I grew up in a Christian home where I met Jesus as a child, and my parents taught me how to walk in God’s ways – to live out my faith. Though I have had moments (in my youth) where I would wish for a more ‘exciting’ testimony – the truth is, knowing Jesus’ love, forgiveness and grace all through my life is a pretty exciting testimony of itself. I am who I am today because my parents faithfully taught me a faith – they taught me to love Jesus, to know God’s word, and to obey.
I want the same for my kids – I want them to know Jesus.
A parents role in teaching their kids about faith
It is tricky as a parent, because as a Christian myself there are certain things that I want to do: I want to read God’s word daily, I want to gather with God’s people to be encouraged and to encourage, I want to help others, I want to reflect Jesus wherever I go. But if my kids aren’t Christians then I need to be careful that I don’t portray these actions as the definition of faith. They have to understand that my acts are there because I love Jesus. I have to challenge them to love Jesus – not do the acts.
Another tricky thing is the things that I do, are the things that our family does. It is a catch-22: if I don’t involve my kids in my life as a Christian, they don’t see real (real me, real faith). If I do involve them in my life as a Christian I run the risk of telling them (inadvertently, through my actions) this is what being a Christian is about – which will be perceived, especially as they get older, as good works!
It is so important that our children, children who are growing up in a Christian home, understand that they are a sinner, that they are separated from God, and that they need a saviour. Their good works are as filthy rags without faith in Jesus Christ.
One of the things that I have been challenged with as a parent, especially as I see my role as one who disciples my children, is that their spiritual need is the same as any person that I meet. Jesus has called me to go and make disciples, baptise them, teach them to observe (keep/practice) all that Jesus taught. (Matthew 28:19-20). In the Christian community we are comfortable with the idea that when we meet an unsaved person, we introduce them to Jesus, they seek to understand and accept Him. When they do accept all that he has done for them, we baptise them, and we help them to continue to grow in their faith (which is discipleship). This is the same sequence we should consider when talking about parenting our kids.
- Introduce our kids to Jesus
- Help them understand God’s Word
- Be there when they decide to believe in Jesus
- Baptise them
- Help them grow and mature as disciples of Christ
The one thing that is different when we talk about our children compared with other people is that our kids live with us. We have 24/7 opportunity to introduce them to Jesus.
What Jesus are we going to introduce them to? The Jesus of religion that has us doing stuff, or the Jesus of my saviour, friend, and brother?
It’s not about the things we do – or is it?
We must be clear then that our first job is to introduce our kids to Jesus as a person. Secondly we are to show and tell them the cost of following Jesus – which will be the lifestyle that flows out of obeying Jesus. They are two different issues. We must be careful not to blur the lines.
So how to introduce Jesus to our kids?
- First you show, by your life, that Jesus is a real person. Jesus is a person you talk to and listen to. Jesus is a person who you respect and obey; he influences your life.
- You talk about Him, who he is, what he has done, what he believes and says. (We know these things by reading the Bible, His word)
- You answer their questions and invite them to come to His place (God’s presence)
- You let them know that He influences the decisions you make, not because he makes you to, but because you love him and you want to show him that love
I want to teach my kids that being a Christian is a relationship with Jesus – it isn’t about doing stuff. It isn’t about going to church, it isn’t about having a daily devotion, it isn’t about serving in programmes or charities. It is about trusting, talking, listening, obeying Jesus. I want to make sure that I show my kids that I have such a relationship with Jesus.
The important truth in teaching our kids faith in Jesus:
It is much easier, much less personally revealing, or confronting if we just do things that good Christian families do – and trust that by doing those things, that having that lifestyle, will teach our kids how to be a Christian. But that is certainly missing the mark.
The only way I can be a Christian, the only way my kids can be Christians, is to stand righteous before God, not because of what we’ve done, but because of what He’s done (what Jesus has done). This is what I need to be teaching my kids, this is what I need to be portraying as the truth of the matter in all I say and do.
- Who is Jesus?
- Who am I?
- How can we connect?
And then once they’ve become a child of God (through Jesus), then we need to be there beside them, helping them to grow from babies to mature Christians. Once they decide to accept Jesus for who He says he is – the son of God, the saviour of the world, forgiving our sins – then they too can choose to obey Him – and walk in their faith.
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Growing up in a Christian home I learnt that I had to dig my own wells – that I was responsible for my own relationship with Jesus. You will not grow if you simply depend on others for your spiritual food.
Parents want to know that their children are growing spiritually – but at the same time we have to be careful not to make it a checklist of things they should be doing.