April 26, 2016

5 Ways to Feed Your Child's Faith (Without Preaching at Them)

"To some this world may seem like no place to bring up a child. And in some respects they are right. But we take that risk anyway with the comforting knowledge that it is not for this world that we prepare them." (Karen L. Tornberg in The Best Things Ever Said About Parenting)
I've come back to this quote again and again during the 17 years my husband and I have been parents.

I look at the world around us and sometimes feel guilty for bringing our girls into it.

But this world is not their home. It is not our home.

This world is the place we can meet and know and learn to love the Keeper of our true home. 

It is a place we can disrupt with God's grace.

My husband and I are far from being the wisest parents ever to be sent home from the hospital with a baby, a bill, a birth certificate, and best wishes for our utterly changed lives. But we've tried to feed our girls' faith, and so we've learned a few things about what's worked for us...and what might work for you, too, while you lead your children along the way home.

1. The priority of prayer. I know it reads like the default first entry on a list like this, but prayer is in this spot for a reason: it works. In fact, nothing else on this list will actually end up working very well if prayer is absent. For one thing, faith is what pleases God. It makes Him happy. And what is prayer but an active demonstration of faith? Because if we don't believe that God exists and that He can and will do something about what we're praying for, then why are we praying in the first place? Pray for your kids in the morning and at night and throughout the day. It's not about specific words...just do the thing. Sometimes I simply say, "God, please help." Over and over and over. 

Are you wondering what good prayer does when God's going to do what He's going to do no matter what? I've wondered, too. I'll turn to the inimitable C.S. Lewis to address that tricky bit: 
"Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of men? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or inanimate. He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds and wills of men to cooperate with the execution of His will...It is not really stranger that my prayers should affect the course of events than my other action should do so. They have not advised or changed God's mind--that it, His overall purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures."
2. Music that matters. What goes into your child's ears goes into their brain. And what goes into their brain goes into their heart. And what goes into their heart comes out of their mouth and hands and feet. (For more on this, check out "What Are You Listening To?" over on my much-neglected second blog, Sweet For Your Soul.)

Christian music has exploded since the days of Petra and Amy Grant (God bless and thank 'em). There is something out there your child will like. And even if they fight you and your "suggestions," listen to good stuff yourself. Have it playing in the background of your life. You never know what might stick. Here are some of our family's favorites for all ages:
  • Anything by Go Fish. Their motto is "music for kids that doesn't drive parents crazy," and it's the real deal. The first time I played one of their CDs in the van for my adolescent-aged girls, they both said immediately, "I want every one of these songs on my MP3 player." (Yeah, this was a few years ago.) But it's music for moms and dads and toddlers, too.
  • Hawk Nelson. Get their Diamonds CD. Just get it. (No, I am not being paid to say that.)
  • Lauren Daigle. Where to start? Maybe here: Lauren's weaving of Scripture and Biblical truth into song lyrics is awe-inspiring. To say nothing of the fact that her music is just plain killer.
  • Hillsong Young & Free. Highly recommended by my tween.
  • KB. Rap. Hip-hop. I'm not going to listen to him, but my girls love his "stuff" and tell me their guy friends do, too.
  • Kristene DiMarco. Worship music, emphasis on the gorgeous.
  • The Story. From creation to the second coming, this is the Bible set to music that somehow manages to capture the essence of the truth behind each individual story. Worth it just for Peter Furler-as-Daniel's full-throttle scream at the end of "No Compromise."

3. The Word and words based on it. Whether you've got a toddler or a teen or a child in between, someone's written a devotional book or Bible study for them. 

4. Media with merit. I was late to the Facebook party because I have a very boring life and didn't think people needed to know I was making macaroni and cheese for dinner. But I jumped into the pool so I could create a group page for my Bible study sisters, and I haven't looked back. My initial reluctance about social media notwithstanding, I'm so thankful for connections my girls are able to have with Christian friends and with faith-building resources that go way beyond the flannel graph I grew up with. (Because, old.) From websites to Christian mentors, there's something to be said for someone who talks faith in your child's language and is--no offense--not you. Check out these field-tested, faith-feeding resources. (And by "field," I mean "our house".)
  • What's In The Bible? I grew up going to Sunday School every single week. I went to VBS and Christian summer camps and private Christian college. I've facilitated women's Bible study for 10 years. And I am so grateful for every bit of it. But I learned more about the Bible from watching these DVDs than from all of the rest combined. Not because the rest is so bad but because this series is so good. Truthful teaching that's high-quality, clever, and creative.
  • Project Inspired. "Created for Christian girls to show how awesome God is." My daughters are crazy about this website.
  • Adam Cappa. He's categorized on Facebook as a musician/band. But his Scripture quotes, dating advice, spot-on direction about seeking a mate, and other bits of wisdom for "ladies and gents" go way beyond music. 

