In two weeks by oldest child goes back to college for her junior year and my newly graduated second child heads off for his freshman year at the university. I can’t help but get emotional thinking about it. Questions fire off in a parent’s head during such moments. “Did I rear them right? Did I prepare them for life’s ups and downs? Are they spiritually ready to continue walking with God without me to prod them?”
What has been my aim these past two decades of parenting? Simple. My wife and I have had one primary target we have been shooting for in our parenting. We wanted to rear our children to be spiritual adults by the time they were heading out from the home.
What do I mean by spiritual adult? We wanted more than just our kids accepting Christ, being baptized, and growing up in church. We wanted our children to be equipped to take personal responsibility for their own spiritual life and disciplines.
We wanted them to have a vision for how they would walk with God on their own and answer their unique calling given them by God. We wanted them to see themselves, not as church kids, but as young grown-ups that are just as responsible for their own spiritual lives and the ministry of the church as any other adult of any other age.
So far I am seeing my kids step up to this vision of their lives. Don’t get me wrong. I do not have perfect kids. But I do see in my young adult children that they are taking personal responsibility for the spiritual course of their lives. For that I am very gratified.
So what does a parent do to prepare a child to be a spiritual adult? Here are a few things…
- Aim to rear a spiritual adult. Get this goal in your head. If you your kid is just a couple of days old. It is never too early to set your direction for your desired destination. Let this shape your prayers. If you keep this goal in your sights, you will be amazed at how God will lead you to help your child on their spiritual journey.
- Be a spiritual adult yourself. You simply must be the example. Duplicity in the home can drive children from faith and the church for a lifetime. But when children see a parent that takes their faith seriously (though imperfectly) it is a powerful thing. What does it mean to be a spiritual adult? It means you take personal responsibility for your own spiritual growth and obedience to the Lord. You take the initiative to read the scriptures, obey God’s bidding in your life, support the church, and share your faith.
- Cast vision, starting young. When my kids were young, I would often tuck them in at night and pray with them. When I did, I would cast vision into their little hearts. I would say, “God loves you so much. He wants you to accept his Son Jesus. He wants you to serve him and do great things to spread his kingdom.” Their eyes will be wide and their hearts receptive to this great kingdom vision that is being cast for them. Children need to know that their lives are ordered by God and that God has a journey for them to follow.
- Go to church. I can’t emphasize this enough. By no means am I saying that church going is all it takes to keep a family on track spiritually. That would not be true. But not being in church can have a detrimental impact on faith. God did not save us to be individuals. He saved us to come together as his church. Without our togetherness, we never become all God wants for us. When your children are in church and see you active and involve, they know that faith is important. Furthermore, they meet many other faith-filled role models that inspire them and encourage them.
- Live faith at home. If all you do is live faith out at church your children get the wrong message. They begin to believe faith is just for the church house. God is not relevant at home, work, or school. If you are going to teach your children to live full on for God, they must see that Christ is present in every venue of life. Pray at meals. Talk about God in casual conversation. Answer their questions about God when they raise them. Lean on God when times are tough and give God the glory when his activity in your life is evident. And declare your faith in God even when it seems God is not answering your desperate prayers. Your kids need to see that God is prevailing over every aspect of your lives.
- Walk with them in the early years. When my children were young, I read them the Bible and prayed with them consistently. When they got older, I encouraged them to do more of that on their own and I did it with them occasionally. When they became a teen I encouraged them in their spiritual disciplines and expected that they would do them on their own. I have been encouraged by my son who is on his seventh reading through the Bible.
- Begin passing the baton in the early teens. With my children, around the age of 11-12 I begin to encourage them to seek God on their own. I tell them, they have found it easy to believe depending on us. But now is the time for them to pursue an experience with God that is just between the Lord and them. This is a great time to do this, because they are entering the Youth years at church where many camps, conferences, and spiritual trips provide many venues for experiencing God on their own.
- Encourage faith building activities. This can be an event at church, Sunday School, or a service project. It might even be a faith stretching act of obedience on the part of your family. Years ago, God led us to adopt. Our biological children were a part of the faith stretching experiences that this endeavor demanded of us spiritually, emotionally, and financially. My kids learned about sacrifice, generosity, and trust at that time.
- Model and encourage missional service. I love our church. We encourage the kids to volunteer for ministry and mission. All my children have been encouraged to volunteer their time and talent for many different ministries and projects to share the gospel, help the poor, or minister to the hurting. My wife and I have a plan to see that each of our children have a foreign mission trip experience before they go off to college. The impact of this has been immeasurable in our home.
- Expect them to be spiritual adults as they come of age. I speak of this often with my kids. I expect them to make the right decisions. I hope I don’t nag (they might argue that I do). But I do expect that they will carry on their practice of faith as they go to college. My daughter is one of the leaders at her Christian Student Ministry. My son has already been making plans of his own to be involved in a particular Christian ministry on his campus and looks forward to finding a church in his college town.
I hope you find these helpful as you aim to rear children to become spiritual adults.
Special Note: I am dedicating this post to my very special wife, Stefanie Faulls. Most of the credit for rearing children who love God simply must go to her. She is amazing and deserves most of the credit for impacting our kids for Christ.
Question: What are suggestions you would add to this list? You can leave a comment by clicking here.