Sometimes I wonder if we are dishonest with our kids about God.
Now hear me, I don’t think we are usually intentionally dishonest, but we are dishonest nonetheless.
Think about some of the things that we say all the time.
“Miracles happen every day.”
“God will answer your prayer.”
“You don’t need to be afraid because God is with you.”
“Do you want to ask Jesus into your heart?”
“Jesus is a forever friend.”
Of course, all these statements have some truth to them, and I believe parents are very well-meaning when they say them to their kids. But think about what expectations we create in our kids; expectations that even the Bible doesn’t have of God.
For example, “Miracles happen every day” is actually false. Miracles by definition are fairly rare in the regular order of things. I know what Christians mean when they say this, they are talking about the miracle of life. The sustaining peace of God. But to a kid, miracles are by definition healing blind people, walking on water, angels visiting people, and so on. And those kinds of miracle certainly don’t happen to us every day, if ever!
Of course God is sustaining the world (Hebrews 1:3)! And miracles DO happen. But the language we use can cause real disappointment for kids when their miracle doesn’t happen.
What about “God is with you, so you don’t need to be afraid”? Does that mean if I am afraid (a common experience throughout life and scripture!) that God isn’t with me? Or does it mean that if I am afraid that something is wrong with me or that I’m not a good Christian? And what does it mean that God is with me anyways? I can’t see Him! Where is He?
And then we come to the very complex issue of where God actually resides when a person becomes a believer. This idea that God lives in our hearts isn’t in scripture and is hard to understand for a child. I much prefer saying that when we give choose to become a Christian, that means that we follow Jesus. It means that He is our leader and our boss! Maybe it’s not a huge deal for you (I’m prone to overthinking), but I like talking in ways that line up with scripture!
(P.S. I found a great short article on precisely this topic when I was doing some research for this blog. Click HERE to get it!)
I don’t want to cause parents to have this fear that they are messing up their kids, but I do want parents to be aware of the things they communicate to their children. And I also know full well that the way we talk to our littles about faith is different than our tweens and is different that how we talk to teens!
But remember, our words have power! And when those words form expectations of something as important as faith, we need to make sure the words are accurate.
So what do kids need if they are going to fall in love with an invisible God and give their lives to serve Him?
Teach About the Reality of Faith
Something that might help our kids understand God is to understand that everyone lives with faith every single day.
Every. Single. Day.
For example, when they sat at the table this morning, they had faith that the chair would hold them up. When their dad pushed them on the swing, they had faith that he wouldn’t push them so high that they fall and hurt themselves. We have faith in the other driver’s on the road. We have faith in our teachers at school.
Sometimes that trust is good and sometimes we put our trust in things that end up harming us. But that doesn’t change the fact that if we never trust anyone or anything that life will become quite miserable!
Now ask them, why don’t they worry about the chair collapsing under them at the table? It’s because they have sat in it a hundred times already.
The longer something proves itself to be reliable the MORE we trust it! The same is true for God. The longer I am a Christian and see that He does what He promised, the more I trust Him.
We must teach our kids to take a longer view, which is a very hard thing for them to understand and do! Still, that is the reality of faith. We all have it, we all need it, and it takes a long time to grow strong.
Put Them into A Place To Experience The Holy Spirit
Because God is invisible, we need to help our kids experience the Holy Spirit.
In my life, the most powerful moments have happened when I got out of my routine and into an intense experience. Camp is a good example of this. For me, it was mission trips as a teenager. It is the retreats where our kids have more intentional worship times than just in the routine of church.
Pray about a place where you can get your kids out of their routine and experiencing God in a new way. It will build their faith.
Give Them A Biblical Foundation
We have to be careful that our faith isn’t limited to feelings.
See, I believe because I have carefully thought through my faith and the alternatives to my faith. The wonderful experiences I have had with the Holy Spirit are fairly rare in the grand scheme of things, and it is reason that sustains me in the gaps between experiences.
When I read my Bible, I see people who had experiences with God followed by long gaps. Yet they found a way to sustain their faith in the desert!
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT2) says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
It goes on to say, Hebrews 11:2 (NLT2) “Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.”
This is why we read our Bibles; the people can show us what it means to have confidence in the things we hope for and what we cannot see!
This means we need to engage our minds and have more reasons to believe than just a good feeling at camp. We need to reason through the scripture and arrive at a confident belief in what scripture says, even if it is difficult to believe it at times.
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Associate Pastor – Southland Church
Thom has worked with children and youth for 18 years. He and his wife, Tara, have 7 kids; 4 boys, and two daughters and a SON-IN-LAW(!). The kids are spread across 23 years too, so that gives him plenty of experimental material to write about! They have welcomed 31 foster children into their home over the past number of years.