I spend an awful lot of time watching children practice sports. With a soccer player and a hockey player in our house, we spend four nights a week just going to a practice of some kind. Sometimes practice is pretty boring. The coaches tend to run the same drills over and over again.
My youngest daughter isn't a huge fan of practice. She loves being on the ice, but she doesn't enjoy the repetition of the stick-handling, passing and shooting drills. She would much rather just scrimmage all the time. I keep having to remind her that practice is all about learning skills so that when she is in a game she doesn't have to think about what to do. It will just come naturally.
Parenting is a lot like being a coach at practice. We need to instill habits and values into our kids now so that when they hit the ground running in the game of life, they'll have the tools they need. Helping our kids create spiritual disciplines in their lives like a daily time with God, prayer and scripture memorization will help them to follow Christ when the going gets tough.
When life is tough, we tend to react based on what we already know. That is not the time to suddenly be seeking God. We need to seek God in the everyday moments of our lives so when crisis comes, we don't have to think about how to react.
Psalm 119:133 says "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me." If our children haven't spent time with God and don't know God's word, they can't follow Him -- nor would they have any reason to do so. No one will blindly follow someone they don't know, especially if that person is asking them to pass through a storm. The more time our children spend getting to know God, the more they will understand who He is and desire to follow Him, even when the going gets tough.
So, grab your coaching hat and your whistle and try some of these ideas to help your children establish some spiritual disciplines:
- Get a new game. Set it up and tell your child to play it without reading the instructions. There will be much confusion. After a few minutes, read the instructions and play the game with your child. As you are playing ask your child how difficult it was to play the game. Point out that life is much like playing the game without knowing the rules. If we don't spend time with God to learn about Him and what it means to be a Christ-follower, then we can't live the way God wants us to. Ask your child about different ways he can learn about God. Talk about how important it is to spend time with God every day, using prayer, Bible reading and scripture memorization to understand how God wants to help us behave.
- Help your child choose a time during the day to spend with God. We do ours in the morning because it fits best with our schedule. Choose at time that works for your child. Make sure your child has a Bible that they can read, a devotional book and an understanding of prayer. You may want to help them the first few days.
- Start memorizing scripture together as a family. Pick a verse of the week and work on it every day at mealtime or bedtime. Talk about how if you know scripture from memory, it can help you during the week. If it's already "hidden in your heart" like Psalm 119:11 says, God will use it to help you decide what to do in instances when a Bible is not available. Keep track of the verses you learn and offer your kids prizes for reaching certain milestones.
Remember that the younger your child is, the shorter their attention span. Keep your expectations at an age-appropriate level. It may be enough for your child to spend five minutes with a picture Bible and a short prayer. Older kids can spend time reading a devotional and doing an activity. Help your child set up a daily time with God that is appropriate for him.
Encourage your children in their daily time with God, and set an example for them -- because that's what a good coach does.