Want to give deep roots to your kids’ faith? In today’s culture, it is critical that we build a spiritual heritage into their lives — one that will overcome the lies assaulting them from an early age and give them a lasting passion for God. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 commands us to teach our children to love God with all their hearts by nurturing their spirits continually. Here are five methods we’ve used with our family over the years that will do just that:

1. Relate things in the natural world to the spiritual world and turn the “every day” into teaching moments.

While driving on a familiar rural road one day, we saw dozens of used blue smiley-faced Wal-Mart bags — ones we had never noticed before — caught in fences, roadside bushes, and blowing across the fields. We decided to have a contest to see who could spot the most. This led to a discussion about how many lies (ones that look fun) Satan scatters around us every day that we don’t even notice unless we are looking for them.

Another time we observed a large willow tree that appeared to be dead on the lot we purchased to build a new home. As we began to prune the tree one Saturday morning, we cut away all the dead branches to reveal many living green branches underneath. In fact, when we were done, it looked like a different tree! We used this to talk about how God cuts off the dead branches in our lives, according to John 15:2, getting rid of the ones that don’t bear fruit and pruning back the ones that disguise our faith with unbecoming behaviors and character traits. The cutting away may be painful, but the results make us healthy and beautiful.

2. Feed them the Word daily.

Before starting their day, we have our kids read (or read to them) verses that are relevant to their lives, which are found in Mom or Dad’s quiet time earlier that morning. We print them out on 5X7 index cards and then have them sign the card to let us know they’ve read it. Now that our girls are older, we have even emailed verses to them and asked them to respond when they have questions or comments. Verses are kept in a notebook that can be reused and will also remind our kids later how we consistently built the truth into their lives.

3. Journal prayers for them and letters to them regularly.

I don’t want to forget my specific prayers for my children and God’s specific answers to those prayers, so I use a separate notebook or blank journal for each child. When they become adults, I plan on handing over these journals to them so they will be able to see a tangible record of both my love for them and God’s faithful answers on their behalf.

Writing brief letters and thoughts to them (in the same journal) is a great way to record your feelings and observations about them, and will be a reminder to them of significant spiritual events. Someday they will understand “your side of the story” when they read about your love and desire to do what was best for them, especially during difficult times or conflicts. You will feel better too, just getting your heart and motives down on paper.

4. Serve together to build mercy, compassion, and action into the lives of our little ones.

As a family, we’ve dressed up as clowns to visit people in the hospital (we purchased inexpensive clown suits in flea markets and yard sales), spent Thanksgiving dinner serving the homeless in a local shelter, secretly delivered care packages to people we knew who were down and out, and cleaned homes for people who were injured or sick. One time we planned a surprise getaway dinner for a busy couple we knew. After they left for dinner, we cleaned their house, lit candles, put on romantic music, and brought their kids to our house for the night — an additional surprise when they got home.

5. Shock them with important spiritual lessons.

We really wanted to impress on our kids the seriousness of the battle raging for their hearts and minds in a world full of lies, and how important it is that they feed on God’s Word regularly. So we asked God (something we do frequently), the Source of truth and creativity, to give us a graphic object lesson.

When the idea came to us, we sat our kids down and explained to them that we had not fed our family’s pet gerbil, “Squeakers,” for a couple of days, so he was really hungry. Much to their shock and horror, we then poured a box of “D-Con” mouse killer into the cage. We explained that just like Squeakers was hungry, we too are created with a spiritual hunger for God. If we don’t fill it up with a consistent relationship with Him and His Word, our hunger is going to drive us to feed on the lies that Satan (and the world) throws our way. These lies may look like good food, but over time they will kill our faith and the awesome plans that God has for our lives. We reminded them that when it comes to wanting to ruin their lives, Satan has no pity or compassion — he is ruthless.

Afterward, we explained (to our relieved kids) that we had swapped out D-Con for harmless mouse food — Squeakers was going to be just fine. But they will never forget the lesson!

Pass the Baton

As parents, we need to make a habit of building life-saving truth into our children’s lives. With just a little creativity and attention to the opportunities around you, daily situations can be turned into powerful and memorable teaching moments. I challenge you to leave a lasting spiritual legacy — take the baton and pass it on to your children. They will thank you forever!

Copyright © 2006 Julie Ferwerda, Used with permission.

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