While the primary responsibility to teach your child about God is yours, the importance of a church community to keep your child’s faith strong (and yours, too!) cannot be overstated. Here’s why:
First, when the importance of gathering with God’s people becomes replaced with the importance of sports, recreation, or something else, kids learn to worship those things rather than God. You’re effectively teaching your child, “We worship soccer (or baseball, or cheerleading, or…) most of all.” I’m not talking about occasionally missing church, but rather, consistently making choices where other things come first. You can’t make church a second-place priority, then scratch your head in confusion when your college-aged kid stops going to church.
Second, when your child reaches the teen years, parental influence often takes a back seat, for a time. You need other godly people to speak into, and influence, your child’s life. Your child needs godly friends. Your child needs wise, loving, godly mentors. The best place to find what your child needs is church.
If you want to keep your child’s faith strong, find a healthy, life-giving, Bible-teaching, Christ-centered church, and go on a regular basis. And make church days fun! You want your kids to have happy memories associated with God and God’s people. It’s a habit that will reap benefits for years to come.
6. Pray for your child and your child's faith.
One of the most impactful things parents can do is pray for their child. We started the practice of praying out loud for our kids at bedtime when our children were infants, and continued through high school. We kept our prayers simple, positive, and encouraging (not corrective prayers like, “Help her be nice to her sister”).
Over the years, we prayed for everything from, “help him have happy dreams” to, “help her find a godly friend, who will be fun, too.” In addition to praying for their immediate needs, like good dreams, good friends, and good grades, we prayed for their spiritual life, too. Pray for your child’s faith. Pray for his salvation. Pray for her walk with Christ. Pray he’ll be strong in his faith, and be an influencer for Christ. Pray she’ll be a Christ-like leader in her generation. Your prayers build your child’s faith, so pray! If you don’t, who will?
7. Know your child's culture and your child's friends.
In previous generations, this one was easy. Not anymore. With the advent of the Internet, knowing who and what influences our child can be a mystery. This requires vigilance, which can be hard for parents who are often stretched to the point of exhaustion. Still, if you want your child to keep his faith, you must know what influences are affecting—or even hindering—his faith.
How do you do this? Get to know your child’s friends well. Know their families. Monitor your child’s social media feeds and Internet use. Know what your child watches and listens to. Don’t assume anything. Don’t be afraid to say, “No, that stuff is not okay,” and be ready to explain why. Keep the lines of communication open so you can discuss how culture affects our faith.
8. Share your own faith story.
This is an often overlooked, but tremendously powerful component of helping our kids keep their faith. Do your children know your faith story? Do they know how you came to believe? Who or what influenced you? What helped you grow? What obstacles you overcame? What regrets you hope they avoid?
Do your children know your testimony?
They should. Because your story is part of their story.
When you share your faith journey, it makes faith personal. Concrete. Intimate. Real. Of course, you’ll want to keep your story age-appropriate. But still, don’t assume your children know about how your faith came to be. Tell them.
9. Teach your kids to respect you now, so they'll know how to respect God later.
To a child, a parent is the ultimate authority. How they relate to you determines how they will relate to other authority figures—including God. When we lovingly teach our kids to respect us, and follow our instructions, we help them learn how to honor God, and follow His instructions. A child who is consistently allowed to rule the roost in his home will find it difficult to allow God to rule and reign in his heart.
One word of caution: in your quest to teach respect, don’t use Scripture as a weapon. God’s Word is meant to be a lamp to our feet, not a two-by-four to whack over our heads. I’ve heard parents mistakenly use Bible verses to shame their kids to obey. Do everything in your power to make God’s Word something your kids love, not something they dread. Hold it out as the Word of Life—because it is.
10. Above all, love.
Your child’s faith journey might take a turn or two. Don’t panic. And do not take it personally. Though difficult to do, resist the urge to panic or make your child’s struggle personal, so you’ll have the clarity you need to respond wisely.
If your child or teen doubts or loses his faith, let it drive you to your knees. Pray like your child’s life depends on it. But don’t stop there. Love like your child’s life depends on it.
While it may not look like it in the moment, when your child’s faith falters, your faith has the opportunity to grow. You have the opportunity to be more Christ-like than you’ve ever been, because you are required to show love in ways you never have.
What love looks like will depend on the needs of your child. But as you seek wisdom, hold on to this: Above all, love.
Then let God write your child’s story, even as He writes your own.
Donna Jones is the mom of three young adult, Jesus-loving kids, who frequently sit on her kitchen counter just to chat. She and her pastor-hubby, JP, planted Crossline Church in Laguna Hills, CA in 2005. Donna is a national speaker who’s shared God’s Word with folks in 20 states and on four continents, and is the author of three books, including Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God. Connect with Donna at www.donnajones.org, on twitter @donnajonesspeak, or on Instagram @donnaajones.