One of the things I’ve tried to do with my parenting is to be aware of the different aspects of each of my children’s being – their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, moral, spiritual; to intentionally know where they are at, and to know how I could help them grow. Recently I’ve been thinking about how my children are growing spiritually: their spiritual wellbeing, spiritual growth and maturity.
The problem with ‘assessing’ and ‘planning’ spiritual growth is that it quickly becomes about external things – like reading your Bible, Praying, Going to Church, Volunteering. We can read through that list, do a mental check, and think that everyone is doing okay. And yet what we are really talking about in terms of spiritual growth and maturity is a relationship with Jesus, and becoming more and more like Him.
Do your kids have a relationship with Jesus?
Do they desire to be more and more like him?
And how are you helping, encouraging, supporting them in this?
Before we go any further in thinking about our kids, we need to think about ourselves. We are first and foremost responsible for our own relationship with Christ. How would you assess yourself, your own spiritual growth and maturity? Are you getting to know Jesus more and more each day? Listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit? Obeying? Being changed from the inside out? Or are you only getting to know more about Him? There is a difference – and we can go through all the motions of being a Christian and know about Jesus, and yet, he’s standing at the door of our heart – knocking, saying let me in to every crevice of your heart.
The heart is our will, emotions, passions, character, intellect, – the center of everything that makes us tick as a person. Is our relationship with Jesus changing or affecting each of these things?
Not to say that we need to get it 100% right and be fully mature before we can encourage our kids – but our desire needs to be tuned towards Jesus, knowing him, obeying him, being changed by him. If we are just going through the motions, we cannot expect to see life, spiritual life, in our kids.
Of course, God is bigger than anything – and I pray that God will turn on the light in my children’s heart and helps them see who he is. And yet, I don’t want to be a hindrance to my children, a stumbling block. My children live with me day in and day out, even when they were younger they knew what was going on in my life. They knew the ups and downs, the real and the pretend.
Spiritual growth or maturity is the journey of responding to God’s word, and changing to be more like Jesus.
What does it look like to encourage spiritual growth and maturity in our kids:
1-Live an honest life in front of our kids – showing them what it means to grow and mature – showing them what it means to respond to Jesus and change to be more like him.
2-To introduce them to Jesus, and to teach them from His word (the Bible)
3-To encourage them to know Jesus and respond to him as their Saviour and Lord
4-To encourage and help them read the Bible and apply the things they learn
5-Teach them to pray and listen to God’s answers
6-To help them recognise the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit, prompting and warning them.
7-To depend on the Holy Spirit to strengthen them to be obedient especially when the choices they have to make are hard
8-To be an active part of the body of Christ – encouraging other Christians and being honest enough with others to be encouraged by them.
When your kids face a difficult choice, when they are tempted with a selfish response – how do you instruct them at that moment? In this day when WWJD has become so commercialised it is easy to forget the reality of that story. (By the way, have you ever read the story behind the letters? It is a story of a group of people who committed to asking themselves, and each other, what would Jesus do – before they made any decisions in their busy lives. It is a powerful story.)
It is easy to just give our kids the answer – to give them instruction on what they should do; to draw on our own wisdom, even if it is wisdom that comes from knowing Jesus ourselves. But that is not always the best thing to do. If we are to encourage our kids to grow and mature, we need them to develop a relationship with Jesus themselves. Not just acting out of our relationship. They need to learn to listen and obey. Listen and obey Jesus, not us. This of course doesn’t take away the need for children to obey parents – but ultimately, if we are discipling our children, our goal is for them to look to Jesus, to listen to Jesus and obey Jesus.
How we help our kids face their challenges throughout the day, will be what gives them the opportunity to grow spiritually.
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