Character Building - My Top 6 Traits
When I was growing up in the 60’s I had a friend whose parents didn’t talk to them about Christianity. They felt it was wrong to force their faith on their kids, but parents should wait and let kids make up their own minds. Yikes! Thank goodness my mother shared her faith with me and with my siblings. Though my dad was not serving the Lord, she faithfully encouraged us to seek God’s will for our lives. Nothing less would do. I am so grateful for her teaching and example today. And if you didn’t grow up with a good example, you can be the place that the legacy begins in your family.
What do kids need to know about faith?
First of all, faith in Christ is about our sin and his sacrifice to pay for it. Read Romans 3:23 and 6:28. You have probably seen that drawing of us on one side of a cliff, God on the other. Jesus spanned the distance that we could not. No one is good enough on their own. We all have things in our lives we are ashamed of.
Don’t think that it is enough for kids to hear, “We’re ____ (Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.) Your great-grandparents were, your grandparents are, and we are. Sooner or later kids need a thinking, reasoning, searching answer for what we believe and why.
Having grown up in church and having developed my own walk with Christ, I still went through a season in my junior year of high school where I examined what my parents had taught me. I believed the Bible was true, but what if I’d grown up in a cult or something untrue? I began to search and examine and compare not only various religions, but the doctrines of my church. Were they in scripture? Or were they the teachings of well-intentioned but misled people?
Important Components of Faith
Here are some other important parts of our faith. Be prepared to explain them to your kids at an appropriate age.
· The Bible is true and authoritative
· Jesus lived a sinless life, but was tempted like we are
· Jesus died on the cross for us
· Jesus was resurrected and has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven.
· This is the way God has chosen to open the path to heaven. His heaven, his choice.
· God has a plan for your life that is wonderful and amazing. He loves you!
I believe that giving kids just enough Christianity to get by is like inoculating them to faith. They need a deep, personal, living walk to last through the trials and temptations of life. And certainly, as the culture continues to become more and more anti-Christian, it will take MORE strength to live for God than ever before.
Is the Bible rated “R?”
Read Bible stories to your children. Bible story books with pictures are good when they are young. Some Bible stories would be “R” rated – they can be a little gruesome. You may want to read the story through in advance before sharing with your children.
Talk about the characters in the Bible. Some were great people who made major mistakes. Talk about the pivot points of life when a decision can change everything in your life and in the lives of those around you. Thankfully, the Bible gives us the straight story on people, not some false, shiny fairy tale.
Show your kids Bible verses that guide your life and decisions. Show them that the Bible has real direction for our lives. A good example is:
29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
Our culture is trying very hard to separate Christianity from everyday life, and especially from public discourse. Teach your children to value God’s opinion more. Teach them that the Bible is authoritative. Teach them that God’s plan is for us to become more and more like Jesus.
29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn[a] among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29 (NLT)
Walk the Talk
Parents must start by modeling their faith. “Do as I say, not as I do’” is a sure guarantee of a child’s rebellion. Not that we are perfect or make every step exactly as God would wish us to. Kids need to see us reading out Bible, having personal devotional times, and praying (not just in emergencies). Kids see how “doing our devoes” affects us. One morning I was grouchy and had just grumped at my 10-year-old son. He said, “Mom, have you had your devoes yet?” I admitted I had not, apologized and said I would go right upstairs and do that.
A life of faith is more caught than taught. I think kids learn 2/3 from what they see you doing and 1/3 from what you say and teach them. And even that depends on what they practice and do themselves. Beware of your own inconsistency in your walk with God. Do YOU have devotional times? Do YOU talk about God as if he is a real person who is kindly overseeing your life? Are YOU growing in your faith? Talk about what you are learning from the Bible. Share about the areas where you are growing. When you have an “Aha!” moment and see a scripture that challenges your heart, share that with your kids.
As our kids were growing up our church had a 3-day fast. We wanted the whole family to be a part of this experience, but we weren’t comfortable with the children not eating, so we decided to do a “Daniel fast,” which is beans and vegetables, etc. with no meat. Kind of a simple vegetarian. It was so funny when I presented them with the stir-fry we often had – but this time with tofu instead of chicken. They felt it was hardship indeed! They got what fasting was about.
Training your children up in faith is not the job of the Sunday School teacher or the youth pastor. Make it a priority that it comes first from you, the parent.
Not sure how to find a good church? See the appendix in my book. For more parenting help go to www.IntentionalParenting.us or consider my book, Intentional Parenting: A Guide for Christian Parents. There is also a Small Group guide with discussion questions for couples or groups.