Learning how to help your child grow spiritually as a Christian isn’t hard, but will take a little thought and persistence!
A recent study conducted by Lifeway found the top 3 common denominators in families where the kids continued in their faith as adults.
- Bible reading
- and serving.
All three of these can, and should be developed as faith routines in families, and will help your kids connect with Jesus in meaningful ways. They are not the only ways to grow spiritually, but they are foundations.
How to help your child grow spiritually: build a strong foundation
Essentially, what you’re doing with young kids is creating a foundation of faith. You can also think of this as building a solid bone structure for a life of faith.
Imagine one of those model skeletons that show up in biology labs across the globe: without those bones, our bodies would die. Without ribs, our lungs would be crushed, without limbs our bodies wouldn’t move, and without a skull, our brains would be smushed!
While bones are not the only things we need for a functioning body, they certainly are crucial.
1) How church helps build the bones of faith
One of the easiest ways to incorporate faith routines into your family life is simply to get up on Sunday mornings (or stay up on Saturday evening!) and go to church together.
We go to church because it’s the place we worship together, learn together, give together, encourage each other together, experience the Lord’s Supper together. Going to church is about being with the Bride of Christ, and making her a priority.
I am always telling myself and my kids that the routine of going to church each Sunday is part of their faith formation. It’s easy to sleep in and miss church. (We’ve done this too!) But it’s important to do it consistently.
Without the routine, we don’t get the benefits of experiencing faith within the corporate body of Christ.
“We don’t continue to gather on Sundays simply out of habit or to maintain a tradition. We gather as a church because God is creating a people, not just billions of individuals on independent, parallel journey.”Aaron Niequist, The Eternal Current (See on Amazon)
2) How Bible reading helps our children grow spiritually
“But where do we begin? The research helps us see that we need not look further than God’s Word. Read it. Read it consistently. Read it together. Talk about it. Apply it to your life. And don’t shy away from any of it. In the words of AW Tozer, ‘Nothing less than the whole Bible can make a whole Christian.’”“Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith” by Jana Magruder.
Reading the Bible together, either directly from the Bible or through family devotions is the primary way to enrich your child’s faith.
This is the reason I wrote Wise for Salvation; that young children might be engaged on a regular basis in their own learning styles, in multi-sensory ways of connecting with God’s story.
Older children can read the Bible with you. My 9 year old and I slowly read through the books of Luke and Acts this year, alternating with a devotional book he likes. I have also read through the book of Mark with all three of my boys. At the time, they were 3, 6, and 8 years old.
Family Bible reading can look different in each family.
Perhaps, like mine, you’ll choose to read an entire book together at the breakfast table. (Find out how we established that habit!)
Or maybe you need to read small chunks with each child, individually.
What follows are several resources for helping your kids truly engage in reading the Bible, particularly if they are young or squirmy.
- A Bible study book for ages 2-6
- The Power of Simple Spiritual Habits
- 9 Totally Awesome Ways to Read the Bible With Your Kids
- The 10 Best Bible Storybooks For Your Family
- 2 Ways To Tell If A Devotional Is Legalistic/Moralistic
3) How prayer helps our kids grow spiritually
Prayer can be tricky, and is a lot harder for some people than for others. One of my sons talks to God about everything, and another has refused to pray out loud since he was a toddler. My eldest likes to sit and listen for the Lord.
To help my kids establish a habit of prayer, first I needed to help them understand what to say. To to this, I use a prayer pattern. I start each section with the introductory line, the children repeat it and then finish the sentence with their own words.
- Wow God, you are…
- I am sorry for…
- Please help…
- Thank you for…
Following this prayer pattern has made such a huge difference in our family prayers. When I use this pattern, my middle son (the prayer refuser) usually will break his spoken-prayer-strike and join us.
If your kids are ready to think more abstractly, you can use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern as well.
- A Simple Way To Help Kids Pray (+ free printables!)
- FREE resource: access my downloadable prayer templates library!
- Toddler prayer: a primer for Christian families
- How to Make the Most of Bedtime Prayer for Toddlers
- 12 Ways to Show Christ To My Kids Everyday
4) How annual traditions help our children grow spiritually
I grew up in a very loving Christian home, but we did not have a lot of faith-traditions aside from going to church multiple times per week. Our church did not emphasize anything beyond “personal devotions”, and even as a teen I felt something lacking in my spiritual life. One year I even made an advent wreath and persuaded my family to light advent candles, but it did not become a tradition until I had my own little ones.
Thankfully, my children really look forward to Advent and Lent because they know there will be weeks of celebration and tradition, not just a single day of celebration. In fact, last Lent we did this thing with the beans and my 3 year old was talking about it for months!
Other annual traditions worth marking as a family include Pentecost, Epiphany, Passover, as well as International Day of Prayer for ______ .(you can fill in the blank with almost anything – human trafficking, the persecuted church, the environment, the peace of Jerusalem…)
- Click here for several resources about celebrating Advent with kids
- Click here for several resources about observing Lent with kids
But sometimes your child needs more…
These particular structures of faith are REALLY great for a child with a Traditionalist spiritual temperament. These are kids with a deep need for routines and rituals.
Learning how to help your child grow spiritually isn’t always easy, because some kids need different faith routines to grow their faith. Some kids need to take regular worship breaks out in nature. Some need to sit and contemplate the love of God in the darkness. Some need to wave a worship flag high!
These different spiritual personalities are called Sacred Pathways in Gary Thomas’ book, “Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God.” In it, he describes the 9 different ways adults can connect with God. Read my article on 3 ways to find God through tradition for yourself.