Family Experiences and Faith

Developing faith along the way


by Dick Gruber, D.Min./ November 17, 2015

Family Experiences That Transfer Faith To Children

As a young children’s pastor and dad back in the 1970s, I adopted the habit of asking Christian parents of teenagers what they were doing to insure their sons and daughters would live for Christ. I was ready to incorporate any idea that seemed reasonable in order to transfer my love for Jesus to our children. Some ideas worked wonderfully, others not so well.

Reggie Joiner writes, “Most parents cannot give their children a lavish inheritance, but every parent will leave their personal legacy.”[1] This blog-sicle, (tasty blog in popsicle form—read it quick before it melts), will present several practices that emerged from those early days on our journey of legacy transference.  

Family Experiences That Transfer Faith To Children

While I was growing up, a fun outing for the Gruber kids included a picnic in a cemetery. Eight or nine of us popped out of the station wagon and ran through the tombstones. Mom would set up a picnic lunch on a blanket and challenge us, “See who can find the oldest grave marker.” My aspirations as a young dad were higher than this. Darlene and I developed a philosophy of incorporation in order to train our children through all of life’s encounters.

Incorporation

I’ve found that following Moses’ directives of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is easier than seminar speakers make it out to be. We learned early on to incorporate Jesus through conversation, song, and Scripture recitation in the spaces of life. You know, the space from point A to point B. It’s that drive in the car between your neighborhood and Chuck E. Cheese or the space between the local park and your front door. Redeem that time.  Make it a family faith experience. We always kept a box of Junior Bible Quiz questions and answers in our car. If we couldn’t think of what to discuss, one of our kids would pull out a card and read it.

I raised my kids with the belief that our Father, God, made everything. On every family outing they heard me say as I pointed to clouds, a creek bed, or some other natural sight, “My Father made that.” Now they say that to their children. Incorporating God should be second nature to the Christian parent. Every day is filled with multiple opportunities to glorify God with our children.

Intention

Benjamin Kerns states, “Faith development is not like potty-training. It doesn’t happen in its own, “natural” time. It only happens when we intentionally and regularly pick up our faith and our kids and consistently bring them to Jesus.”[2] Parents must intentionally and consistently bring Jesus to every activity, vacation, or party.

One endeavor we practice to this day is called the Neutral Zone. (No it’s not a Star Trek Jesus thing.) We established dinner time as a time when our children could bring any word, joke, or story to our attention with no chance of being punished. In this way, our dinner table became a neutral zone where we could talk about anything in this life with our children. Many incredible insights into God’s word came to and out of our children during the dinner hour.

Prayer is another important family experience. Kids need to pray and to witness the model of prayer set forth by their parents. When I pray in front of my children, and now grandchildren, I model dependence on a good God who lovingly listens and answers my cries. Our youngest grandchild knows that she can pray for others when they are sad or hurt. Prayer is a family experience that should occur in city parks, backyards, and grocery stores. We committed ourselves in our first year of ministry to pray for our pastors and other church leaders each day with our children. We also prayed for specific missionaries by name. In this way, our children learned to love and respect church leadership and missions.

Invention

“God grants us the privilege of partnering with the Holy Spirit in helping children come and see Jesus.”[3] The Christian parent, especially those in ministry, must rely on the Holy Spirit for wisdom and creativity in raising children. The Holy Spirit will assist you in developing lessons in everyday living with your children. He will guide and direct you as you invent new ways to instill faith in your child.

I believe, by God’s design, that you are the perfect genetic carrier of God’s grace to your child. I also believe that God can tie adoptive parents and children together in a tight bond that rivals familial genetics. Trust Him to help you originate hybrid approaches to raising your child in faith. (Many of the “hybrid” approaches we developed for our kids became regular segments in our children’s services.)

Once you’ve developed a lifestyle of genuine faith conveyance, share what you are doing with the parents of your church. They will love you and appreciate your creativity in this aspect of parenting. Take it from a guy who has read over 80 parenting books in the past four years. You can do it!

[1] Reggie, Joiner. Think Orange (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2009), 42. 

[2] Benjamin Kerns. Holy Parenting: Making The Common Sacred (Marin: Self-Published, 2012, Kindle Locations 479-481). Kindle Edition.

[3] Scottie May, Beth Poterski, and Linda Cannell. Children Matter (Grand Rapids, MI: William Eerdmans Publishing, 2005), 70.