5. Body building. I'm not talking about weight training. (Although, note to self: do more of it. You're not getting any younger, honey.) I'm talking about the way the body of Christ--your local church--can encourage, pray for, lead, guide, direct, and model truth about life with God. 

You can tell your son or daughter something about faith or God or the Bible a dozen times and get nothing more than "uh-huh," only to have them hear it from a Sunday School teacher or youth group leader and come home talking about it like they've just had their own burning-bush moment. Which is fabulous. 

My girls have been in church almost every Sunday since they were days old, and our branch of the body is crazy about them. They pray for them and cheer them on and ask about their lives and generally show them what community in Christ looks like. 

I know intertwining your life with a local congregation is messy and tricky and often disappointing. It's a lot like, you know, the rest of life. But somewhere out there is a local church that is right for your family, where you and your children can teach and be taught, serve and be served, love and be loved. Not a perfect church, but the right one for now. Finding it will be worth it.

A bunch of years ago, when my youngest daughter was about four, she witnessed me mourning the demise of the cane seat in the chair I use at my computer. The cane had simply worn out and broken through. (I tried not to take it personally.) My daughter heard me complaining about this sad development and drew me this picture:

Translated from her preschool phonics, she wrote: "I'm sorry about the seat. But that's not the importantist thing, because God is." 

There are lots of important things in my girls' lives: our family, their friends, their education, their passions and pursuits. 

But feeding their faith helps us and them stay focused on the importantist thing. 

On what is eternal and true and on what, one day, will be home.

**This post may have been shared at these blog bashes.**

40 comments:

  1. I love that CS Lewis quote. Just love it. And the note from your little girl?? You had to know you were on to something when you read that! What a blessing.

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    1. Right, Jamie?! You just really cannot go wrong with C.S. Lewis, can you? And yes, that note from my girl was something else...it's still hanging by my computer to this day. Thanks so much for stopping by, busy mama!

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  2. Love this and we have tried so hard to instill Faith in our boys, a little tougher when they are teens but I think we try not to over do and they certainly love the Lord. You obviously are doing it right sweet lady, such a sweet picture and message from your girlie!! Precious!!

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    1. Thank you, Andrea! Truly, my husband and I have gotten so much wrong. But I'm thankful God's grace has covered us and that our girls are making the faith we tried to write on their impressionable young hearts their own now that they're older. I'm so happy for you, that you can see the fruits of your labors in your boys. Thank you for stopping by from "cloud nine"! ;)

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  3. Prayer- Parenting sure has humbled my prayers. Before children, I had time to be flowery in my prayers.

    My husband often asks me what I'm praying for and my response is always, "You mean consistently? I'm praying for help. Because I need it."

    Sounds as if your girls experience your relationship with God (or at least that is what the adorable note implies to me). Beautiful!

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    1. Oh, I hear you on the prayer-increasing power of parenthood, Nicole! Sometimes, I think that's why God gives us children: so we'll pray more! ;) And thank you for that sweet spin on my daughter's note...I'd never looked at it that way. Bless you, mama!

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  4. What an amazing note to receive from your daughter! Out of the mouth of babes :)

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    1. I thought so, too, Lorelei. All these years later, it still gets me. Thank you for stopping by!

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  5. Oh...I love the preschool note about the chair - words to live by. These are awesome tips and resources. I made notes and then passed them along. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I know what you mean...my daughter's words do rather keep convicting me about the "importantist thing"! Thank you so much for reading and sharing!

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  6. So precious!!! Love this list. You are so good at these and the insight and wisdom you share is so amazing. I've learned so much from you and look forward to learning more! :-)

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    1. Aw, thank you, my sweet friend. I'm just beyond grateful to see my girls growing in their faith and love for God...it's one of the many blessings of having older kids. Along with, for instance, the fact that having a teenage driver is THE BEST. But I digress... ;) Thank you for your faithful encouragement!

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  7. All 5 of these are so important. This is a great resource you have provided, Elizabeth. #3 has helped our family a lot. My 13-year-old son has the Action Bible. It's in comic strip form and he absolutely loves it. He reads it every night. When it's finished, he just starts over. I think he's probably been through the entire book about 10 times :).

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    1. Thank you, Candace! I'm so glad to know about the Action Bible...talk about "field tested and approved"! ;) Will file that away for future reference for friends with sons (or a future--way, way future--grandson!). Thank you so much for taking time to visit today!

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  8. I keep telling the other gals in my "group" that music WORKS to get a message across to kids. That's why I love those Hide 'Em in Your Heart CDs by Steve Green so much - it's just so awesome to hear a 2-yr-old reciting 40 Bible verses already!

