Hands down, parents are the greatest influencers of their children’s faith formation. Perhaps as you read this you feel the double gravity of your responsibility as a Christian parent and as a children’s ministry leader. You know the joy and exasperation, the awe and challenge of both roles.

And, as much as you deeply desire to see your son or daughter become the person God made them to be, you want the same for the kids in your ministry.

Like every parent, you spend more hours with your child than they spend in church, and yet you still count on your church community to nurture the faith of your family. And, you should. Through partnership between church and home, we can work together toward what Scripture instructs us to do:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.

Deut. 6:5–9 NIVTM
mom giving daughter piggyback ride
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Following Jesus Is an Invitation: Developing Family Faith

All of us as Christian parents want to take these verses seriously. Yet we also go through seasons when it’s hard to live our best intentions—especially when our kids don’t show the faith response we hope for, or when we fear that their hearts will harden as they encounter skepticism in the world at large.

Our kids may rebel against Christianity to become apathetic about it. If we are afraid something in them will give way, we may be tempted to try and take control—to insist on how things shall be.

But following Jesus is an invitation, not a decree—an act of faith, not force.

“When we see our children as a gift, our need to control and micromanage subsides,” writes Cameron Cole, a director of children, youth, and family. “Certainly, we take responsibility for the gift, but nobody clutches and chokes a present to make it perfect.”[1]

So, how do we honor the gift of children entrusted to us, while also helping them discover the wonder of the God who made them and longs for a relationship with them? The answer to this question lies in the culture of faith we create at home.

Following Jesus is an invitation, not a decree—an act of faith, not force.

Let’s take a look at three ways to develop a family faith infused with values and experiences that point the way to Jesus.

Value 1: Make togetherness a priority in family faith.

Reminder: Keep it simple.

Doing ordinary things together can add up to a big difference in the faith life of your family. Recent research by Barna Group found a connection between fun, quality time, and meaningful spiritual experiences.[2] [3]

Quality time doesn’t need to be fancy. Make a point to eat together as a family every day, whether it’s cereal from a box, rotisserie chicken and instant mashed potatoes, a home-cooked meal, or supper at a restaurant. Take a walk in the park. Play Uno or toss a softball. Read books. Do yardwork. Hold a family meeting, or just take time to talk about how everyone is feeling.

Families that make togetherness a priority are more likely to engage in relational connections that support vibrant faith, including:

  • Spiritual practices—praying every day or two and reading the Bible weekly all together.
  • Spiritual conversations—talking about God and faith at least weekly all together.
  • Hospitality—welcoming non-family guests regularly, or at least several times a month.[4]

Make room for wonder as you continue to find your place in God’s Story.

Value 2: Talk to your kids about faith.

Reminder: Awkward conversations are better than none.

As your family enjoys togetherness, don’t miss the opportunities to talk about faith. Sometimes a conversation will come up spontaneously. Any moment of curiosity is an opportunity to open the eyes to wonder and the heart to God.

Here are some suggestions to get a conversation started:

  • If you had to live with any person in the Bible, who would you pick?
  • If you could ask God any question, what would it be?
  • What are three words you would use to describe God? Jesus? The Holy Spirit?
  • What is your favorite Bible story and why? How does that story point to Jesus?
  • What is one thing you’re especially thankful God created?
  • What is one thing you’d like to thank Jesus for today?
  • What have you read in the Bible this week? What do you think about it?

You might also create a spiritual topic jar and let kids put suggestions in it; then pull out a topic to talk about on a weekly basis. Or you may want to start a tradition of sharing the “lows” and “highs” of each day. Remember, even awkward conversations are better than none.

And if you aren’t sure about something, don’t feel like you need to know all the answers. Doubt isn’t toxic to faith. Silence is.[5]

Wonder Ink’s 3-year, 52-week children’s ministry curriculum offers kids space to fully find their place in God’s Big Story. Children discover they are Known by God, Loved by Jesus, and Led by the Holy Spirit.

Value 3: Live a faith worth imitating.

Reminder: Practice makes progress, not perfect.

It doesn’t take long for us to realize that our kids watch and imitate what we do. Things are no different when it comes to faith. Our words matter, but our actions often speak louder.

This is not a call for parents to model perfect faith. After all, there is no such thing. It’s far more important to model growing faith through spiritual practices such as Bible reading and prayer. These kinds of practice make progress, not perfect.

We will try and fail sometimes. We will need to extend and receive forgiveness. We will face doubt and grief and struggle along the way. But our commitment to an authentic journey with God is exactly what our children need to see.

So, we do well as parents to examine what following Jesus looks like in our lives:

  • What kind of culture do we want in our homes and churches?
  • What space are we creating for our children to flourish?
  • How are we rooting our families in God’s Word?
  • How are we modeling prayer and repentance?
  • What does faithfulness look like in our homes?[6]

Consider these questions with a spirit of curiosity that makes room for wonder as you continue to find your place in God’s Story. And remember, we need the whole church in this. After all, we are all His!

happy african american family
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More Ideas and Insight for Your Church

You can find more insights and ideas for family engagement in our free guide: What If We’re Failing Kids at Faith Formation? (And How Not To).

[1] Cameron Cole, “Your Kids Are Not Projects or Burdens. They Are Gifts,” The Gospel Coalition, October 19, 2018, www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/children-gifts/.

[2] Barna Group, “The Link Between Fun & Faith in Our Homes,” Barna, April 2, 2019, www.barna.com/research/fun-faith-in-our-homes/

[3] Barna Group, “What Makes for a Spiritually Vibrant Household?” Barna, March 5, 2019, www.barna.com/research/spiritually-vibrant-household/

[4] Barna Group, “What Makes for a Spiritually Vibrant Household?

[5] Kara Powell and Steven Argue, “The Biggest Hindrance to Your Kids’ Faith Isn’t Doubt. It’s Silence,” Christianity Today, February 21, 2019, www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/february-web-only/doubt-parenting-biggest-hindrance-kids-faith-is-silence.html

[6] Trevin Wax, “Parents, Take Note of the Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish As Adults,” The Gospel Coalition, accessed July 8, 2019, www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/parents-take-note-spiritual-practices-common-kids-flourish-adults/