Although it has been found that over 60 percent of teens and college students are walking away from their faith, this statistic should not be what motivates families to pass down faith. There are two things that should vigorously drive families to promote faith. First, real faith moments with your children are priceless! Conversations about God and faith deepen your relationship with your children and will be the most important moments that you spend with them. A parent's motivation to impart faith should not be out of fear. Faith in your children isn't an outcome you can control.
Secondly, parents should impart faith in order for their children to have a mature relationship with God. That should be the goal of every Christian parent. Faith activities should be woven into your daily routine where your causal conversations, teachable moments, decisions, and actions present Chris to your children. If you find yourself wondering if you have been presenting a Christ-like attitude toward your family, pray about this and ask God to reveal your areas of strengths and weaknesses. Allow God to guide you in this process and recommit your faith to Him and your willingness to put Him first in your family.
THINK ABOUT IT
When you begin thinking about doing faith activities, consider the difference it will make in your children. Pause for a moment to imagine the difference between children who know God only at church, and the children that know God throughout their family life. I have seen first hand the difference between these children. The maturity and depth of children who belong to a family that promotes faith is astounding. The decision to intentionally pass down faith is a clear choice families needs to make. The next step is to make preparations to act on this decision.
Think hard about how to communicate your decision to do intentional faith activities with your family. Many times when parents make a decision to change what their family does, they will inform their children and spouse of the change, but often won’t know how to explain it in a way that motivates and inspires them. They need to hear about this change in a way that will make them excited and agreeable to participating in faith activities.
Have a discussion. It doesn’t have to be a formal sit down discussion, but a change of this size does require your spouse’s input and ideas as well as the input of older children (5th grade and up). Discuss the following: (1) What faith activities will you do? (2) How often you will do them? (3) What time will you do them? (It is important to gather input from older children for these three questions. If you encounter resistance with older children, make it clear that your family will be doing faith activities, but let them decide what you do, what time you do it, and how long it will last) (4) What role does each spouse play in implementing these activities? (5) What resources or prompts will you need in order to get started on something like this? (Keep in mind that this may take a time on your part, but growing the faith of your children may require your faith to grow in the process) (6) Lastly, set a start date. It is easy to have good intentions, but if you set a start date, your whole family will have time to mentally prepare to do the faith activities.
Ask yourself, “What will faith activities look like in your home?” Some may find it difficult to even imagine this. The Intentional yet Casual approach works best for most families. This means making firm commitments to do faith activities regularly, but allowing flexibility and a relaxed atmosphere within those activities. Your children will not respond well if this is a “sit down and be quiet lecture” activity; however, remaining intentional and consistent are necessary to make a lasting spiritual impact. Being intentional begins with your mindset. It means to continually be searching for those moments to bring up Christ and faith in your regular, day-to-day moments. When you are searching for these moments, they seem to come up much more frequently then you ever realized in the past and make it much easier to do faith activities without resistance in your home when your children already know you are sincere and genuine in your own faith.
Do a mental walk through of how you want your faith activity to go. If you are nervous or uncomfortable about doing something like this, do an optimistic mental walk through of how your faith activity will go before doing it with your family. Gaining a little confidence will help you feel more comfortable about doing faith activities on a regular basis.
There is no substitute for actually doing these faith activities with your children. At some point you must stop thinking and preparing and just do your chosen faith activity. Sometimes it just takes that first activity to break the ice. Do not get too discouraged if the first one does not go so well. Keep it going and adjust as you go along.
Your children don’t need an expert on faith, they need you. You don’t need to be perfect while doing faith activities, in fact, it is better that you are not. Your children need to know that your faith is real. If they see you mess up or exhausted during a faith activity . . . great! This lets your family know that faith is real and worth pursuing even during circumstances that are not ideal. Children learn a lot from their parents who discuss their own faith challenges and how they resolve these issues through their faith in God. Teachable moments can be just as much about the parent's difficulties as they are about the child's tough times. Keep in mind that children and teens are very reactive and are typically not very good at communication. If you encounter consistent resistance to faith activities, this is usually their attempt to tell you “I don’t like this, can we try something else?”, "Your pushing this on me, lighten up," or "Stop lecturing and just listen or ask me what I think for once." Simply vary your approach and ask them for their opinion. If you have older children you can even ask them to lead one. Watch carefully as they will communicate their preference in style and approach by how they lead. Allow them to be blunt with you so that your faith time with them improves. For children younger than 5 years old, it may be as simple as getting on the floor and playing with them. They communicate best through play and will show you a lot about their inner world by the way they play. Acting out Bible stories and having their action figures or dolls pray or talk about God can teach them a lot about faith and how to treat other people in the Christ-like way.
Maintaining faith activities can be difficult. It is important that each family makes faith activities a routine and a priority. If you need to set an important meeting at work, no employee would say, “Well, if it happens it happens, but let's not schedule anything.” Important meetings are placed on calendars with purpose and strategy. If you have trouble getting into a habit, then set up a system of reminders. For example, place a reminder on your mirror in the bathroom, on the refrigerator, or set an alarm on your phone to remind you to start your faith activity. Do whatever it takes for this to become a routine and part of the culture of your family.
Read. We have listed several books on our website. Keep reading on the subject of faith and family. This will give you great ideas and will place the idea of imparting faith on the forefront of your mind.
Talk about it. Find another parent who is committed to doing faith activities. Talk with them about sharing ideas and helping each other to consistently pass down faith.
Keep track of progress. Some parents may find it useful to keep a journal or blog about their imparting faith experiences. This can be quick and simple notes about the activity and how it went. It can also track how your children are responding to your new approach at home. After several months, consider the following: Have you noticed your children are asking more about God, communicating more with your about their challenges, making better decisions with friends or school? Do you feel more natural about speaking with your children now than you did 6 months ago? How has your own faith grown through this process? What challenges have you had and do you need to seek some encouragement from others in your situation? Are you feeling worn out or discouraged? If so, consider altering your approach at home or re-evaluating your own faith and whether you have been insincere in your approach.