By Lauren Maggs.
What do we want for our children? Whether it’s our own children, or children under our spiritual care, we want them to have a relationship with God. We want them to understand that being a Christian is about having a relationship with God, and that it’s not primarily about being good children or well-behaved children, but about loving Jesus.
“We don’t want to get this wrong. We want our children to first understand that all outward behaviour comes from an inward change, and not that Christians are just good people.”
Let me give you an example of where this has happened. A friend of mine attended a religious school. She grew up with all the rules and knew what was ‘supposed’ to be done but she didn’t know the heart of all those rules. She didn’t know that being a Christian wasn’t about following all the rules, but about having a relationship with God first. She saw all the outward signs without knowing about the inward change. She’s not a Christian because she doesn’t want the rules of Christianity. There has been no heart change on the inside for her yet.
We must be careful that we aren’t just teaching our children about the rules without each time first pointing them to the relationship with God . We shouldn’t teach our children to be good if we have forgotten to teach them about being Christian!
If we don’t, all we will be doing is trying to change outward behaviour without affecting the heart. We will be trying to hang fruit on a dead tree.
While there is no guaranteed way to ensure that your children will have a relationship with the Lord, there are some steps we can take to point them to him:
1. I need to have a relationship with God first
Try this little exercise: tell someone about a teacher you had that was really scary. Now tell them about a member of your family that you love very much. Notice how someone’s face lights up when they are talking about someone they love? Do our faces light up when we talk about Jesus? We can’t teach children to love him if we don’t love him. We can’t teach children to have relationship with God if we don’t have a relationship with God ourselves.
It might not be that we don’t have a relationship with God, but rather that we aren’t prioritizing our relationship with God like we should. We need to teach our children about something that is already true for us.
Ask yourself if you are prioritizing meeting with other Christians, at church and at Bible study. Ask yourself if your children see you reading the Bible and talking about God. Ask yourself if your children know that you pray. These vital Christian behaviours do more than just build our own walk with the Lord, they also point our children to Christ. These practises are an expression of our own relationship with God.
2. Teach it from the Bible
The Bible is all about having a relationship with God. Everything God did was to bring us into a relationship with him. So It requires us to be thoughtful as we teach our children, constantly bringing them back to the idea that God wanted a relationship with his creation first.
Not only does the Bible speak about a relationship with God, the Bible is also God’s Word to us. His Word is powerful and effective in bringing heart change. Teaching his Word to your children is vital. Reading the Bible together joyfully and frequently is a means of teaching our children about our Father in heaven who wants us to know him.
3. Connect it with their understanding of relationships
God is spoken of as a Father; Jesus calls us friends and brothers. These are all relationships that children understand. They understand that they love their friends, brothers or dads. By tapping into their understanding of these relationships, we can help them understand a relationship with God,
We can use the example of talking to God in the same way that we can talk to our dads or our friends.
We can help them to see that a relationship with God contains elements of things we already understand – like loving someone or listening to them.
Having a relationship with God is the most beautiful privilege of being a Christian. Let’s introduce our children to this beautiful relationship, praying that one day we will be able to call them brothers and sisters in Christ too.