Yesterday I considered the amazing reality that God wants to encounter your children and mine. Today I'd like to offer seven suggestions for how we can encourage our kids to encounter Him.
Read God's Word to them. “The Word of God is living and powerful…” (Hebrews 4:12). I've certainly experienced the power of God's Word in my own life, but I've also seen its power in the lives of my children. Through regular time spent in the Bible together, my five-year-old daughter realized she wasn't a Christian and that she needed to be saved from her sin. Later, the same daughter became strongly convicted after we read a particular passage about a deceiving son, which prompted her to confess brokenly. I can't think of a more important habit for Christian parents than personally reading the Bible with their children on a regular basis.
Teach them to pray. These lessons can start in young toddlerhood and should progress as children age. Pray with them. Let them mimic your prayers. Be bold! Ask God for specific things, and don't neglect to point out His answers!
Just yesterday, my husband called stating that a particular dashboard light was on in his car, which indicated that the transmission would likely need to be replaced. My children and I prayed first of all that Daddy would be safe; but then we took it a step further and prayed that the light would go off and that the car wouldn't need a costly repair. Later that same morning, the car's light went off, and there have been no more problems with it! This was a direct answer to our prayers — proof that God exists, and that He hears us…that He's strong enough to help us, and good enough to want to. What a valuable lesson for children to learn!
Encourage them to read God's Word for themselves. As children age, keep reading God's Word with them, but encourage them to also spend time reading it for themselves. In elementary years, a chart may be helpful. For older children, remind them often to make their time with God part of a daily routine. Ask them what God has been teaching them. Though God intends for parents to be their children's primary human teachers, there's no better Teacher than the Holy Spirit and no better text than God's Word.
Help them learn to ponder. Meditating on God's Word might be the most neglected aspect of Christian living today. “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). “I will ponder all Your work, and meditate on Your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:12).
Reading God's Word is important; but we get the most benefit from reading in a slow-down-and-take-my-time kind of way, rather than a get-it-done-and-check-it-off-my-list kind of way. Practice pondering as you read the Bible with your children; I'm often guilty of hushing my kids' questions because I want to get through a particular portion. But the questions they're asking are proof that they're pondering! Stop frequently as you read and ask your children what the text means, what it says about our God, and how they can apply it in their lives. Use questions about God to start conversations on road trips or during quiet times. Time spent meditating on God and His Word is never wasted!
Limit their distractions. We ought to limit electronics for our young children; as they age, we need to teach them to enforce limits for themselves. (This implies that we're limiting distractions in our own schedules!) There are so many “voices” vying for our children's attention — voices which have been carefully crafted to catch the ears and capture the hearts of our vulnerable young ones. Unless kids have some quiet time free from distractions on a regular basis, their ears won't be cultivated to hear the still, small voice of the One they really need to hear.
The voice of God came to Samuel at night, when there were no distractions. I wonder if Samuel would've heard God's voice as readily if he had been playing one last game on his ipod before going to sleep?
Keep margins in their schedules. I'm convinced that one of the primary enemies of a devoted Christian life is busyness. We thrive on being busy; we like the feeling of accomplishing lots of things. We also teach our children to thrive on busyness from a very early age. Ballet lessons for toddlers, rec sports for preschoolers…and the activities multiply exponentially as kids age. Music lessons, karate, gymnastics, art class, church activities, family functions…Whew! We're constantly hopping from one activity to the next, filling up our kids' time and attention with lots of things.
But you know what? Lots of things aren't the one needful thing (Luke 10:42). There's certainly nothing wrong with social outings or extracurricular activities; but we must guard our time and our schedules carefully, and teach our children to do the same. Empty margins of time in our schedules leave us free to ponder, free to consider, free to serve others when unexpected needs arise — all of which propel us toward encountering our God.
Show them a real relationship with God. This is an important prerequisite for all of the previous suggestions. Let your children see you prioritizing your own time with God. Cultivate a relationship with God that is not only duty, but delight. Let them see that your faith isn't about following rules or performing at a certain level. It's about engaging in a relationship that is as real as the one you share with your husband, with your best friend, and with your children. When your children see you encountering God and the difference it makes in your life, it might just launch them toward encountering Him for themselves.
How do you encourage your children to encounter God? Please share by leaving a comment below!