From their dating days to their married life, many couples are often able to lean on each other for support in their faith. But what happens when a child comes into the picture? What should parents consider as they embark on their journey of parenthood and are now responsible for imparting faith to their own children?
We interviewed Gary Koh, a counsellor, about his experiences in bringing up his son in the Lord. When asked what the greatest challenge is for a parent imparting faith to their children, Gary simply said, “We just need to start”. He advised parents not to feel shy about getting a guide or asking someone on how to begin doing devotions with their children.
Modelling 24/7 Christianity
Gary began imparting faith to his son from an early age. He shared that his family “intentionally made Sunday evenings family worship time. There are some Sundays where we miss it, but largely, it has become a habit for us.” While family worship time first started out as a routine, it has quickly become one of the spiritual disciplines that the Kohs look forward to every week.
Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)
Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Gary also shared that it is important for the child to have a daily walk with God and not to depend on Sunday services as the only place to learn about God. This is where parents play an important role in imparting faith to their children. He explained that “[our children] are only [at church] for 2–3 hours [a week] but they are with us [parents] the rest of the time.” A parent should play the primary role of modelling and teaching faith to their children to ensure that their Christian faith goes beyond Sundays or the weekend into an everyday, 24/7 reality.
Gary also cites events such as Christian conferences attended by Christians from different denominations as a way to show his son the bigger picture of the body of Christ. He continues by saying that it was in one such Christian event where his son made the personal decision to receive Christ into his life.
Growing with Your Child
The age of the child in question often plays a critical role in how receptive they may be to biblical principles taught. As such, parents have to be ready to adapt their teaching style and material based on how old their child is.
Gary observed that children often enjoy stories about people of faith until the age of 6. He also shared that for those at a young age, for devotion time at home does not need to last more than 10 mins to be meaningful.
However, for older children from the ages of 7 to 12, Gary suggested that parents should get them involved in the planning of family devotions and maybe even to try leading devotions at home.
As they approach their teenage years and journey towards becoming young adults, parents can encourage their children to begin sharing and bringing the Gospel to their friends and others in their sphere of influence. However, parents may also expect that this is also the age group where children may be the least receptive to a parent's efforts to speak into their lives. On this concern, Gary shared that “imparting faith to a teenager is hard as they stop depending on their parents but begin depending on God personally instead.” In this case, rather than taking a directive approach and ending every conversation with their teenager with lines like “the Bible says so,” parents can instead play the role of a coach by asking questions to guide their teenager on how to make godly decisions,.
Praying for a Personal Encounter
When children are at a young age, it is important to ensure that they understand what they are learning about the faith as compared to simply accepting what they have been told. Gary explained, “When the child is younger, they will follow without much questioning. Children begin to question as they are older. It’s therefore important to model godliness in our daily lives such that faith becomes real. Process the lessons, the challenges and the highs and lows of our personal walk with God together as a family.”
Pray for and pray together with your child and encourage him or her to have a personal encounter with God. Ultimately, you and your spouse are the best people to support your children as they embark on their own journey of faith.
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Pick up more practical ways to disciple and impart faith to the next generation from Gary and over 20 other speakers at our upcoming Whole Life Symposium on 19 and 20 August 2016.