When my wife rings, a picture pops up on my phone. It's of my wife holding our oldest daughter having her very first swimming lesson at 12 months of age. In the photo my wife looks happy and my daughter looks suspicious of the water. Today my oldest daughter is eight years old and is no longer suspicious of the water; she has come to love swimming. Her confidence in the pool didn't come about by accident; it was the result of significant investment of time and money on the part of the parents as well as effort and attitude on the part of my daughter.
Christian parents have a strong desire to see their children possessing strong Christian faith into their adult years. If Christian parents were presented with a genie in a bottle who could grant them a single wish, many parents would ask that their children would grow up to be passionate followers of Jesus. There is, however, no magic genie and no guarantee that anyone's children will follow Jesus as adults. Children are not robots; they'll grow up to make their own choices about life and faith.
Eighteen years of life is equivalent to 6,570 days. How can Christian parents best use these days to help children find lasting faith? I'm a fellow traveller learning as I go; here are some things worth paying attention to as we seek to raise giants for Jesus.
1. Be passionate about your own faith
Perhaps the very best thing a Christian parent could provide a child is an example to follow. Children watch everything we do and imitate so much of it; both the parts we want them to emulate and those we'd rather they didn't see. Your children know if prayer is your first response or an afterthought in your life. They know how you feel about Church; they've watched all your conversations about Church in the car. They also know whether you're authentically the same person at Church as you are at home. If you want your kids to have a passionate faith; foster a passionate faith in your own life.
2. Daily not weekly
Following Jesus is a daily adventure not a weekly ritual. If you're not excited about your faith on Monday why should your children believe it's important on Sunday? Every day is an opportunity to depend on God in prayer and see answers to prayer. Everyday can be a day to give God thanks for his goodness in our lives. God is ready to meet us in the scriptures daily. If we want our kids to have a passionate faith; they need to experience a daily faith.
3. Don't outsource
If your church is blessed with a great kid's church that's a wonderful blessing. Perhaps you're doubly blessed because your child has access to scripture classes or can attend a Christian school. Children's ministry, scripture classes, Christian camps are all fantastic but they are supplemental to the day by day discipleship your child receives at home. Don't outsource the role of discipleship to someone else. You can't simply send your kids out to kids Church and assume someone else will do the discipleship job for you. You can't send them off to a Christian school and expect them to automatically morph into passionate Christians by year 12. There are many programs that can help your child in their Christian journey and you should make use of them but don't outsource your discipleship responsibility to others.
4. Go beyond
For the last few years we've spent our holidays near a Scripture Union Family Mission. Our girls have enjoyed the programs and meeting the leaders. It has been noticeable that going on these programs has instilled a greater love for the Bible and knowing Jesus. Many Christian parents are familiar with the music of Colin Buchanan; we've attended many of his concerts and listened to much of his music. These are two ways we've encouraged our daughters in their faith beyond their Church experience. Look for the opportunities beyond the local Church which might help your child grow in their faith journey.
5. Participants not observers
Let's not allow our kids to simply attend Church as passive observers. Let's work hard to find ways for our kids to participate in the Church and practice their faith. Look for opportunities to encourage your kids to share their faith. Find ways as a family to serve the Church. Foster generosity as a family. Go on missions together. Have family worship times and read scripture together. May our children not grow up simply observing others practicing faith. Let's invite our kids to join in on the adventure.
6. Make them count
My daughters won't become confident swimmers by accident and neither it is likely for them to morph into passionate believers by osmosis. There are 6570 days before your children turn eighteen and I hope you'll make every single one of them count.