By Joe Barnard
How do you maintain a spiritual pulse with kids? Most parents feel like cardiac patients panting for breath just to pray while surrounded by the needs and the demands of children.
There’s hardly enough time to make a cup of coffee, much less to exegete Ephesians while drinking it. What should parents do?
How can parents keep God first while scuttling about the debris of packed lunches and unpaid bills?
1. See Your Family as an Act of Worship
Worship isn’t just something we add to life; worship is how we live life. As image-bearers of God, everything we do should give worth to God.
For parents, this means that we need to see life as worship.
To get through a bedtime routine of reading Jack and the Beanstalk, brushing teeth, drinking water, going to the bathroom, drinking water, going to the bathroom again, hugging, kissing, going to the bathroom a third time, and then getting the perfect wedge of light through a cracked door—all with kindness, patience, empathy, and joy—is a remarkable act of grace, perhaps even a miracle.
Instead of trying to find more time for God outside of everyday life, parents need to see the spiritual value of the ordinary.
2. Share God with Your Kids
Modern Christians carry the hefty burden of the quiet-time. We don’t feel like God is pleased unless we set apart time to be still and quiet before the Lord alone.
Our justification, we fear, depends on the frequency and warmth of personalized devotions. Now quiet-times are soul-refreshing; we know this.
However, there are stages in life when the primary means of devotion will be together, not alone. Family life is one of these stages.
Parents need to accept there’ll be days when they won’t be able to find an empty closet to hide in. (“Mom, where are you?” “Dad, can you help me?”) But this doesn’t mean God shouldn’t be worshiped.
Instead, parents need to rediscover the use of family worship. By reading and praying with our children, two things happen at once: adults are spiritually fed, and children are spiritually nurtured.
3. See the Growth-Opportunity of Daily Struggle
If the aim of the Christian life were theoretical knowledge, parents would have a disadvantage. The fast track to holiness would be a seminary, not a family.
Children aren’t a spiritual distraction, keeping us from time with God, but an opportunity to be sanctified, revealing our need for grace in the mess of the real world.However, the aim of the Christian life isn’t information, but character.
This is great news for parents because there’s no better way in which to grow in character than having a demanding 2-year-old nipping at your heels like a terrier or a stubborn teenager kicking at the goads like a mule.
Children aren’t a spiritual distraction, keeping us from time with God, but an opportunity to be sanctified, revealing our need for grace in the mess of the real world.
4. Trim the Fat of Modern Life
Modern parents need to take time monthly, if not weekly, to reflect on how to simplify life. We live in a world that idolizes busyness and in a culture of parenting that substitutes children for God at the center of life.
The aim of parenting isn’t to elevate children to the pinnacle of success or to ensure they experience all life has to offer. Christian parenting aims to introduce our children to God and teach them about their need for Jesus.
If the busyness of our lives pushes God into a corner, there’s only one thing to do: repent and refocus on the first command.
Trimming the fat of swim lessons, horseback riding, soccer practice, piano, cub scouts, ballet, and the 100 other essential activities for childhood development in the 21st century will be a regular task for Christian parents.
JOE BARNARD is the author of The Way Forward: a Road-map of Spiritual Growth for Men in the 21st Century (Christian Focus Publications). For eight years, he pastored a church in the Highlands of Scotland. He’s now the director of a men’s discipleship program, Cross Training Ministries (xtrainingministries.com).