Parents Guide – Spiritual Growth

A Parent’s guide to your child’s spiritual growth

Highland Kids 20 February

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Overload.  Parenting is important.  Parents invest an enormous amount of money, time and effort into their kids’ formation.

3 Approaches to parenting: (George Barna)

Barna Group did extensive research with over 10 000 families.

In his studies he identified young adults who had mature spiritual authentic relationships with God and discovered what their parents did when they were children.

Discovered 3 parenting methods.

    •  Parenting by default
      • Societal norms, traditions and expectations influence your parenting behaviour.
      • We practise them simply because we see or experience these elements so frequently in the media or in our daily excursions.
    •  Experimental parenting
      • Doing what comes naturally or what we’ve learned from past endeavours
      • We raise children in relation to the insights gleaned in the trenches
      • Trial and error method


    • Revolutionary Parenting
      • The application of biblical commands, principles and narratives
      • Goal of such child raising is to raise children who make their faith in God, and relationship with Him their highest priority
      • Success in this venture is measured by transformed lives
The church’s job or the parent’s?

Parent’s across the nation admit that one of the greatest benefits they receive from attending a church is having the community of faith assume responsibility for the spiritual development of their children.

Thinking trained professionals will provide spiritual guidance to their children- that gives them security and comfort.

George Barna:  4 out of 5 parents believe they have the primary responsibility for the moral and spiritual development of their children. But two out of three abdicate that responsibility to their church.

The abandonment of leading their children spiritually is evident in how infrequently they engage in faith-oriented activities with their young ones.

Typical week:  Fewer than 10% of parents who regularly attend church with their kids, read Bible together, pray together (other than at meal times) or participate in an act of service as a family unit.

In short, most families do not have genuine spiritual life together.  Found also that it is not disturbing to most of them because of two reasons:

    •  They are merely following the precedent that was set for them-how they grew up.  Used to the church taking responsibility.
    • Most churchgoing parents are neither spiritually mature nor spiritually inclined and therefore they do not have a sense of urgency or necessity about raising their kids to be spiritual champions.  Most parents believe that enabling their children to attend church on a regular basis and to feel generally positive about their religious experience is as high as they can set the bar.

How do parents reconcile the apparent contradiction between saying that they have the primary responsibility for the spiritual development of their kids and their practice of dropping off the kids for others to provide virtually all the spiritual instruction that their children receive?

    • By believing that because they are responsible and yet personally incapable of meeting their children’s spiritual needs, the best thing they can do is to seek the help of others who are more skilled in spiritual matters.  They think it is their best chance of raising spiritually healthy kids.

The reality is unfortunately that the time spends at church (or the amount of time dedicated to spirituality at a Christian based school) is only a drop in the bucket vs. the time children spend at home with their parents and family.  The family is by far the most important arena for a child’s spiritual development and soul care.

Even families who never attend church nor consider issues of spirituality and ethics in their decision making are spiritually forming their children.  They are teaching their children that these things don’t matter in the same way that families who do seek out lives of faith teach their children that these things do matter.

 What does the bible say about spiritual development of children?
    • Parents should provide the primary spiritual training of children.
      • Deuteronomy 1:31; 6:4-79; 11:18-19; Psalm 78:5-8, Luke 9:39.
    • Deuternonomy 6: 4-7:  “Hear O Israel:  The Lord our God is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
    • Deuteronomium 6:4-7:  “Luister, Israel, die Here is ons God, Hy is die enigste Here.  Daarom moet jy die Here jou God liefhê met hart en siel, met al jou krag. “Hierdie gebooie wat ek jou vandag gegee het, moet in jou gedagtes bly.  Jy moet dit inskerp by jou kinders en met hulle daaroor praat as jy in jou huis is en as jy op pad is, as jy gaan slaap en as jy opstaan.”
    • Parents are instructed to tell God’s story to the children when they are walking and lying down, instructed to take every opportunity daily life offers to tell and retell the story of God’s goodness to their children.
    • God was reinforcing the idea that parents are in the best position of anyone to communicate the things of faith to their children.
    • It also shows that faith is more caught than taught.  The best faith education is informal.
    • The best faith education comes from asking God to be present in all the everyday, mundane acts of life as well as the monumental and life-changing ones.
The family that has the ability to spiritually nurture its children.

