Welcome to the Mom 2 Mom Carnival - Encouraging our children's relationship with Jesus.
Don't forget that all participants are eligible to win a giveaway (more on that at the end of this post!), so get started on writing your own post ASAP!
First of all, I'd like to admit that I completely stole this idea from Missy at It's Almost Naptime. Over a month ago she did a post about this exact same topic and I personally think it's one of the best posts I've read on the topic and it really got me excited about sharing more ideas with each other and encouraging each other.
So - these are some of my thoughts on how we can encourage our children to have a better, deeper and personal relationship with Jesus.
Disclaimer - these are some of the ideas we've used in the past, use presently and might use in the future, but we obviously don't do them every day or perfectly - not at all. Just keeping it real.
1) First of all, we can't teach something we don't have. We obviously need to have a relationship with Jesus ourselves, but even that in itself is not enough. We have to make this relationship a priority in our lives. It needs to be authentic. Our children are not stupid. They see us at our worst and at our best. They know what is really important to us. At least, they know what we're showing them. So, if we're not showing them, we need to start. They need to see us spending time in the Word (or at the very minimum they have to know that we have this Quiet Time).
2) We also need to show them that not only is this relationship a priority, living out our faith and living to give glory to God is the most wonderful way to live. They need to see our joy! This is something we talked about in our last True Woman Tuesday lessons. If we don't find it joyful to be a follower of Christ, why would they want to?
3) This is just an extension of #1, but in order to direct our children to Jesus, in order to describe Him accurately to them, in order to live in a way that reflects Him - we need to know what we're talking about. And the only way to know that is to be in the Word and to connect with God in prayer.
I have absolutely failed at this for probably most of my life. This year I made a commitment to myself (and to God) to read through the entire Bible for, embarrassingly, the first time in my life. Since then I have been using the One Year Bible reading plan and discovered the somewhat sad fact that it really only takes me 10 - 15 minutes to read each day's reading. That's right. I have never consistently taken 10 - 15 minutes of my time to read through the Bible before. I admit that I have skipped days, but I always catch up! I am now over half way done. And this is a great start. But next year I want to go deeper. I will probably get the Life Journal which also has it's own One Year Bible reading plan but also provides space to journal about each day's reading - digging deeper into the Word, studying it instead of just reading it.
Don't let this discourage or overwhelm you. I know how hard it is to set aside time consistently when there just doesn't seem to be any extra time between diaper changes and sibling disputes, laundry and dishes, cooking and cleaning. But know that ANY time that you spend in the Word or in prayer is time well-invested.
4) We gotta walk the talk for our children to see. Fairly obvious point, but such an important one. We need to admit to them when we fail - their respect for us will not diminish by acknowledging our weaknesses. To the contrary, it will increase it!
5) Nathan reads the Bible with the girls and prays with them before bed every day. We have numerous Bibles that we use for this. Our church gives out bibles to every child who is dedicated by their parents, plus we have a few of our own, so we have quite the stash that we rotate through. From our church we have The Early Reader's Bible, The Beginner's Bible and the Young Reader's Bible (we got a 2nd copy of The Beginner's Bible when Jacob was dedicated). I picked up the Little Girl's Bible Storybook at a garage sale one year - it tells the Bible stories from the viewpoint of the women in the story, and has a bit of a devotional and discussion after each story as well. We also have a devotional for little kids that we got from Costco called God and Me. Nathan usually reads one day's devotional from God and Me, followed by one Bible story from one of the numerous Bibles we have available! (We basically take turns going through each one). My absolute favourite kids Bible storybook is the Jesus Storybook Bible and you can find my detailed review of it here. It is absolutely incredible how the author weaves the ultimate story of Jesus into every OT story.
6) I also want to teach our children how to study the Bible for themselves. Emma has started using the Children's Life Journal (see my full review here) and I think this is just an excellent way to help get kids started in Bible study. My parents gave the kids a Bible in the New International Reader Version for Christmas one year, and this is fabulous for this purpose. It's written in easier to understand English which makes it easier for them to understand what the verses are saying. As they get older I plan to order the How to Study Your Bible for Kids by Kay Arthur. Emma would be ready for that right about now, so I may do that soon.
7) Instilling the Word of God in the hearts of our children is invaluable! Obviously they get a lot of this in Sunday School and any kids club programs they're involved in, but really, you can't memorize too much scripture. I've always found it hard to find time for scripture memory, until I came up with this time saving tip. I work on their memory verse while I comb their hair! This is something I have to do every day, so I may as well make the most of it! Mondays through Wednesdays we work on their Kids Club verse (clubs is Wednesday evenings) and then Thursdays through Sundays we work on their SS verses.
Awhile back I purchased My ABC Verses: Hiding God's Word in Little Hearts by Susan Hunt. Each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding Bible verse, and each verse has a story to illustrate the meaning of the verse. It doesn't help a whole lot to memorize verses you don't understand, and this is an excellent way to do it! The girls really like this book, even though I haven't used it as much as I'd like to say I have. My plan is to read it to them during breakfast and then go over the verse with them once their done eating (you know - so the manners we taught them don't go out the window by talking with their mouths full!).
