How do you pour spiritual truths into your kids? Have you ever had that question asked? What is your response? Parents often answer by discussing specific practices they do: praying at the dinner table, family worship, etc. Another set of parents can discuss how they don’t have anything specific and might even say they don’t want to over-formalize things. Instead, they emphasize taking advantage of opportunities as they arise. Let’s discuss each approach and which one might be best.
Having formal time means developing intentional patterns for spiritual growth. It often involves regular spiritual disciplines that are done as a family. This might look like family worship time together every day. It could also include a set time for the family to read their Bibles together, a rhythm of personal time with God done at the same time as the rest of the family. For some families, this might mean a time of singing Biblical truths together, Scripture memory, or catechisms.
The benefits of formal time are plenty. It makes sure that these conversations take place. It is easy for parents to have good intentions about instructing their kids but never actually do it. Having time set aside counteracts forgetfulness or neglect in this area. It also emphasizes that it is important enough to be ingrained in daily or weekly rhythms.
What are the dangers? If parents aren’t careful, they can default to going through the motions. They are doing it, but their heart is not really in it. They simply get through the practice and on to other things – kids pick up on that! While God can still work through His truth even if your heart is not in it, parents should intentionally work on their own spiritual life. Healthy family discipleship is an overflow of personal growth.
Has your child ever asked a really deep question? This past week my son asked how God can still love us even though he hates sin. He said, “I know I sin, so it doesn’t make sense that God still loves me.” What a great opportunity to remind him of God’s love for us in Christ! Within the past few weeks, one of my kids asked, “If God made Adam and Eve perfect, why would they sin? I don’t get it.” Parents get opportunities like this all the time. Taking advantage of them when they come is a joy and privilege.
A benefit of this approach is that no prep time or specific time is needed. But, if you lean into these opportunities, you’ll find that you don’t have all the answers. It will produce a hunger to learn and grow for yourself.
Are there dangers? One danger might be to lean so heavily into this approach that everything is spiritualized. Now, it’s true that our faith impacts everything we do, but giving a spontaneous lecture on the imago Dei when your daughter asks if her dress is pretty will be counterproductive.
Formal or Organic? Yes!
So which is better? What would I recommend? Both. Having formal time makes sure that things are taking place. It sets that rhythm and establishes the importance of spiritual growth in your home. This will lead to more organic opportunities. It will also help with organic conversations. You can refer back to something you read to them or a catechism question they memorized. You don’t need to explain everything but simply show how what you’ve already taught applies to that situation.
Recently my son was scared at night, and I asked him, “Where is God?” he responded, “God is everywhere?” I said, “Can you see God?” and he answered, “No, but he always sees me?” I could remind him that God was there with him and cared for him right there at that moment.
What About You?
Which of these do you typically lean into? Can you learn from or implement the other practice to help you in your love and care for your kids? What might this look like in your family? There is no one size fits all approach, but implementing both of these in your family can be a blessing for them and you.