I remember being so pregnant that I had to do a three-point turn to roll over in bed. I remember each child in utero, sending me barmy, hiccuping for hours. I remember singing (tunelessly) and sharing my parental dreaming with my bump.
I remember the agony of anticipation, until finally the angel-faced infant arrives and gazes deeply into our soul and proclaims itself the centre of our universe. How right they are. We croon endless lullabies, walk for miles up our hallway in Uggies and rock that cot on wheels till our arms are as pumped as Arnie Schwarzenegger. So many of those first months of being a parent are a blurr of feeding, burping and bottoms.
Powerful imprinting takes place during those first few months as we express love to our child.
All too soon we are teaching our kids to stay upright on a two-wheel bike and find ourselves competing with sports, TV, Tamagotchis and homework, for time to be heard. Days become a blur of SMS, lip gloss, music practice and soccer. Music devices are a permanent auditory tumour. How can they—and their friends—eat as fast as we can shop and outgrow their clothes faster than the fashion revolution?
But there is a more important question: While we try to generously supply our progeny with life's necessities, are we also preparing them spiritually for life?
Children are like bowls of warm, molten chocolate. One of the greatest and most rewarding parental purposes is to imprint our children spiritually.
Melted chocolate hardens into whatever shape it is dispensed into.
If I tipped a bowl of melted chocolate onto the floor without a mould, I would have a wasteful, purposeless mess. If I pour the chocolate purposefully into a God-shaped mould I will have helped make something worth raving about. The key to the emergence of a new generation of spiritual giants is a family revolution by spiritual mothers and fathers. “Nothing influences a child more than his home (mould) and what he (or she) is exposed to there. This holds true regarding spiritual things as well. Parents must be actively involved in a child's spiritual growth. They cannot afford to leave it to others, even superb church youth workers.” 1
spiritual coaching at home
With the privilege of parenting comes the responsibility of being a spiritual coach. Psalm 78:5, 6 says, “He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them ... and they in turn would tell their children.” Do not assume that our children will simply soak up spirituality by association within a Christian family, school or church.
“This must not be taken for granted; while children and young people learn from modelling they observe, it is also true that these younger members of the Lord's family need individual attention and opportunity to be personally introduced to Him.” 2 Children who are moulded listen to the Spirit of God. This practice plays a vital role in developing childlike faith into the sort of faith that explodes contagiously into the streets and draws others into God's arms.
It is never too early or too late to make a difference in our child's Jesus journey. Having said that, there are also ideal windows of opportunity where children tend to be more receptive to spiritual influence. The ideal time for any individual to accept Christ as their Saviour is in childhood, before the melted chocolate hardens. A century ago, one writer put it this way: “It is in these early years that the affections are the most ardent, the heart most susceptible for improvement.” 3 More recently, researcher George Barna has published similar findings, showing people accepting Jesus Christ as their Saviour in relation to their age. Children aged from 5-13 years have a 32 per cent probability of accepting Jesus; where children aged 14-18, show only a 4 per cent probability; our progeny that are older than 19 years, 6 per cent. 4
As a mother mallard duck crouches over her eggs, she daily orchestrates a cacophony of duck speak to her elliptical progeny. As their little ears rise into the air space of the egg, they tune into her voice. Each duckling needs to know its mother's voice to survive in a world full of predators.
So too, when our children are imprinted with a loving family environment, it encourages them to tune into the Holy Spirit. “Every family exudes a forceful spiritual atmosphere that surrounds each member and either draws him or her toward God or repels... .
This spiritual atmosphere is one of the most powerful influences on the growth of mature faith in children of Christian families.” 5
all things build on love
As parents our role as spiritual mentors has many facets. First and foremost we need to be in a strong relationship with God. We will not be able to spiritually guide our children until we submit to God. Until we become the kind of person He wants us to be, we will not be able to fully give our self to others as we will have little to give. We need to fill our soul vertically before giving horizontally. Connecting ourselves to God is the foundation of family revolution.
We need to build strong relationships with our kids, and the basis for a solid relationship with our children is unconditional love. 6 Purposefully filling our children's emotional “love tank,” affects their receptivity. Children need time spent one-on-one with each parent.
Get up early and go for a walk, have hot chocolate in a cafe or jump on the trampoline together, just the two of you. Leave notes under their pillow, in their pockets or lunch box just saying, “I love you and think you are great.”
living on purpose
We need to actively participate in their spiritual growth. “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” 7 Our kids need to have a purpose that extends beyond rolling out of bed in the morning. Spiritual training is not an after-school activity, it is an integral part of life.
Have a regular family worship. “In a typical week, fewer than 10 per cent of parents who regularly attend church with their kids read the Bible together, pray together (other than mealtimes) or participate in an act of service as a family unit. Even fewer families—1 out of 20—have any type of worship experience together with their kids.” 8
Attend church as a family. Reinforce biblical teachings and ask questions to check their understanding. Ask “What was new to you?” Take your Bible and look up the texts in church, take notes.
Mentor willingness to learn about spiritual matters. Study the Bible with your children and help them learn Bible verses. Encourage their questions. If you can't answer their questions, use resources such as a commentary with your child to find answers. Be involved in an intergenerational small group.
Encourage your children to discover and use their talents to serve. Involve them in your service to others and invite them to find a form of service they enjoy.
Ask local church to equip and encourage families in their spirituality. Ask for seminars, sermons and resources. Read and share books and websites. Get together and pray, form mothers groups and have BBQs.
We need to model that learning about God is not a body of information but a lifestyle. “Children need to learn the facts about God in an environment where they see the lifestyle being lived out around them. They know the teaching of their parents is true because they see it validated every day.” 9 The implications of being a spiritual leader to our children are challenging and enormous. The strategy of fathers and mothers leading their children to taking Jesus as their best friend, is a family revolution and the first step toward church and community revolution.
1. R Campbell, How to Really Love Your Child , Victor Books, 1992, page 137.
2. K Flowers and R Flowers, Family Evangelism , Department of Family Ministries, 2003, page 74.
3. E White, Review and Herald , December 17, 1889.
4. G Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions , Regal Books, 2003.
5. D J Habenicht, How to Help Your Child Really Love Jesus , Review and Herald, 1994, page 156.
6. R Campbell, How to Really Love Your Teenager , Victor Books, 1992, page 24.
7. R Warren, The Purpose Driven Life , Zondervan, 2002, page 30.
8. G Barna, op cit, page 78.
9. L Jenkins, Shouting in the Temple , Touch Ministries, 2000, page 26.