When I became a parent, passing on faith to my child became a top priority for me. I have always felt incredibly grateful to have grown up in a Christian home and to believe in God and follow Him from a young age. Though I’ve certainly seen my fair share of hardships, sinfulness and challenges, God has truly been the firm foundation in my life. I want my kids to know the richness of a life lived for Christ. But… How exactly do you teach a one-year-old about God? What can a three-year-old even understand?
These are the kind of questions that have crossed my mind over the past few years as we’ve grown our family. Fortunately, even in these handful of years, I have a better grasp on how to share faith with my children and point them to their Father in heaven who loves them more than I could ever imagine. Here are 4 things you can do to teach children about God.
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When our daughter was about 18-months-old, about to celebrate her second Christmas, I put up the usual decorations for the season. Fascinated with the new items around our home, she made her way to the nativity scene on the fireplace. I figured I’d take this opportunity to share with her. I told her about Mommy Mary, Daddy Joseph, and Baby Jesus. She glanced at me as I spoke and then she looked down at the figurines. She touched them gently, as I instructed her, and then she started singing, “Jesus Loves Me.”
My husband and I have been singing her that song since the day we brought her home from the hospital. Yes, little one, Jesus loves you dearly. As I pointed out baby Jesus to her, something clicked in her little mind and heart. This must be the same Jesus that loves me. She gave kisses to Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus and went on her way. But for the rest of the Christmas season, she took time every now and then to visit baby Jesus and sing the tune that had come to mean so much to her.
We have made music and worship an important part of our family and home life. Our daughter knows plenty of Christian songs and hymns, and as she plays, or is riding in the car, she will sing them. I trust that her songs of praise are helping her find the way to Jesus.
Sing your little ones the songs of faith. Even if it the message seems too complex at the time, it will remain in their hearts, and at the right moment, it will make its way to the surface and point your child to God. These songs remind a person at any age of God’s goodness and that we are His beloved children.
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Last fall, my little girl was playing next to me on the couch and she looked up and said in a very serious tone, “Pray, Momma.” Then, she folded her hands and bowed her head. I had no idea what was going on in that sweet mind of hers, but something about prayer had caught her attention. It was truly a precious moment.
Since then, she has continued to make prayer a priority. “Pray for Daddy,” she’ll say. Or Grammie, or Mommy, or even herself. Her desire to pray has even made me more mindful to pray together as a family. When she initiates prayer, I stop what I’m doing and give her those 30 seconds to pray with her. Sometimes she prays aloud, other times, her prayer is silent and I realize that something beyond words is taking place for her. She likes to pray before a meal, or when she gets a boo-boo, or if she thinks someone else might be hurt. Even at her age, she can understand prayer is a source of comfort, help and relief. She is learning to go to Jesus.
Teaching little ones to pray from a young age is crucial. When something goes wrong, they learn that prayer is their first line of defense and if our children know that, they will approach life’s problems with a confident faith being able to journey through with a deep trust in the Lord.
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“This one, Momma,” as she picks up a book. Jonah’s narrative is one of my daughter’s favorite stories right now. Something about landing himself in the belly of a whale is incredibly interesting to my little girl. She loves being read to, and I am so grateful that friends and family have gifted us Bible-inspired children’s books.
My child is drawn to them and reading these stories is one more way for her to hear about God and how He works in the lives of His followers. Even now, I read these same books to our infant and will continue to do so as he grows.
These books touch on grace, mercy, love, sin, and having a relationship with God in a way that her mind can understand. I know that as she learns these stories now, they will come to her at just the right moments throughout her life. They will make sense to her and feel familiar as she gets older rather than foreign and confusing. These child-friendly versions of biblical accounts have been a great way to share faith in Jesus with our children.
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4. Go to Church
This seems like an obvious one, but I know plenty of families, mine included, that struggle to keep church a priority. I grew up in the church, and though it wasn’t a perfect place, I have fond memories of being there every week. Church was a home away from home for me. It was the only place that I felt like I fit in. And being in that environment, around other believers, kept me encouraged in my faith and held me accountable to God.
I want the same for my children. Church is a place where our kids can learn the truth about God and how to build a relationship with Him. It’s a place where they can meet Him, worship Him, and dig deeper into His word. Church teaches children to serve and love others, and to come as they are to a God who loves them unconditionally. That’s the kind of place I want my children to feel part of. We do our best to make church a priority, even with young children, so that as they get older, it will feel like another home for them, too.
As you take steps to teach your children about God and pass faith onto them, be encouraged that even from a young age, children can begin to learn about Jesus and put their trust in Him.
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Pamela Palmer is a writer, chaplain, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces weekly devotionals and faith resource articles to inspire keeping faith at the center of it all. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of many people, being a small piece of each journey. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com and you can follow her at upheldlife.com, or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.