Another very cool idea for memorizing verses is one I just got from Missy. There are some amazing cd's out there called Seeds Family Worship that are simply awesome. And the best part is that the music is actually fun to listen to - even for adults! Don't believe it's possible? Well, then - check out the following tunes on YouTube... Do Not Be Anxious (Phil 4:6-7) and Cast Your Cares (Psalm 55:22) or Young (1 Timothy 4:12). Yep, loving it! I ordered 3 of the cd's (Seeds of Courage, Seeds of Faith and The Power of Encouragement), just got them this past week and so far am loving them!!
8) Shaping our children's worldview to reflect a biblical worldview instead of a cultural worldview is pretty crucial. There are several to go about this.
His Little Princess is a wonderful book for those with princesses of your own in your house. Since our girls love princesses, I thought this would be perfect. It's a series of letters written from God (the King) to His princesses (yes, our daughters!). Each letter has a Bible verse to go with it, and a prayer as well. Here is a sample letter...
My Chosen Daughter...
You are not a pretend princess, my child. You are a real princess, and I am your God, the King of all kings. I chose you before you were even born to be my princess. You are very important in my kingdom. I have chosen you to do something special that only you can do. I have amazing plans for you, both now and for when you grow up. Remember, a crown and a palace do not make you a true princess - it is your love for me and for others that will make you special. If you read my words every day in the Bible, I will teach you all you need to know about living like a daughter of the King.
Your King and Father in Heaven
"You didn't choose me, I chose you." John 15:16
And here's the prayer to go with it...
Dear God, thank you for choosing me to be your princess. I feel so special knowing I belong to You. Help me to remember to act like I am yours, because I need help. I'm glad you are my King who can make me shine for You! I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.
Even though we are not Catholic, I bought another book (after reading Missy's post) by Susan Hunt called Big Truths for Little Kids which teaches children the basic truths of faith using catechism questions and stories to illustrate them. Basically, theology that kids can understand! I realized this was lacking when I found out our kids didn't know about the Trinity - they thought there was God and Jesus and had no clue about the Holy Spirit. We don't always think of all the things we need to explain to them, this is a perfect way to make sure we're not missing any big blanks that need filling in!
If (likely when!) they start to question their faith - a process every child needs to go through really to make their faith truly their own (and not just their parents), some more great books that I already have and will go through with them are a series by Lee Strobel - the Case for Christ for Kids, the Case for Faith for Kids, the Case for a Creator for Kids and Off My Case for Kids.
Another huge part of shaping their worldview is monitoring their entertainment choices. I have recently made some changes to our kids tv viewing habits. They are now only allowed to watch one show per day. The more of a cultural worldview you are exposed to, the more it affects (ie changes) the way you view things. I also cut out some of the shows that they watch - not necesarrily because they were bad, but because they deal with topics that are simply too old for them, or encourage a worldview that we don't agree with. Garbage in, garbage out as the saying goes. And really - if they're completely immersed in our culture's worldview (through tv, video games, magazines, etc), can we really expect them to form a worldview that's any different?
9) Teachable moments. Take advantage of them and if they don't come up - create them! Especially when it comes to sex education. And, yes, I have a few good books for you about this too! A Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex by Dr. Kevin Leman is an excellent way to prepare yourself, pretty much from the birth of your kids, the healthy way to discuss sexuality. God's Design for Sex Series is really good too - it has 4 books for you to read with your kids at different ages. This is an area where parents have to really step up. If you don't teach them about sex, they're going to learn it in school - and they're likely going to learn it wrong, and they're for sure going to learn it in the wrong context.
10) Be plugged in. Know what's going on, know who your kids friends are, know what's happening in school, get to know their teachers, volunteer in school, be genuinely interested in their interests. Spend time with your kids! I really think quantity rules over quality. Truly. I mean when do you think quality time happens anyway? It happens when you're spending time with your kids. You can't force it, you can't plan it, you can't schedule it, you can't add it to a list. If you're not around, it's not going to happen. Quality time happens in the middle of quantity time.
11) Invest in your marriage. Nothing gives children more security than knowing their mom and dad love each other and will always be together. Make your marriage a priority, second only to God.
12) Talk about Jesus in everyday conversation, all the time.
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Whew! I think that's all I got for now. I can't wait to read what you guys come up with.
Oh yeah - the giveaway! Bet you thought I forgot after all that typing. :)
One amazing things about the Seeds Family Worship cd's is that they actually come with 2 cd's in each package - one to keep for yourself and one to give away to a friend. So, I am going to be giving away one of the cd's! Simply make a post (or comment or email) with your ideas of how to encourage your children's relationship with Christ before Monday morning and you are entered! Everyone is eligible to win - Canadian, American, Australian, whatever.
Oh, and here's the link to Missy's post that started this all! I'm taking the liberty of adding her post to the Mr. Linky below.
And, please - link up directly to your own Mom 2 Mom post so we can all be encouraged. Thanks!