationship with Jesus.
2. Focus on Heart Transformation
Who doesn’t want your child to behave a civilized member of society? It’s an obvious question, but as parents (myself included) we can quickly move to focus on behavior modification (You do this and you will get x, y, and z) and completely miss the opportunity of heart transformation.
The heart can be a tricky place as it is where our thoughts and feelings originate. As parents, we can manage behaviors but the heart is harder to control. So what can we do to encourage our children to make Godly decisions even when we aren’t around?
We cannot by-pass heart work. We need to look deeper than external behaviors and notice the movement of their hearts.
In the book Parenting is Heart Work, the author says it this way; “Motivating Heart change isn’t easy. You can force a child to change behavior, but you can’t force a change of heart. Its deeper work. Helping children change their hearts requires a lot of thought, planning, and prayer. More and more parents are relearning discipline so that they can have a lasting impact on their children.”
Prayer is a great and crucial first step in parenting for heart transformation. We can miss out on a beautiful opportunity if we fall into the trap of praying for our kids only when there is a crisis. Covering our children in consistent prayer not only teaches us to be sensitive to the movements of their heart, but also gives room for the Holy Spirit to bring about our own heart transformation.
Prayer is a two-way street, take some time to be silent before God, listening for his voice and being present to him. God is faithful to highlight the issues that you need to be focusing on.
If you are interested in going deeper you can grab the book, Parenting is Heart Work by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller
3. Trust in the Holy Spirit
As parents, we have to have trust in the Holy Spirit. We can try to do everything right and still blow it. We have to remember that parenting works well only when we are utterly dependent upon God and our huge need for grace.
We need to realize (believe, not just say) that on our own we can do nothing, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit, can we make a difference in the spiritual lives of our children. As children are observing the lives of their parents, soaking in their family values, and experiencing Jesus in real ways, they are internalizing all of that information.
“As they are ready, children construct or form their understandings for themselves, with the gracious presence, encouragement, and guidance of God’s Spirit.” Catherine Stonehouse and Scottie May, Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey.
It does not come down to what you say (though that’s still important) but how you model your life WITH God, and through the work of the Holy Spirit that determines how your child views and interacts with God.
We need to remember that we are working with the Holy Spirit, not the Holy Spirit working with us. We don’t have to have all the answers or be Super Mom. What we have to do is place our children before God, and be continually dependent upon the Holy Spirit to shape our parenting. We can rest in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit will be with our child long after they have grown up.
4. You Can’t Lead Where You Haven’t Been
Seriously, if you want your child to have a living, breathing, transformational relationship with Jesus, it starts with you. Multiple studies have shown that parents are the primary influencers in the lives of their children. You and your relationship with God set the tone for the culture of your home.
“The greatest parenting tip we could share with you is this: Maintain a strong connection to your Heavenly Father. He offers spiritual guidance and direction to help you work through your own heart issues so you can be more effective with your children.” -Parenting is Heart Work
Investing in your relationship with God is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, let alone your children. When they see you turning to God all throughout the day, when they see you on your knees, when they see serving others, you are a modeling a life lived WITH God.
Grab your FREE Deeper Life Beginners Guide and join our community of moms who are hungry for more of Jesus in their lives and in the lives of their children.
What about you? What is your #1 concern when it comes to raising Godly children?
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