When a couple first learn they are going to be parents – it is thrilling and wonderful and scary and overwhelming. What do we need to know to be ready for this big task, this big responsibility? Parents learn that there are so many things that kids need to know to be fully equipped to navigate and succeed in this world. We want them to learn safety, etiquette, life skills, and foundations to build on for further learning. We want them not only to learn about God but to integrate their faith into all aspects of their life. (It is a charge, a command that we are given in scripture Deuteronomy 6: 4-8). And while we are working to disciple our children; we still have a marriage, job, extended family and friends, a home, our own faith walk and service as well as other things to be responsible for. It is quite a balancing act of our time, money, talents, and patience. How do we fit it all in? How do we do it all well?
Here are a 7 Simple Steps to Teaching your Children about Jesus
Teach as you go: Many times the best lessons are learned as you go. When an event, problem, success or challenge is in front of your family, it can prove to be a wonderful opportunity to weave in faith conversations.
• Example: When someone has been mean to your child. You can help them learn to pray for those whose actions have been hurtful to them. You can ask God to help us counter that behavior with the love of Christ.
Be Intentional: Don’t just wait for those great opportunities to teach your kids, create opportunities. There has to be intentionality in sharing and teaching faith to our children. They need to know that it is important.
• Example: The dinner table is a great place to offer a short Bible verse or lesson. (Keep it short) and allow for discussion. Also include intentional prayer time at meals at bedtime, or whenever it works best for your family.
Keep It Simple: Try to keep your talks developmentally appropriate. Keeping it simple makes it easier to remember, and to repeat.
• Example: Instead of a complete Bible Story, why not ask them if they experienced God anywhere in their day. (God sights) Or offer some of your own examples and let them begin to look for ways they can see God in their ever day life.
Repeat Often: Repeat, repeat, and repeat. What is the main point you want them to learn and repeat it often in different ways.
• Example: Look for opportunities to repeat a phrase or truth. Find a Bible verse that is important and/or meaningful to your family, and integrate it often into as many activities in as many ways as you can.
• Example: When my kids were young, we would have a phrase we wanted them to learn. We would discuss it over dinner, it would be written on a poster in the bathroom, and we would look for other appropriate times and places to introduce it into the conversation/situation.
Listen: If you want to know what your children are learning, listen. Watching and listening to our kids, can provide great insight into what they understand and are willing to do with their faith. How are they applying it or are they?
• Example: Instead of filling in the blanks for our kids, let them wrestle with some of the concepts and ideas they have about God before entering the conversation. Trust God to be at work in their lives, even when you aren’t there. Ask them to tell you about their Sunday School lessons, and really listen to what they have learned. Ask them to tell you why that lesson or story is important to them. Don’t immediately give them the reason. Let them own it.
Play it Back: When you see or hear actions or attitudes that reflect Christian values and ideals encourage them.
• Examples: Watch for and encourage your kids when they integrate the love of Christ into their actions and attitudes. Speak to that value (Christian behavior you have observed). Name it. Repeat the importance (play it back) and praise them for their willingness to share that behavior/action with others. Let them know how delighted God and you are for their actions and choices.
Model it: Live it out in front of them: Many times the best lessons are not taught, they are caught. Kids watch others apply God’s love to their lives, and they have an “Ah Ha” moment. So that’s how you do it? Remember however, the reverse is true too. If kids see others not living out Christian behavior, that can send mixed signals and can be very confusing. For us and for them, it is essential that we take time for our own spiritual development so that we can live a life worthy of emulating. Look at I Corinthians 11: 1. The Apostle Paul reminds us to follow him as he follows Christ. Additionally, we are going to mess up. Even our failures can serve as a lesson on confession, forgiveness and God’s provision. Additionally when we fail, we can teach our children how to recover from their own falls. Be the example that will help them know and be more like Christ. Let them see that Jesus is important in your life. Let your life be a model for them to learn from.
• Example: When our children see us read our Bible, pray, serve, and attend Church, they know that we value these things. When we include unconditional love and care into our daily lives, they see our words and actions matching, and making sense. We are all going to mess up, but we can use our weakness to show Christ’s strength, and our dependence on Him. Confession and forgiveness are wonderful lessons for all of us to learn together.
1. Teach as you go- Life happenings provide a walking witness of God to us, Use them!
2. Be Intentional- Provide opportunities for faith conversations
3. Keep it simple – Refined to age-level understanding. Make sure they understand it and can repeat it, often!
4. Repeat – Repeat simple phrases or scripture verses often, in a variety of ways
5. Listen – Don’t try to feed the answer to your kids, let them wrestle with their faith and own it. Listen for clues of confusion, that need redirection or clarification.
6. Play it Back- Watch for examples of Christian behavior lived out in your family and encourage it. Repeat and name that Christ like quality/behavior.
7. Model: Let your kids’ see you grow and work out your faith in front of them. (This will happen anyway, just be aware of what lessons they may learn about God from you.)
Think about your family. What are some of things you are doing to share faith with one another? Would love to hear what works for you. What works for you might also work for someone else. Email me your comments, or ideas!
Lori Ferguson serves as Children's Director at NUMC, and has been at the church since 2015. When she's not planning or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids. Read more about Lori here.