Feb 11, 2013

Five Ways to Raise Kids who Love God

I was reading a blog post from Mark5Solas this morning called The Top 10 Reasons our Kids Leave Church it was a great post (great comments too) and got me thinking.

I've been in Youth Ministry for nearly 18 years (almost half my life).  The first 7 years was within the context of "the church", the last 10+ years have been with a para-church organization (Youth for Christ).  When I was working in the church (which was prior to children), I was disturbed by the way that my church (and many others) separated the children and teens out from the adults.  I know that not every church and denomination has this habit, but I also know that (it seems) the vast majority of churches do this.  I fully understand WHY, we are trying to educate our kids and teens in a way that is attractive to them, I just don't agree with it as a practice because it confuses kids about what church is...

As I left (paid) ministry with the church (I still volunteer), and started having babies, it became increasing important to me that my kids learn how to sit in "Big Church", and that they understand that church isn't like Sunday school.  In fact, we often eschew Sunday school in favor of taking them to church with us. 

The church we attend has a very traditional "Traditional" service (complete with an organ, hymns and a choir) and a pleasantly relaxed "Contemporary" service (complete with a full band including a drum set and a come-as-you-are atmosphere). We attend the Saturday night contemporary service... because I sing in the worship band and there is no Sunday school.  My church is not giant, produced or "fancy" - we sit in long wooden pews in an 'A' frame building made out of bricks with a large stained glass cross. It's not perfect, but I love it. I talked about why you should go to church in this post last fall.

 I am a big believer in "blooming where you are planted" in terms of church.  It is very popular (and even expected) for people to church hop in order to "get their needs met".  I believe that God places us in churches to grow us through accountability and service TO and with the body of believers.  

Don't misunderstand, I think we should be challenged in our faith, and if your pastor fails to preach the word of God or there is a question of the integrity of your church leadership, then it may be time to move on.  But, I think people often move on because their Bible preaching pastor isn't "Charismatic" enough, or they don't like the worship band.  I think that is self-serving and isn't what God calls us to. 

In response to the above blog post, I will create my own list (as a part of my Becoming a Parent of Excellence series) to Five Ways to Raise Kids who Love God.  **I must add this caveat - I don't have teens or college students... I have no idea if what we are doing will result in our desired outcome... but I have watched many parents who have raised Godly kids, (and some who have not) and I can learn by watching others.

5. Pray for them and with them
Every morning I pray for my kids while I am still laying in bed.  I pray that they grow to become a man and woman of God who loves Him and desire to serve Him with their lives.  
Nightly prayers are also a huge part of our night-time routine.  Not just because it's tradition, but because it's a great way to finish the day.  When we pray together we each take a turn, one on one (my hubby takes the other kid and then we switch).  I praise God out loud for who He made them (affirming their character strengths), I pray that God helps them with areas where they struggle (not in a lecturing way) and I praise God every night for offering us grace and forgiveness even when we make mistakes.   My kids hear me pray for each of them in this way every night...  and then it's their turn. James 5:16 says "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."

4. Let them see you DO IT!
I was just testing to see which of my readers have a dirty mind... haha.  What I mean is, let them see you flesh out your Christian walk.  Let them see you reading your Bible, let them hear you praise God in worship, let them see you walk the walk and talk the talk.  I believe that a huge amount of faith is "caught and not taught".  If you tell them that you love God and that he's important to you but drag your feet on the way to church or worse, prioritize everything else over of church, your kids will notice. You don't have to be perfect, but be aware that you are being watched. James 2:24 says "You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone."

3. When they question, ask questions.
Sometimes when our kids ask us the hard questions or start to doubt God, we react in fear and instantly start quoting scripture at them or get angry and demand that they believe what we believe.   When they ask those questions, they are learning to love God on their own.  If we allow the questions without getting angry or lecturing them, instead help THEM find the answers in the Bible or have a calm non-defensive conversation with them, you will help them understand that it's good to think about WHY we believe. Defensiveness can be attractive to a kid who is looking to shock, rebel or "be independent".  Ask questions when they start asking questions. "What do you think?  Why do you think that?" {and then PRAY, PRAY as if their life depends on it!}

2. Love them Unconditionally, just like God loves us
If you don't show them the grace-filled, forgiving love that God has shown you, they won't understand the value of God's love.   God is gracious, forgiving, slow to anger and He loves us unconditionally.  He loves us without limits.  
Love your kids that way.  Don't make them "earn" your love or acceptance.  Don't make them strive to be "good enough" for you to be be pleased with them.   Be pleased with them.  God is pleased with you.   I talked about this idea in the last Parenting Excellently post about Raising Independent Children. It's really important.  It's really valuable.  It's really true.

1. Get them to fall in love with God's Church
A huge part of raising life long followers of Christ, is raising kids who love to be around other Christians.  If you grow up in a supportive, fun, loving, engaging church family, you are far more likely to want to re-create that for your family later on.  Get involved.  Serve the church and God together as a family.  Volunteers to be greeters, ushers, and Sunday school teachers.  Sing on the worship team, volunteer to help with sound or sing in the choir.  Let your kids both see and experience being fully engaged in a loving Church "family".  AND PLEASE, for the love of pete, PLEASE don't gripe about other members of the church, the pastor, the staff or anyone else in front of your kids.  It sends a mixed message. "We do this because "we have to" and we hate those "hypocrites" down at the church."  Is no bueno.  Don't do it. 

The best part of this post is that I didn't talk about the "Spiritual training" that you would assume goes along with this.  I think that reading the Bible together as a family is important, but isn't what will keep a kid from leaving the church later on.  It's all about relationships.  Between us and them, between them and God, us and God and others as well.

This post is a part of my "Becoming a Parent of Excellence" series... which is slow coming, but I am working on it...  
To see more on Monkey training (aka parenting) click the above link...

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  1. These are great tips and can apply to any religion or denomination. Love of God is Love of God. I couldn't have set it better myself...

    1. I think that is true! :) Teaching kids to love God is the goal!! :)

  2. That should say "Said it better" hahaha. Sometimes I wonder where my brain is. :)

  3. I think you have some very good points. Interesting thought of children groups vs the "adult" church, I've never thought of it that way.
    Regarding bloom where you're planted I don't fully agree. I see what you mean but I have some really bad experiences of churches in the past, I lived in the big city and the church I went to was huge and I just disappeared in the crowd and felt so lonely. Later I found another church that was better but I still felt like an alien, there were these "cliques" of fancy youth people and I never fitted in, noone really seemed to care whether I was there or not. I continued going there because the preaching was very good but for me church is supposed to be so much more than just the preaching.. I think it's supposed to be a place for fellowship and to feel you belong and that people care.
    Now I live in a nice small town and my church is lovely and I felt at home there from the first day I was there. But if I hadn't moved, I probably would have stopped going to church altogether because it just made me feel miserable.

    1. :) I actually agree with you! I think that finding a congregation where you feel like "Family" is huge. I guess I am more exhorting those who move on because the Pastor isn't "meeting their needs". But yes, church is about more than the Sunday morning services... it's about fellowship and building relationships! So true! Great comment!

  4. love your ways...and so agree. I think passing the love of our faith to our children is the best gift a parent can give..

  5. I am not a very religious person. I have seen too much zealoutry in my life and sometimes organized religion scares me. But not because of people like you. People like you are all that is good about the structure of organized religion. Sometimes I wonder whether we are doing the right thing in not exposing our children to religion. We guide them spiritually, but we have decided that if they want to embrace religion, they can when they are older. Thanks for writing a wonderful post that makes me think a little.


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