Faith, at its simplest, is active belief. However, the faith that you need to strengthen in your children is not just a general belief in God or the spiritual realm; it’s about Jesus and how He changes everything.
The stronger their childlike faith, the more they’ll be able to experience the life of God. Your goal as a lifegiving parent is to make your home a place where Jesus is at home . . . where He lives and works because He finds faith there—faith in Him. And even more, it’s a place where the faith of children—your children—is valued and honored.
Strengthening the faith of your children begins with getting beliefs about the gospel right in their hearts from the start. You have a brief but divinely designed window into your children’s hearts during childhood, when they are predisposed by God’s design to believe what you tell them about God, the gospel, and following Jesus.
That doesn’t mean pressuring them to say the words to the sinner’s prayer, but rather talking about what the gospel means to you, what you believe about Jesus, and how you are living by faith because of what you believe, all in ways that will let them see those things are real to you. You want your children to want what you believe to be what they also believe.
As lifegiving parents, make it your commitment to look for that faith in your children, acknowledging and affirming it whenever you can. It probably won’t sound like adult faith, and that’s as it should be. It’s an innocent and seedling kind of faith that should be watered, cultivated, and tended. It’s possible you’ll be tempted to correct its immature or misdirected expressions or, perhaps worse, to just ignore it; but resist either urge. Instead, engage your children’s faith and draw it out. Give them room to grow, and help give their belief even more expression. Since you’ll be following Jesus’ teachings on children, there should be no better way to bring the life of God into your home.
As a lifegiving parent, you are the key to strengthening their faith. Always affirm faith in Jesus when you see or hear it. Tell them, “we’re so happy that you believe in Jesus. We want to love Him as a family, and it pleases Jesus that now you believe in Him too.” That kind of response will affirm both your children’s developing faith and the life of God in your home.
Likewise, you are the key to converting a faith decision into a daily attitude of trusting God. In your family prayers, or just at a natural time during the day, remind your children about your faith decision and let them know how you’re trusting God with it. Give them the opportunity to talk about their own trust, or their fears. Affirm your faith, God’s faithfulness, and their faith, and then briefly pray about the decision. They’ll grow stronger in faith.
Holding onto faith “no matter what” is a much harder concept for children, simply because they have not had enough life experience to know about God’s faithfulness firsthand. When life becomes difficult, they have no history to draw from to strengthen their childish faith. You are the one they will look to for assurance. You are the one who will need to believe for them that God does not go away when life goes awry.
For instance, if there is an illness in your family, children can become understandably confused, anxious, or fearful. That is normal and expected. In order to move to a place of trust and assurance, they will need to hear words of faith and assurance from you—meaningful Scriptures, your own expressions of assurance and hope, prayers for God’s help, quotes and writings by spiritual writers, and affirmations of God’s goodness, love, and mercy. Your assurance—that God is present and good no matter what happens or how your prayers are answered—will strengthen their faith.
Children naturally want to be a part of something—your family, your church, a club, a team. That will make strengthening faith as allegiance to Jesus and His Kingdom easier, but it’s not a given since the concept of being loyal to God is more abstract. In order to tap into your children’s natural desires to belong, you’ll need to find ways to express faith-allegiance as a family or to create a group of friends who can make the allegiance more of a concrete experience.
Consider having a monthly Kingdom Night for your family when you imagine, reenact, or write out stories about being warriors for truth in God’s Kingdom. Or start a Kingdom Kids Club with a few of your child’s “good and godly” best friends. Plan for fun food, read-aloud stories, playacting, and club materials (names, crests, documents). This imagination cultivation is much more than just playtime. It is creating patterns of allegiance to strengthen your child’s faith.
If you’re living as a lifegiving parent, by bringing the life of God into your home you will be strengthening your children’s faith life. Jesus promised that He came to earth so that we would be able to have an abundant, beyond-all-our-expectations kind of life—not just in the hereafter but also in the here and now. The more your children see the life of God in you through your faith, the stronger their faith will become.
Adapted from the LifeGiving Parent: Giving Your Child a Life Worth Living for Christ, by Clay and Sally Clarkson.