I’m sure this was what Moses meant when he said:“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9.
As I share how faith works out in our family in the everyday, please don’t imagine for one moment that we do these things every day. No, these are just some ways in which faith is expressed in our home life together. Also, please don’t assume that we skip over all the normal family moments: the shouting about socks and not wanting to go to bed. Of course we do, but I think it’s worth sharing some of the moments in which we see God building our faith together to inspire you that this can work in your home, in your family, in the middle of noisy, crazy, normal family life.
Chat about their questions
One of the things I try to do is engage with questions about faith whenever they arise. This is rarely at a convenient moment. More often than not it’s just before bed, in the supermarket or in front of people I doubt will understand our conversation. However, I know that whenever questions arise about faith, it’s best to discuss them then and there, even if it’s short and ends with: “That’s a great question. Let’s come back to it later.”
Have a (child-friendly) Bible handy
I try to have a Bible near enough that we can look things up if we want to. For example, one of my daughters got cross over Christmas because a song said that Jesus was “born at the back of an inn” and she was convinced he was born in a stable. I said: “Really?” and we looked up Luke 2 in her large-print Contemporary English Version, which I got her this year. When we got to: “She wrapped him in baby clothes…” she interrupted me with: “But it doesn’t say where he was born!” Yep. Got it. If we’re out I use a Bible app on my phone.
Have faith resources available
As well as Bibles, we also have lots of Christian children’s books mixed in with our other books. We have various resources, such as felt shapes and Playmobil, which we often use to tell or respond to stories. We also have a little collection of resources we use to share Godly Play stories together. Having these tucked away in the back of a cupboard is like keeping a guitar in the loft. The best place for a guitar if you want to play it, as musicians always say, is out. While you don’t need to keep all your resources sprawled over the floor, keeping them easily accessible for anyone to use is really helpful.
“Having resources tucked away in the back of a cupboard is like keeping a guitar in the loft”
Pray out loud
Whenever I’m chatting with God as part of our day together, I tend to pray out loud. This provides an example to copy, while also alerting my daughters to God’s presence with us. For example, I often pray as we leave the house in the car, asking God to give us a safe and easy journey, and to bless us and the people we’re meeting up with. Sometimes my children join in, but often they don’t.
If we hit a problem and I pray out loud about it, they usually join in. If we see emergency vehicles, I pray out loud for them and the people they’re helping (my brother is a paramedic so we’re more aware than other families might be about their role). I find this gentle reminder helps my children turn to God when they need help, and to acknowledge God when good things happen to us. It’s great to see how this is becoming part of the fabric of their lives at age 5 and 6.
Share Bible stories
When my daughters were younger, it was really fun introducing them to Bible stories for the first time. This was often in a children’s Bible storybook or retelling stories using toys. We still do this, but I also keep a lookout for opportunities to share a story or passage they don’t know directly from the Bible. This might be a passage I’m looking at myself, or one I think is particularly pertinent to something they’re interested in.
For example, we might look at a passage about sins being ‘white as snow’ on a snowy day. Or we might look at the tabernacle when we’re camping. This is about me reading the Bible for myself, and also listening to my children and what they’re thinking about to get a good fit.
Children love stories. And they love hearing about their parents when they were younger (“In the olden days”, as my daughter puts it!). We tell them all sorts of stories about our lives before they were born, and an important part of that is them hearing what God has done in our lives: times when he’s provided for us financially in miraculous ways, times when he’s brought just the right person into our lives, times when he’s shown us the way to go.
We can add their stories onto these, weaving their faith life into the tapestry of our family faith history so they can pass these stories on to their own children. Storytelling happens at impromptu moments in our home. If this is something you find difficult to do ad hoc, maybe spend some time recalling and writing down some of the salient points of a story. Then ask your children: “Would you like to hear about something God did in my life before you were born?”
I’ve shared ways this works for our family, and it will look different in yours. But as we seek to live out our faith together as families at home, we will begin to see faith woven into the tapestry of who we are. And that’s exciting!