How do you teach your kids to love an idea? If God is only an idea in your home, chances are your kids won’t know how to love him. So, how do you teach your child to love God when they can’t touch him, visit him, or eat with him? The answer: teach them how to touch him, visit him, and eat with him.
According to Pew Research, kids learn the most about God from their parents. If Mom and Dad are both actively involved with God, there is a much higher chance their children will be involved as well. (Moms are usually the strongest influence in a child’s faith, but if Mom and Dad share the same faith, their child will probably share it too.) In other words, if you love God, your kids will probably love God.
Your children will either learn about God from you or from something or someone else. Consider television’s messages about the Creator of the universe. What is your child learning about God at school? What messages do they absorb from their favorite music? What do their friends believe and say? God is not a popular topic very often. Most schools are not allowed to mention his name. Most TV shows teach him as the punchline of a joke. But, the good news is, your voice will influence your kids and be more powerful than any other. And you have God working on your side as well.
So, are you teaching your children to love God as a genuine, holy presence in your home, or is he just an idea that occasionally floats through a random conversation? The answer to that question could make all the difference. There are ways to teach your children that God is real and deserves their love and devotion.
First, how do you teach your kids to “touch” God?
When your child takes a baby’s hand in theirs, you can say, “God made us in his image” (Genesis 1:27). Look at the perfect little fingers and talk about how the Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). When the baby squeezes their finger, talk about how God created us to be strong and to need each other.
Kids can see God in the sunrise, the sunset, the storms, and the oceans. When they grab a handful of sand and allow the grains to slip through their fist, remind them of the verse that says God has more thoughts about us than all the grains of sand on the beach (Psalm 139:17–18). For older children, allow nature to represent the greatness and power of God. When your child touches God’s creation, they touch God. Watch for those moments and point out the reality of his presence.
Second, visit God, and not just on Sundays.
The Bible says we enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). Those words are the actual picture of a person entering the temple through a gate and moving toward the Holy of Holies, God’s presence. As you experience daily blessings and challenges, thank God for all the moments in life and then take the next step toward his presence. Let your kids see you acknowledge God’s involvement in those moments. God is the source of our blessings. Don’t just thank a person; thank the person for being usable by God.
God’s word is our wisdom for any decision. When you don’t know what to do, ask your kids to pray for you. God’s power is our self-control when we are about to lose our temper and we choose not to. Or, when we want to retaliate but choose to show grace and forgiveness instead. God’s priorities will guide our choices when we want to do one thing but know it is best to choose another. Teach your kids to include God in the moments of their lives and they will visit him often throughout the day.
Third, eat with God at the table.
The family table is an important part of the home, even if the “table” is everyone’s laps while eating hamburgers before a practice. Eating is something we do every day, more than once. If your children learn to eat with God, they will learn to think about God more often.
If God is at the table, some conversations will feel inappropriate and others will feel important. If God is at the table, then you have a perfect listener who can give perfect advice. If God is at the table, your family will be more grateful they are there as well (most of the time).
Someone should always pray, asking God’s blessing on the food—and that responsibility should be passed around because your kids will learn to pray and pray out loud. Don’t just thank God for the food. Ask him to join you at the table for your conversation. It’s amazing how that can change a mealtime!
Finally, if you want to teach your kids to love God, you need to love him too.
How real is God to you? When last did you sense God spoke to you? Helped you make a tough decision? Strengthened you for some bad news? Revealed himself to you in nature? Do you communicate God’s work in your life to your kids? When they see God’s involvement in your life, they will know he can be involved in theirs.
You are the most important influence in your children’s lives, but not forever. At some point, around the ages of seventeen to twenty-five, other people’s opinions will matter equally or more. Will your child’s belief in God be the filter that sifts those opinions? God will give you the words and the wisdom you need. Just ask him (James 1:5).
You will teach your child to love God, or the world will teach them not to. It’s an important part of being a parent, but, thankfully, God is a parent too, and he stands ready to help. Chances are good that, if you love God, your kids will too.
Talk about God often and acknowledge his presence in your life. God can take it from there!