Andy Robb proposes that the lifestyle decisions we make as parents - what we model regarding the things that matter to us - will have a direct impact on the value our children place on following Jesus.
When our children were younger one of the annual fixtures on our calendar was Faith Camp, a summer family camp hosted by Kingdom Faith church. One particular year our church planned a summer youth camp and, as youth leaders, this required our attendance and therefore that of our kids.
One camp per year was fine but two wasn’t something my wife and I had factored in. Typically it was one week at Faith Camp and then a week’s seaside holiday.
The youth camp was non-negotiable so we presented our plan of skipping Faith Camp that year to ensure we avoided spending two weeks of our summer under canvas. The reaction from our kids to this proposal was not what we had expected. To say that they were mortified would be an understatement. Over the years they had not only grown spiritually at Faith Camp but they’d made some great friends who were on the same spiritual trajectory. They weren’t going to miss it for the world, so two weeks under canvas it was!
Here’s the thing. Having benefited from spiritual growth opportunities provided by our church and various Christian ministries prior to having children, when our son and daughter came along we made the decision to do the same for them. And Faith Camp was just one such decision.
Having said that, we didn’t go to church or Christian events just for our kids but for ourselves as well.
As the heading to this article suggests, we model to our kids what matters. Our spiritual growth mattered to us and this needed to look like something to our kids.
You’re probably familiar with the expression that ‘our ceiling is their floor’ when speaking of wanting our children to build upon our faith and go even further than us. But it can also be the case that our ceiling is just that - the limit beyond which our kids don’t go. Put it another way. If we’re not spiritually hungry then there’s a possibility that our kids won’t be either.
Here are some things we may wish to consider by way of doing an audit of our spiritual priorities - the lifestyle choices we make that our children will take note of.
*Are we actively part of a church family or is church simply somewhere to attend when we are free or feel like it?
*Are we self-feeders with regard to the things of God? What Christian content are we reading or accessing?
*Do we have worship music on in the home or car? I’m not meaning exclusively, just sometimes.
*Do we attend Christian events or conferences or take our kids to them?
*Does how we use our money speak of God being first in our lives? For example, our children were aware that we tithed and it’s something we encouraged them to do also.
*Do our kids see us reading the Bible or hear us openly talking about God?
*Do we give thanks to God as a lifestyle - not just at meal times.
*Do our kids see us pray and do we pray as a family? For us, this sometimes looked like involving our kids in praying about key family decisions.
In all of this let’s not make this a to-do list but the intentional overflow of our personal relationship with Jesus. And all for the purpose of our children being able to see that God is at the heart of our family and what this actually looks like.
There’s another side to all of this and that’s the over committing of ourselves to church activities and ministries at the expense of our family. This kind of modelling is equally noticed by our children! Our hierarchy of priority has always been God, our marriage, our children and then church/ministry.
The idiom may tell us to ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ but I’d say that this is bad advice.
The Apostle Paul knew the value of modelling what matters. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 he said this:‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.’
Nowadays we express this in terms things being caught, not taught. In fact, both are necessary.
Being aware of what we are modelling is important but unless we are genuinely passionate about our faith - about Jesus - it will probably have a limited impact on our children. It’s a wonderful and right aspiration that our children read the Bible, pray and live godly lives but that’s only part of the picture.
As I’ve suggested already, what we model to our children has to be the overflow of our personal walk with Jesus. When we are living wholeheartedly for him - when we truly know him and love him - modelling what matters will be the most natural thing in the world.