Recently God dropped a colossal spiritual bomb on my idea of what it looked like to raise my children in a godly home. For years I had been closely adhering to the unspoken list of rules on raising good Christian kids.
You probably know the list I’m talking about, it looks something like this:
– Attend Church Regularly
– Read Family Devotions
– Teach Your Children to Avoid Sin
– Pray Together at Meals and Before Bed
Then one day, my oldest child was walking around the house singing a worship song and my heart swelled in pride as I reflected on how I had molded him into the God-loving six-year-old he was. It was that very moment that I heard a gentle whisper in my heart say, “How empty his songs of praise will be unless you teach him to not just know about me but to intimately walk with me.”
All of a sudden every checkmark I’d ever made on my Christian parenting list lost its value. I had been consumed with teaching my kids to act Christian but not to walk with Christ.
I closed my eyes and traced the path for my children over the next 15 years if we continued on the path of saying and doing the right things but not cultivating a real relationship with God. I envisioned them as tender 18-year-olds at college, as young adults choosing a spouse and as twenty-somethings venturing into their careers.
They knew many facts about God, each one a rich seed that sprung up quickly in the soil of their hearts, but they never grew the deep roots required for them to thrive under the harsh elements of the real world. Just like the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9, as each child faced adversity the frail truths in their heart withered and died.
This is a far cry from what I hope for the spiritual well-being of my children. Therefore, I am asking God what it looks like to lead my children out of the robotic religion and into a relationship with him.
Here are two things to consider if you also want to cultivate relationship over religion in your kids.
1. Carry the conviction that your children were made to fully and intimately know God not someday but TODAY.
Somewhere in my parenting journey, I picked up the idea that kids can’t experience all of who God is until they’re older and wiser. But as I’ve searched scripture I have found this idea doesn’t hold up.
In Matthew 19:13-15, Jesus says to let the children come to him without hindrance because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people such as them. It doesn’t get any more clear than that. Kids have full access to Jesus and because of that, the full kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Let’s choose to hold this conviction tightly. Let’s choose to regularly present the gospel to our young children so that they might come into a relationship with God and experience all he is today.
2. Make time for your children to simply be with God.
Religion is cultivated when we teach our children to check the boxes of Christianity, but a relationship with God is cultivated when our children spend time with God.
In our house, this looks like spending fifteen minutes listening to worship music as a family right before bedtime. In the first ten minutes, we encourage the kids to sing, dance, draw, or talk to God about their day. In the last five minutes, we all lay on our backs with our eyes closed and listen for God’s voice.
We still read devotions and pray as a family, but we believe this time is where their kids’ personal relationship with God will grow deep roots and blossom.
Parents, there are many aspects of raising children that can be condensed into neatly organized lists, but cultivating a relationship with God is not one of them. Consider how you’ve communicated God to your children. Do they know they can know him for themselves right now? If not, today would be a great day to start showing them that truth.
Shelby Turner is a stay-at-home-mom, speaker, and writer who lives in Kansas City, Missouri. She is all about helping women kick the pursuit of a picture-perfect life to the curb and inspiring them to live a purposeful life instead. She’d love for you to follow along with her on Instagram at @shelbyraeturner!