Kate Orson suggests some simple and accessibly ways to make your faith known to your kids
It can sometimes feel as if the Christian world is full of families whose children have been raised in the faith since they were young. But what if you become a believer later in life when you have older children? How can you introduce the concept of God if you’ve been previously atheist or held other spiritual beliefs? How can you undo everything you’ve told them about religion and spirituality?
Maybe if you’re in the same situation you sometimes feel a sense of anxiety, and regret, that it’s too late, that it’s impossible when you have already sowed the seeds of unbelief or other belief systems. As someone who came to faith only two years ago with a ten-year-old daughter, this is a matter that is close to my heart.
Here is what I’ve learnt so far from my own experience and that of Christian parents around me.
Don’t be burdened
Firstly, as in so many areas of our life, it’s common to take the burden on ourselves to do the work alone. It’s so easy to forget that Jesus offered us the way to lay down our heavy burdens.
Prayer is the first step, praying as often as we can, laying down our fears at Jesus’s feet. As the apostle Paul says, ‘whatever is not from faith is a sin.’ (Romans 14.23) We can repent of all the ways in which we have thought or acted from a lack of faith and ask for God to intervene in our children’s lives.
An obvious suggestion would be to bring your child along to church, but that’s not always easy if they are older and are used to doing other activities on a Sunday morning, or if you have a partner who isn’t on board.
Don’t ‘force’ it
Here is our dilemma, as Jesus gave people the free choice to follow him or not, but as parents, our job is to teach, to ‘train up a child in the way they should go.’ Push it too much and a child might rebel, but avoid the God conversation entirely and we neglect our duty as parents.
Every child and set of circumstances are different, there’s no-one size fits all answer to this issue. I sometimes look around at other Christian families and feel envious. Then I started to repent of this, and remind myself that someone can be saved anywhere and at any time. It doesn’t matter if our family doesn’t look like the perfect Christian family going to church together every Sunday, what matters is that we sow the seeds of the Gospel, and tend the soil so it’s good quality.
We can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give us opportunities that are right for our family. We keep praying they’ll want to come to church or a conversation will present the opportunity to talk about Jesus.
Use natural opportunities
My daughter doesn’t come to church right now but last Christmas I used her enthusiasm about the season to sow seeds and plant little reminders about why we celebrate. I wrote out the Gospel for her in a way that I thought would suit her, and read it out on Christmas day. I try to say prayers before meals, but often forget. I started to put little quotes from the Bible on cards, and display them on the fridge. As it says in Isaiah 55.11 ‘My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void.’ Reminding ourselves of the power of God’s word can keep us optimistic.
Conversations might present opportunities to quote from the Bible or tell a Bible story. For example one day we were talking about where different languages came from and I read the story of the tower of Babel. Another day we were talking about anger and forgiveness and I read the part in Matthew where Peter asks Jesus how often we should forgive.
Other parents I spoke to have tried approaches like having worship music or Christian radio on in the background, reading a daily devotional together, or finding teen friendly sermons and resources online.
When our children go through a tough time, there is a gift in this, as we can offer to pray for them, either with them or alone later. Just this alone, reminds them that there is a God behind the scenes who is there to help when they are in trouble.
We serve a supernatural God, and sometimes seeing God work in our lives is what cements belief. Keeping a record of prayers, and noticing the ways in which they were answered can help to prove his existence to us!
Pray with others
I feel grateful to be part of a community of other Christian parents who meet regularly to talk and pray together. Hearing about other family’s struggles with belief and unbelief always keeps me inspired. Meeting other spirit-filled Christians makes me realise that what is most important is that we live our faith ourselves, our children watch and absorb it all.
Children crave community too and in a world where Christianity is frequently seen as uncool there can be a temptation to gravitate away from it. Looking for a church with a vibrant youth programme has made a difference for many teens in helping them stick close to the faith.
Keep praying and keep the faith. Jesus died for everyone, not just the happy equally yoked couples and their children. I like to remind myself of the parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20 1-16). We may have arrived late but we will all receive the same reward.