Building Faith into Your Kids
by Joey Link
photo courtesy of Refuge Studios
We all have faith. Christian parents wonder how they are going to pass it on to their kids. Most expect the church to do it. When I was a full-time youth pastor, parents often blamed me for their teen’s moral failures. Other parents think if they pray before they eat, insist their kids have Christian friends and go to church, that ought to do it.
When parents talk to me about this, I ask them if they have ever taught their kids what faith is and what living by it means. Carla is fond of saying she learned this in a song when her mom taught Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Backyard Bible Clubs.
“Faith is just believing, what God says He will do.”
So, if we read God’s promises in the Bible, we should always, 100% of the time believe He is going to do it? How do you teach your kids this? How are you teaching yourself this?
When was the last time you looked down on a chair when you went out to eat to see if all four legs were attached? I can’t remember if I have ever looked to see this, have you? We take it by faith that the restaurant wouldn’t put out a faulty chair. In other words, we believe what we don’t have proof is true until we try the chair out for ourselves.
We can’t see God, but we can feel His presence through the wind that blows, see His presence in the glorious sunsets He paints and hear His handiwork through the rolling thunder. Yet, how hard is it to trust the One who created our world when He says, “Don’t be anxious about anything” (Phil 4:6) in the midst of the storm you are walking through?
In this verse He is telling us worry is a choice. When life gets rough we can choose to say, “What if this happens? or, “What if this doesn’t get better?” OR, we can choose to say, “I can’t see You but I believe You are here in my heart every moment of every day, and I am going to trust in You to handle this.”
How do parents teach their children to put their faith and trust in the hands of our living God when He doesn’t give them the new bike they asked for at Christmas or they have kids picking on them at school because of the way they dress? How do parents help their teens have faith in God when others mock them for their faith or things aren’t going the way they want them to and they begin questioning if there is a God?
I will give you two ways:
First, I love the verse in Romans 10:17:
“So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” (ESV)
The best way for kids, teens and adults to believe in something they cannot see, feel or touch is to spend time reading and listening to God’s Word so that they can be confronted with who God is and what He continues to do all around us. If you want your kids to have faith, they need to be taught to read God’s Word on a regular basis. There are literally hundreds of devotion books for kids of all ages, and you will find some we recommend on sale through our online bookstore at the end of this blog.
Kids and teens need to listen to the power of the Word of God being read and taught at home and in church. Not just a verse here and there, but chapters at a time. It’s amazing the change in a person’s mind and heart as they listen to God’s Word, His Voice being read. Think about it for a moment, how much time do your kids actually read the Bible vs. other books? How about TV, movies and being on the internet? If God is really God, shouldn’t we get to know what He thinks and how He expects us to live our lives?
It goes back to the chair, if we have doubts about a chair, we will look at it to figure out how to fix it so we can trust sitting in it again. We will learn how to fix it or turn it over to someone who knows how to do it. If we are going to do it ourselves, we get the tools we need and have them at hand when we start to work on it.
If we need to figure out how to trust God, we need to look deep into the Bible to see if God is trustable. That is exactly what Josh McDowell (Evidence that Demands a Verdict) and Lee Strobel (Case for Christ) did when they didn’t have faith, and by trying to disprove who God says He is, they actually came to the conclusion that God is who He says He is and they put their faith and trust in God, which is the exact same thing your kids need to do to build faith in their lives. Christian kids can grow up, and reach their teen years thinking the Bible is a bunch of stories nobody really believes. When Carla and I were in youth ministry, teens often were surprised to see how God addressed what they were going through in the principles in His Word.
As your kids hear the words of God, our heavenly Father, they will begin to trust and develop faith that He knows what to do when they are in trouble.
Second: Memorize what God’s Word says. When I was a freshman in high school, five guy friends of mine and I all took a challenge to take a typing class. At that time, long before a computer keyboard was ever introduced into the world, typing on old electric typewriters was only for girls who would become secretaries. Or, so we thought! Once in the class, I took the challenge to get an “A” by typing 50 words a minute with 5 mistakes or less. I had to memorize where each key was until typing became second nature to me. As my fingers flew across the keyboard, I didn’t have to think about where they were going. It is ironic that now kids only need their thumb to type out what they want to say to their friends while texting on their phones. Think of all the typing teachers rolling in their graves!
Memorizing Scripture is like typing on a keyboard. When we “Hide God’s word in our hearts” as Psalm 119 says to do, it will “stop us from sinning against God!” Memorizing God’s Word builds our faith until it becomes second nature in our thoughts and actions.
When I was growing up my family went to church each week. In Sunday School, we were given a verse to memorize every week and had to recite it in front of everyone the following Sunday. Carla and I sent our kids to a weekly program at church that focused on memorizing Scripture because we firmly believed they needed to hide the truths of the Bible in their hearts. In today’s church experience, Sunday School has practically become extinct and the children’s leaders stymie these opportunities for Christian families because they think memorizing Scripture will turn the kids away from wanting to be there.
SO, what are you doing to build the Word of God into your kids’ hearts and lives? Are you teaching them to hide it in their hearts? When our kids were growing up, we had a Bible reading time in the morning, followed by a time of discussion. I would read a chapter or two and ask each of our kids to tell me one verse, phrase or teaching that stood out to them. This did several things, and the entire activity took less than 15 minutes.
- It made them listen vs. thinking about what they were going to do with their free time that day while I was reading.
- It made them think about what God’s Word was saying.
- It made them listen for something God would say to them.
Have a memorizing challenge. Have each member of the family pick a verse out of the chapters read that week, memorize it and recite at the table when eating lunch on Sunday after church. Keep score of who can recite the verse accurately and tell what it means to the family and how they have been applying it in their lives that week. Have a reward for the one who gets to 25 (or a much lower number for younger children) verses learned first.
Having to explain what the verse means to the family teaches your children to inductively look at the passage and learn how it applies to them.
I remember our daughter Briana being surprised when she attended a Bible college how many girls couldn’t read a passage in the Bible and figure out what God was saying to them much less figuring out what that would look like in their lives. Three out of four teens are leaving the Christian faith when they get to college, and that their faith has no meaning to them personally is a big reason why. Please don’t let one of your teens be in this statistic. Teach them how to dig into God’s Word and figure out what He is saying to them and show them what it looks like in daily living.
So, what are you doing to build faith in your kids? I would encourage you to go on a date with your spouse and discuss this question, then come up with a few ways you could work to make God’s Word real to your kids.