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    1. Absolutely, Lisa! You are so right. I love those CDs you mentioned...in fact, I wonder if they'd work for my decrepit old brain. Sure wish I could hear Gv singing the Scriptures!

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    2. I'll have to try and remember to record her doing it sometime!

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    3. Yes, please do! Would LOVE to see it. :)

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  9. I'm definitely going to look at those musicians you suggested. My kids don't seem to enjoy the same music I do...I'm not sure why...��

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    1. Heehee, Angela...that's the mystery, isn't it? Well, ONE of them we moms face, anyway! At the very least, maybe you'll love something on the list and you can put it on as background music! Thank you so much for taking time to read and comment today!

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  10. Elizabeth, I love, love, loved this! I try to feed my children's faith daily and incorporate some of these things into our homeschool time as well.

    I love your recommended music list. I haven't heard of a few - will definitely check them out!

    Pinned this to my Deliberate FAITH board.

    Thanks for sharing and linking up to the #SHINEbloghop.

    Wishing you a lovely day.
    xoxo

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    1. Aw, thank you for much, Jennifer...for your kind words and for the pin! I hope something on the music list will bring you and/or your girls joy. I love it when my daughters whip out their phones and say, "Mom, you've got to hear this..."! Thank you for hosting the #SHINEbloghop! :)

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  11. Pinned all this goodness this morning! Sharing on Facebook too. Are you on Instagram by chance? I didn't see a button on your sidebar so I'm asking anyways.

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    1. Aw, thank you so much, Michelle! Bless your heart for so greatly encouraging me this morning! I'm not on Instagram. Should I be? ;)

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  12. This is so good, Elizabeth. Every bit of it. Building the future not for 10, 20, or even 50 years from now . . . but forever futures for generations to come. Sharing this like crazy today!

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    1. Thank you so much, Deb! "Forever futures": could I possibly love that more? Bless you for sharing...as always, I've just tried to pass along what's worked for us in case it works for someone else! :)

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  13. These are wonderful, Elizabeth. The sweet little note shows your daughter was learning. Thank you for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.

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    1. Aw, thank you, Lori. Yes, she was learning...and has continued to learn. And in so doing, she is often my teacher. Thank you for stopping by...you are such a faithful and encouraging link party hostess!

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  14. These are such wonderful ideas! And I am sure that your kids appreciate this approach as well. And I agree that everyone should be listening to Hawk Nelson! Thanks for joining the #LifeisLovely link up!

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    1. Thank you, Brittany! It's lovely to meet a fellow Hawk Nelson fan! ;) I'm truly grateful my girls have responded to how we've tried to weave faith into their lives...even though it might not look like it at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning! Thanks for stopping by from #LifeisLovely!

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  15. I just love this post! I will have to check our Project Inspired since I haven't heard of that before. Thanks for linking up with Grace and Truth. I would have loved to have featured your post, but one of the rules is that the post is linked back to the link-up:( I don't see it here.

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    1. Aw, thank you so much, Aimee! Yes, do check out Project Inspired. I think it IS, in fact, quite inspired. ;) I love that my girls love it. And thank you for the lovely honor of even being considered for a feature at Grace & Truth! This post is linked back to it via the link to my link party page, but it truly is the thought that counts toward encouragement. Thank you so much!

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    2. I see it now - I totally missed it the first time. My apologies. You are my feature this week!!

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    3. Oh my goodness...Aimee! Thank you so much, and bless your sweet heart! :)

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  16. Oh, I so enjoyed reading this post Elizabeth! Thank you so much! You mentioned a couple of my favorites, but introduced me to several new ones. I will be pinning this, for sure. Thanks so much for throwing a lifeline my way.

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    1. Well, Carlie, aren't you the sweetest! Thank you so much for your kind words...and for the pin! I'm glad I could share a few "future favorites"! ;) I can tell you've they've been field-tested and approved by a tough audience: my t(w)een daughters. Thank you for stopping by!

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  17. Love this Elizabeth. Sometimes it doesn't feel like those seeds are getting far down but I go back to God's Word which says otherwise!

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    1. Meg, thank you so much. I know what you mean...sometimes, it feel like those seeds are just being scattered to the wind. One of the blessings of reaching the stage of parenting older children is the reward of seeing some of those seeds bear beautiful fruit. Keep on keeping on, mama, and blessings on you as you do.

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  18. Elizabeth,
    I so enjoy your authentic way of communicating His grace and hope in real life time. Thanks for sharing these thoughts and for the reminder of His love in and all around us.

    Blessings!
    Dawn

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    1. Thank you, Dawn...that means so much to me!"Real life time"...that's what we're living here for sure! ;) Thanks so much for taking time to stop by and for your graceful words. Blessings back to you!

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!