Following a wonderful weekend looking after my 18month old nephew recently I was chatting to his Mum and we were talking about how we can encourage and develop our children’s faith when they are very little. I had some ideas from my own parenting days and from the ministry I have been involved in with pre-schoolers. But, the question got my mind whirring and I wanted to put more thought into it.
I realised that as parents, with this current coming in and out of lockdown, church being so different and sporadic, it feels as if supporting our little ones in their faith falls back fully into our hands.
I did come up with some practical ideas but firstly I’d like to share some foundations that will support all that we then go on and ‘do’ with our little ones.
Model your faith outwardly to your children every day
This may feel strange at first but try to open the door of your relationship with Jesus to your children, however young. We can do this through our language and our actions. The way you bring Jesus into decisions you make, thoughts you have, care you give to others and the way you use your time is all modelling your relationship with Jesus to your children and they will catch this.
I will always remember my youngest daughter coming into the kitchen as I was baking and asking me if the cake I was making was for us? What had she learnt? That we can love, care and serve people by providing food for them. She was watching and seeing how we can work out our faith in care and love for others. It can come into every moment of our day. One of my favourites is car park prayers: ‘Let’s all ask Jesus to give us a car park space!’ ‘Thank you Jesus for looking after us and providing for us!’ We can model our faith even in moments of grief and sadness. It’s ok to say we are sad, it’s ok to ask your children to pray for you, it’s ok to say I’m going to ask Jesus to help me with this as I don’t know what to do. Try to come back to that with your children and share what God did do, however little. You are showing the children it’s ok to be vulnerable, to ask for help and that God does answer our prayers and support us.
Speak over your children their identity in Jesus
In a world where our children are exposed to so much so young to ‘root’ them in who they are in God from the start will establish a strength in them as they face challenges in years to come. There are many resources online that you can find that list characteristics of our identity as we live as children of God. They are easy for us to pop into everyday life and speak over our children from the day they are conceived. ‘You are so special to Jesus’. ‘You are chosen by Jesus.’ ‘You are loved by Father God.’ These words can be spoken out easily and naturally during a nappy change or post-tantrum! Of course, to speak out your love for them as well is important, especially if you have children who have faced trauma. It may initially get rebuffed, but don’t give up! ‘You are so precious to me.’ ‘I love you forever and ever.’ ‘You make me smile!’
Call out their giftings and anointings
I love seeing our little ones grow and notice their different personalities and strengths emerge. Personally, I love to call it out when I see them behaving in a way that’s not only showing God’s heart to others but in ways that also show their anointings and giftings.
My eldest daughter is so creative and loves to give gifts. She recently made little lockdown care packages for her group of girlfriends. I simply clocked this gesture and (I hope not in a patronising way as she is an adult) observed how kind and thoughtful she was being.
To encourage through ‘seeing’ what they have done validates them, builds them up and feeds their gifts, anointings and their confidence. My son is the calmest in a crisis. My daughter got her finger stuck in a glass Coke bottle (!) and while she panicked and I drove, he Googled what to do and when we got home we followed his instructions and her finger was fine. I just commented on how helpful and calming he was to us as he led us though that drama. He is training to be a policeman now!
Choose to see your child as God sees them
We all have those days, even seasons, when life is tough and we feel pulled in all directions. At times like these I have fallen back onto the truths of God’s word and His promises to me. These promises that hold the hope, faith and trust we can have in Father God are food and life to us, I’m sure you’d agree. To take a step back from the hustle and bustle with our children and pause and reflect on the season, to ask Father what He is doing, what He is saying, is a valuable tool. We can then ask Holy Spirit to show us His view and perspective over our situation and child. He may give you a word or a promise that is specifically for you to hold onto for your child. This can bring us hope and help us trust Father for our children’s today and their future. One suggestion would be to ask Father for a promise each week or month and use that to pray and speak over your child. I like to stick the verse up somewhere to remind me regularly (like on the cupboard door above where I make coffee!) When we focus on God it changes our perspective and we can start to see that maybe this loud, demanding child has a boldness and confidence God is going to use one day to be a leader in the workplace. I have touched briefly on the above 4 points and could easily expand but I hope this gives you a taste.
To ‘get going’ here are 10 practical ways we can nurture and develop our children’s faith when they are very little.
Worship together with actions. Use instruments, actions, dance, jump and more!
Worship together restfully. Take a moment maybe just before bed, to play a quieter song and find a ‘snuggly’ cushion to rest on. Just breathe and look at the Bible, a quiet toy or colour together. Acknowledge the presence of Jesus in the room. Wonder at His peace and love. (You might only do this for 15 seconds! That’s ok, you can build on the time!)
Worship together anytime, anywhere! In the car, as you play, make it part of every day.
Explore Bible stories, wonder together at what Jesus is saying and doing in each story.
Act stories out, use toys. Encourage members of the household to join in.
Create from Bible stories. There are so many ideas online to create and colour from Bible stories.
Explore the natural world together. Enjoy walking and collecting natural things around you. Thank Jesus for all He has made and given us to enjoy around us.
Have a special toy, cushion or chair that you use just for Bible time that symbolizes a special time together with Jesus.
Bubbles of course. Use them in worship or just watch and pop gently. Use them to symbolise the presence of Jesus, Father God and the Holy Spirit around you as they gently land on you.
Above all else have fun and try to end any time with Jesus before your child gets distracted. Better to keep it short and sweet than drag something on that you may feel ends in a disappointing way.
BONUS. Trust the Holy Spirit that He is leading and guiding you as you parent your child and build their faith. Father God loves your willing heart and desire to do this, do your part and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. That means there is no failure in this for you, only a journey of exploring God together and watching Him at work in our children.
I know you will have tons more ideas and I would love to hear them! It’s so good to stand and encourage one another on our parenting journey, isn’t it?
So, in response please do add your ideas and testimonies. Thank you for your time, I trust you will be encouraged.
I love this website for ideas on playdough prayer mats and reflection bottles.
Sarah has loads of ideas and books to recommend and inspire you as you help your child encounter Jesus.
‘Seeing your child’s Gods way’ is a great resource for encouraging us as we pray for our children, whatever their age.
‘His Presence’ is downloadable music which can be part of you and your child’s time with Jesus.
Again, please let us know of anymore that you would recommend!