God has given us as parents one of the highest callings in this life: the nurturing of a human soul. How intentional are we at this task? How are we leading our families to the feet of Jesus? How will we cultivate the soil of our homes for the growth that God wants to cause in our lives in 2020? Here are five resolutions I would challenge you to make with me as we enter a new decade and the new year.
1. Pray FOR and WITH your children
How often is prayer the aroma of your home? Is prayer just a quick mantra offered up before dinner? If we are going to see God work in our lives and the lives of our children it will have to be His work. As Daniel Henderson has said, “prayerlessness is our declaration of independence from God.” You children will pick up on this reality. Does your family pray out of a dependence upon God or does your lack of prayer declare an independence from Him? Two practical ways to leverage prayer in your family is to pray faith-filled, passionate prayers over your children and to invite your children to pray with you!
“Prayerlessness is our declaration of independence from God.” – Daniel Henderson
Faith-filled prayers looks like moving beyond the everyday “thank you for this day” and “Help grandma to feel better.” These are prayers, but they are not the extent of what prayer should look like or be in our lives. I realized that I had slid into a repetitive, “do it because I am supposed to,” pattern of prayer for my children at bed-time. I pray over them after storytime when the light is off. I wanted to add vibrancy to this time and started praying Scripture out-loud over my boys. This led to starting to ask God for things in the lives of my children. I now ask God to make them leaders. I ask God to make them warriors for truth, that they would stand up for the weak. I pray that God would make them bold witnesses in this world for His glory. I pray that they would be protected from the evil one and sin and that they would come to love God with all of their hearts. Let’s start praying bigger!
Secondly, we should invite our children to pray with us! Our family prays before every meal together and normally mom or dad pray, but a few times a week we invite one of our children to pray. You learn by doing. The best way to learn to pray, and to teach your children to pray, is to START PRAYING! Even our 2-year-old wants to jump in and participate (this can be quite entertaining!). We have seen this consistent behavior trickle out into their school and church where they are not afraid to pray in front of their friends. Praying is just talking to God. It is something we all can and should do. Have your children do it with you!
2. Model an authentic, growing relationship with Christ
If we want to influence our children towards pursuing Jesus and living for God’s glory in their lives the most impactful thing we can do is live for Jesus ourselves. This is more than putting our children in Christian environments (more on this below) this is being the kind of Christian your children can emulate.
Be the kind of Christian your children can emulate.
Is religion just something you do on weekends? Does your Bible collect dust from Monday to Saturday? One student told me recently that they never see their dad read his bible. This father is a regular church attender member and outspoken Christian but his child can see the disconnect. Your children will see through the facade. They know the “real you” better than almost anyone. They see your good days and your bad days. This is not a call to perfection…but rather a call to seek to be more like Jesus every day. This includes when we mess up being open about it, confessing our sin, and showing our dependence upon Christ in the midst of our weakness and failure. What a beautiful thing to model for our children in the new year…running to Jesus when we fall short! One of the best ways to lead our children to Jesus, is to lead ourselves to Him first.
3. Prioritize the church in your lives
Priorities show what is important to us. What does your family schedule say about what is important to you? What changes do you need to make in this new year to make Jesus and His family, the church, a priority. If we consistently shelve the “Christian” things in our lives in favor of entertainment, recreation, sleep, or anything else we are sending a subtle message in our lives about what is important. If you shelve out $100 a month on satellite TV but tell your kids you don’t have money for them to go on a weekend retreat with the student ministry you are sending a strong signal about what they should prioritize in their own lives.
We live in an unbelievably busy culture, but are we really getting anywhere any faster? Mental health is in decline, family turmoil is widespread, and addiction is the norm. God’s solution to many of these challenges is Body Life, the local church. And yet, this seems to be the first thing we cut when under pressure. We must ask ourselves the question: “Isn’t spiritual life the MOST integral part of our lives?” If it is than we should live like it is, and live in Christian community. Shouldn’t the church be where we really find and experience life and community to the fullest in our pursuit of Jesus together? We need to prioritize our church family.
Isn’t spiritual life the MOST integral part of our lives?
In our homes this can look like: helping your kids finish their homework so they can go to youth group. This might require planning ahead! Try communicating with coaches and teachers about the priority of mid-week ministries. Host a connect group in your home. Be a family that “religiously” attends weekend worship gatherings together not to just check a box but because you WANT and know you NEED to be there. We all need a spiritual family, let’s make it a priority this year.
4. Make Spiritual conversation the normal culture of your home
This new year commit to initiate spiritual conversations in your home. One of the ways we can spiritually harm our children is by leaving the “Jesus talk” at church. How will they ever contextualize their faith unless you help them? Who else is going to show them that their family, friendships, entertainment, school, athletics and everything else is all part of following Jesus unless we, the parents, do?
One of the things I love about Jesus is that he very often taught on the go! He would point at a tree or pick up a child and use it as a teachable moment to disciple his followers. Christ’s Great Commission commands us likewise to “make disciples” and it says to do that “as you go” (Matthew 28:18-20). The Christian life is better caught than it is taught. Live it out in front of them and learn to talk about your faith in everyday conversation. Jesus should be an everyday word.
The Christian life is better caught than it is taught.
Some practical ideas for spiritual conversations:
- Ask questions about the worldview of a movie you watch together. What does the movie say about truth or morality? What does the movie say causes human problems? Was the behavior of the movie characters right or wrong?
- Pick a verse a week or month to read at dinner together and seek to prayerfully it apply as a family (try the “One Another” passages!). Talk about how you can live that verse out in your lives.
- Discipline using Scripture and always point them to their need for the gospel and their need for Jesus
- Share what God has been teaching you in your own spiritual life with your children
- Talk about the sermon from your church gathering together
5. Lead your children in service and mission
Lastly, I would love to challenge us as families to live on mission in 2020. God desires that every believer partner with Him on mission to those who do not know or have not heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s mission is not just for the few it is for the many. Every follower of Christ is called to be a missionary.
This looks like helping your children see and pray missionally. Do you pray for friends and family members who are far from Jesus together? How are you encouraging your children to show and share Christ’s love with their unbelieving friends or teammates? To what unchurched families has your family intentionally sought to be a light? Let’s embody a higher purpose for this temporal life and embark on the mission of God. This can and will inspire your children. Help them see that they can live for something greater, for God’s kingdom!
In 2020, maybe you could…
- Go on a mission trip together as a family
- Add a missional element to your vacation
- Schedule your vacation around mission trips and summer outreaches so that your family can participate.
- Partner with local outreach ministries.
- Adopt a child from an unreached people group and send them letters
- Have an unchurched family over for dinner and pray beforehand asking God to give you opportunities to show and share His love to them
- Encourage your children to invite their friends to church events and offer to give them a ride!
How will God move in your family in 2020? Are we posturing ourselves in such a way that He can work? I encourage you to join me in these five New Year’s Resolutions as we seek to make much of Jesus together!
Happy New Year!
-Pastor Phil Leineweber