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Giving the Gift of Spiritual Discipline to our Children
Heather Cofer

I was 7 years old when I received my first Bible—I’ll never forget that moment. Every inch delighted me, from the bright, chalk-drawing cover to the “To Heather'' inscription from my parents just inside the cover. I couldn’t wait to make my way through it.

My enthusiastic, little self started at the very beginning (which is a very good place to start right?), determined to read straight through the Bible from beginning to end in no time flat. As you can imagine, though, my motivation fizzled long before the Israelites made it to the promised land. My wise mom, recognizing my waning interest, pointed me to Psalms and Proverbs, which I spent the next few years working through. My parents encouraged me to pray about my fears, joys, and troubles. I heard my dad’s conviction and passion as He taught his favorite passages during family worship. I observed my mom’s faithfulness to open the Bible every single day, lingering in it and hearing it overflow from her mouth from morning ‘til night. I wanted what I saw and heard in them, so I kept going back again and again. I was anything but consistent, but my stints between opening my Bible became closer together over time. And those early years planted the seeds that would grow into a deep love for being in God’s Word. My parents didn’t force me to spend time in the Bible, but they created the space for me to do so before I had the smallest inkling of how much it would impact my life.

Now I have five young children of my own, and with it a far greater appreciation of the gift of a “placeholder” I was given by my parents of time with the Lord. I know this doesn’t happen accidentally. In a world that functions at breakneck speeds, it takes intentional, deliberate choices to slow down and carve out time for us to seek the Lord, let alone to make space for our children to do so. But as my husband and I have thought, prayed, and gleaned wisdom from others, we’re increasingly convinced that creating a margin in our children’s days for thinking about spiritual disciplines is a precious gift. We cannot make our children love God and His Word, but we can seek to foster an environment in which time with God is both treasured and prioritized.

Here are three principles we’re prayerfully implementing in our home to cultivate an environment in which a love for God’s Word can grow, thrive, and hopefully take root in our children.

Model It

As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” My husband and I both know that if we want our children to desire God, they have to see that He’s desirable. They have to see He’s worthy of our time by us actually prioritizing time with Him. 

I savor quiet mornings alone with the Lord with time to linger in prayer and the passages I’m reading. However, I get very little lingering time these days with five early rising, energetic children. And although they’re not allowed to come down to the living room until their alarm goes off, the hustle and bustle, shouts, and questions begin from the moment their eyes open (so a significant part of my “quiet” time is reminding them they need to be quiet). What has helped me to let go of the expectation of total stillness during my time with the Lord with a house full of little ones is asking Him to help me remember how important it is for my children to see me in the Word. It’s so good for them to hear snippets read aloud, ask questions, snuggle next to me and look at the open pages of Scripture with me. 

It’s good to find moments to slip away and have solitary time with God, even if just for five minutes. In fact, I’d highly encourage it! However, we have the incredible privilege of modeling to our children what it looks like to seek the Lord regularly. They won’t be little forever, so I want to be faithful to take hold of every opportunity I have to show them with my life how precious God is.

Create It

Just like we create space in our children’s days for important details like eating, playing, learning, and resting, it makes sense that we would give them a space to cultivate spending time with God. When they’re young (especially before they can read) it’s more of a placeholder than anything else - we don’t expect them to grasp every detail of the book of Leviticus. But if they become used to this as part of their daily rhythm, we’re helping them establish healthy, spiritual habits they can carry with them well into adulthood. 

In our home, this looks like them spending 15-ish minutes right before breakfast reading their Bible or pulling out a Bible story book. We have a basket in a corner of our living room full of these kinds of “quiet time” books for them to choose from. They snuggle up with a blanket and “read” for a little while. Sometimes I’ll read one out loud to them, or we’ll go over memory verses. A couple of them have asked for their own quiet time notebooks to use. Sometimes it goes really smoothly, and other times it feels a little bit like wrangling the wind. But it’s become part of our routine my children expect and (usually) anticipate with fondness. 

I often hesitate to share personal methods like this, because in reality there are so many ways we can help our children cultivate spending time with God—and everyone’s circumstances and daily rhythms are different, and some methods simply won’t work for some people. My greatest encouragement is to pray and ask the Lord for wisdom to know what this looks like for you. Adopt what works, modify it, or simply leave it and appreciate what others are doing. Don’t get caught up in comparison or guilt. Simply rest in the Lord and ask for HIs help and wisdom in the practical details of pointing your children to Him. 

Live It Together 

In Deuteronomy 6:7 when Moses was speaking to the Israelites about God’s law, he instructed them to “teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Discipling our children and fostering their love for the Lord should be holistic. It should be infused into every facet of our lives. It can so easily become compartmentalized to only reading the Bible or going to a church service. But our kids need to see that it affects every minute of every day. We are to love God and speak about Him when we’re eating dinner, when we’re gazing at a sunset, when we’re walking through loss or hurt, and in every conversation about the events happening in this world. 

Spending time in the Bible is absolutely critical to our spiritual walk because this is how God has revealed Himself to us. To know Him and love Him as He is it’s vital we’re spending time there and leading our children there, too. But then our children need to see how what we read in Scripture impacts the everyday parts of our lives. These kinds of conversations should be normal. 

Some of us might have grown up in homes where conversations about spiritual things were sparse, awkward, or non-existent. Some of us might have been brought up in a false religion or in spiritually abusive households where the Bible was used as a manipulation tool. These are tragic situations. But I would submit to you that the best way to counteract this in our homes is to be faithful to teach our children what the Bible actually says, to encourage them to think deeply about biblical truth, and to show them that you are willing to talk about and wrestle over these things with them. They need to see that we are continually growing, maturing, and willing to change where our opinions have not aligned with Scripture in some way. 

When our children see that we are all on this journey of following Christ together, and we cultivate a lifestyle that welcomes our children into conversations about our faith from a young age, they will be far more likely to come to us with their hard questions, their joys, and their fears. 

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There is no formula that ensures our children will grow up to love and follow Christ with all their hearts (believe me, if there was one, I’d be the first to shout it from the rooftops). I know my children and their faith are ultimately in the Lord’s hands, not mine. However, I want to live in such a way that gives them every opportunity to know and love God through my example, my words, and how I structure our days. In our homes, may our children “taste and see that the Lord is good,” and that “blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).

 


Heather Cofer is a wife and mom of five with a passion for pointing others to Christ. She has written for multiple ministries, including
Set-Apart Girl, Well-Watered Women, and Revive Our Hearts. She is also the author of Expectant: Cultivating a Vision for Christ-Centered Pregnancy. Heather loves quality time with her husband, Judah, laughter with friends, fresh flowers, playing piano, and good coffee. She and her family currently live in Northern Colorado near the beautiful Rocky Mountains. 
You can follow along with her at heathercofer.com or on her Instagram.

 

Bible Reading Christian Living habits Motherhood Parenting Quiet Time

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