The goal of faith-filled parenting is to raise children who will live and love like Jesus—to experience God in daily life and to embrace their callings as they help fulfill God’s dreams for the world. As the parent of two college-age boys, I know faith is fueled through the power of the Holy Spirit and formed through personal, trusted relationships. I want to be one of many people in my sons’ lives who walk alongside them to model (and learn from them) what it means to follow Jesus at home, at work, at school, online, and in our local community. I want the rituals and routines of our time together to serve as learning laboratories for a life of faith.
Some of our faith-forming activities come from structured activities such as mealtime prayers and periodic devotions, but most bubble-up from discussing a news article, an incident at work, anticipating what’s going to happen next in a TV show, or having conservations about things that matter most while in the car, on a bike, or walking around the pond behind our house. Many pivot points of faith are drawn from meaningful, memorable moments that have become milestones marked by the cross of Christ. As a family, we’ve treated the highs and lows of daily life as a curriculum for a developing a vibrant faith. Raising Christ-centered children doesn’t happen by accident—we’re intentional in our quest to engage God in the meaningful and mundane facets of our lives.
The following five questions have guided our approach to nurturing the spiritual lives of our children. My wife and I revisit these questions about once a quarter to reframe our next steps for faith-filled parenting, serving as faith-forming parents to our children.
1 | What do we want for our children, spiritually?
I often hear parents talk about what they want for their children related to their sports, college, or career plans. Rarely do I hear from parents describe their hopes for their children’s spiritual journey, outside of being baptized or confirmed. This is the abbreviated list we use in our faith-filled parenting as a guide for supporting our children’s spiritual growth. We want our children to:
- Know that they are unconditionally loved by God.
- View God is as an active presence in the world and that God is “up to something” in their own lives.
- View God as Creator that cares for all of God’s creation, and that we are stewards of God’s creation, including how we care for ourselves.
- View prayer and reflecting on Scripture as vehicles to know and experience Jesus.
- Experience self-acceptance, meaning, and purpose in life as they embrace their callings in life.
- Follow in the way of Jesus, demonstrated by what they say and do, and how they spend their time, energy and financial resources.
- Connect with God individually, and collectively, on a regular basis.
- Experience frequent faith-related conversations with friends, family-members, and the people they encounter in daily life, with a yearning to listen and learn from others.
2 | How can we, though faith-filled parenting, be living expressions of Jesus Christ in the world?
We want our children to see us being comfortable with who we are, and how God created us. This includes seeing us celebrate our strengths, acknowledge our shortcomings, manage successes and setbacks, and find ways to give and receive God’s grace every day. We remind our children that we love them and are proud of them. We share our hopes for them as they navigate new chapters in their lives. At dinnertime we offer prayers of gratitude, regret, and concerns for others. We talk about the decisions we make regarding giving, sharing, and serving, and connect them to what we believe and value.
The most fruitful conversations often bubble-up when we comment on a news article, watch a movie, or hear about transitions taking place in others’ lives. It also shows up in what we don’t say, which includes not gossiping about others, not playing the role of a victim, and not complaining about things we can’t control. We believe that a life of faith doesn’t “look” all that much different than most people’s lives. What transforms our daily experiences is when we view our homes, neighborhoods, work, and school settings as sacred space, holy ground, and through the lens of being a Christ-follower.
3 | Who else can also walk alongside our children to support their faith journey?
We began asking this question before we had children. I’ve been blessed with in-laws who have invested in the spiritual lives of our boys. They cheered them on at the soccer fields and in their milestones of faith. They share what they’re learning about God and the ways they see God moving through them to serve and bless others. They talk about God, Jesus, and the Spirit without the stilted language people often use when talking about God in public settings.
We have friends, family members, and work colleagues who have become part of our kids’ support web. They are comfortable talking about their Christian faith in winsome ways. They avoid offering advice and seek to create an atmosphere of wonder and inquiry through the questions they raise. My wife and I had numerous conversations about the people we wanted to invite into our children’s lives. We asked:
- Who will be our children’s godparents/faith sponsor?
- What role do we want our parents to play as faith parents?
- Who else might we involve at church, at work, and in our local and online community to serve as faith mentors?
Our understanding of “family” goes far beyond blood relatives. We define family as anyone we’d allow to raid our refrigerator if we weren’t home.
4 | What do we see as our children’s “next faithful step” for living into their callings?
This question has been a crucial one as our children have discerned recent changes in college majors and careers. It’s been easy to ask, “Where has God been in the midst of all this messiness?” It’s a question all family members can ask and respond to, given the ongoing transitions in people’s lives.
5 | What have been recent teachable moments for our children?
Helping children reflect on recent experiences in their life often lead to powerful conversations that connect faith and daily life, help surface what really matters, and what a live well-lived life looks like. Youth and young adults are surprisingly open about sharing their setbacks, break-ups, and disappointments in life if we take time to ask them.
I invite you to consider one last question: “What are your kids teaching you about life and faith?”
As we walk alongside our children to support their spiritual growth, don’t be surprised if they teach you a few things. Allow young people to challenge you, encourage you, mentor you, and to help you see faith from new perspectives. Remember, everyone is both a teacher and a student. Find ways to play both roles well!
Jim LaDoux is the longtime Director of Coaching Services for Vibrant Faith. Jim lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife—he has two adult sons. He’s been a coach since 1992, and has a Master of Management Arts and is a certified PCC (Professional Certified Coach).