Family: The forming centre:  Marjorie Thompson

    •  The refuge
    •  Dolores Leckey:  “A family should be a place of acceptance, nurture, and growth that empowers family members to participate in God’s on going acts of compassion and salvation.”
    • For a child the family should be the safest place on earth.
    • Ivy Beckwith:  “It is the only place where he can be absolutely who he is and still know he will be accepted and forgiven.
    • Although the family may not deem all of the child’s actions and desires appropriate, the family will still show the child unconditional love and acceptance, allowing the child to grow emotionally strong and confident.
    • The acceptance of the child’s identity, feelings and actions by the family will mirror to the child the love and acceptance God feels for him, helping that child to fully experience God’s love.
    • Experiencing how family members love each other is a mirror of God’s love.
    • Forgiveness:  When they see their parents forgive one another or experience forgiveness from a sibling, it teaches them about God’s forgiveness for them.
    •  The storykeeper
    •  Thompson also defines the family’s role in spiritual formation as that of storyteller and guide.  The model of this is found in Deuteronomy.
    • The family has three stories to tell:
      • Personal stories of faith:
        • Their birth- bringing God into the midst of that special day
        • How parents and grandparents came to love God and Jesus
        • How the larger community of faith have been important to them over the years.
      • The stories of their past:
        • Stories of Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad about when they were their age.
        • Gives them the sense of being part of something lasting, strong and secure.
      • Biblical stories:
        • Children need to first hear God’s story before they can live in God’s story.
        • Families have the ability to tell God’s story and their own story spontaneously.  Families can tell stories that fit their circumstances.  They can tailor the story to meet the needs of the child or the situation.
    •  The servant
    • There is a communal nature to citizenship, a responsibility to care for the people and things God created.  If this understanding is instilled in the child through family life, it will be a natural transition for the child to carry this kind of citizenship into the community of faith.
    • Family life means serving one another by taking out the garbage and loading the dishwasher.
    • It teaches kids about sacrifice.
    • But the family is also the place where a powerful ability to foster acceptance and love of others in their children.
    • If a parent shows disdain for the poor, then it is extremely likely that the children of that family will hold the same opinion.
    • If the family only spend time with people like themselves because they are scared of people who are different, then it is likely the children will develop an attitude of superiority towards those who do not hold the same moral or religious views the family does.
    • Actively reaching outside the home to help those in needs teaches children what it means to live life in service to others.
    • This might mean involving the family in works of mercy and caring or in works of justice.
    • Tips for being a parent who raises a godly child:

                              George Barna: “Revolutionary parenting:  Raising your kids to                                           become spiritual champions.”

    • Your impact on your children’s lives is proportional to the depth of the relationship you have fostered with them
    •  Your ability to influence your children is dependent upon them respecting you and trusting you.
    • You build such a relationship by showing them unconditional love, complete integrity, and total commitment to the ways of God and their best interests.
    • This implies devoting substantial amounts of time to building your relationship with each child.
    • Quality time s. quantity time:  We don’t always want to hear it, but there is no substitute for investing substantial time in your relationship with your children.
    • Further, you gain their respect by exhibiting clarity about what you believe and by consistently and unapologetically modelling those principles.
    •  God wins first place
      • Parents who are unequivocal in their placement of their faith in Christ and their desire to be obedient to God as the guiding light of their life, raises spiritual champions.
      • Raising a spiritual champion is best accomplished by having at least one parent who in the home who is fully committed to honouring God through his or her life and parenting practises.
      • Such a parent has a mind-set that integrates their faith in Christ into every dimension of their lives.


    • Growing spiritually together
      • Families that raise children who love God are families that tend to delve into faith matters as a family unit.
        • Family conversations that bring biblical views into their shared lives.
          • Sharing what God did in your life.  The things you are thankful for etc.
        • Efforts to regularly engage in faith activities (Bible study, worship, prayer) that model the integration of faith into their lives.
      • Less than 10% born again families read the Bible together during a typical week, excluding mealtimes.
    • Spiritual growth is intentional
      • Parents whose children turn out to love God are those parents who do not hesitate to explain the personal significance of seeking their own spiritual growth on a daily basis.
      • Children need to experience their parent’s faith as authentic, real and growing. 
      • The implication is to invest your precious time in your already busy schedule in spending time with God to grow.
      • In this way your children will experience your relationship with God as authentic and they will have a passion to have the same experience and same growth as their parent.
      • Doesn’t mean that you are perfect.  Acknowledge your imperfections and ask forgiveness when you made a mistake.

Practices that foster spiritual growth:

      •  Make prayer a priority:
        • Learn your children how to pray
        • Pray together as husband and wife
        • Pray together every day as family
      • Make your faith experience fun
        • Watch a movie or DVD together and discuss out of Christian perspective
        • Reach out to others in need as family
      • Family moments
        • Pray together before bedtime
        • Mealtime prayers and bible stories
        • In the car:  Christian stories or music on CD’s
      • Church involvement
        • Decide to attend a church together
        • Get your kids involved in an age appropriate group


Spiritual Growth of Children- Trent, Osborne and Bruner.  (Focus on the family).

Revolutionary Parenting- George Barna.

Transforming children into spiritual champions- George Barna.

Postmodern Children’s ministry- Ivy Beckwith

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