Recently I was asked by a mom of a pre-teen if she should force her child to read his Bible, have a daily devotional time, quiet time, whatever you want to call it. I think what she really wanted to know was how to lead her son to “own his faith.” She just wasn’t sure how to put words around that. She thought maybe forcing Bible reading and prayer time might be the path that leads there.
I suppose it’s possible there is a kid out there who would respond positively to that approach. I didn’t have one.
While I’ve never encountered a perfect formula that I think would work for every kid, I have a few suggestions for leading your children to own their faith and move toward a desire to spend time reading the Bible and praying – developing intimacy with their Heavenly Father.
- Model it.
- Encourage it.
- Make it easy.
Model it. Stop for a moment and ask yourself if you’re modeling for your kids what an intimate relationship with Christ looks like. Do they see you consistently spending time alone with God? Do you shoo them away when they accidentally interrupt your quiet time, or do you invite them in? Do they ever see a verse of Scripture that you’re trying to memorize stuck to your bathroom mirror or dash of your car? Have you ever shown them a journal entry for something you’re praying about? Have they ever overheard a conversation you’ve had with someone about something God is teaching you or an area in which you feel He’s stretching you? Have you shared with them what God might be doing in your heart, even regarding being a better parent? Let them SEE what God is accomplishing in you through your time alone with Him. Model it.
Encourage it. Sometimes our kids simply need our suggestions in order to begin thinking in a certain direction. As parents, we tend to know our kids pretty well. Is your child a morning or evening person? Start there with a simple suggestion of the time of day they might consider. Word of caution: there is a difference between occasional suggestions and nagging. Recruit your son or daughter’s small group leader to help you encourage a regular quiet time. Often our kids respond better when someone else throws an idea their way. Don’t tell anyone, but occasionally we resorted to bribing our kids to read certain books or listen to certain messages. I didn’t say that…
Make it easy. Does your child have an age appropriate Bible of his or her own? We started really early having a Bible beside each of our kids’ beds. Early on, it was mostly picture Bibles with short Bible stories. As they learned to read, we made sure they had one they could read on their own. Every Easter, I made sure there was some great quiet time tool in their Easter basket – an age appropriate Bible if I thought maybe they had outgrown their current one, a journal once they were old enough to begin processing their thoughts and insights, cool pens and highlighters, maybe a great book or biography. For the boys, sometimes it would be a book about a sports figure, outspoken regarding his faith. Get creative and make it easy!
Don’t expect them to immediately have the same level of commitment to a quiet time that you might. Take their personalities, preferences, and maturity into account. Don’t push too hard, you already know where that leads! Simply model it, encourage it, and make it easy. In their own timing, you’ll possibly find that they inspire and challenge YOU.