1. Tap into Transparency. Modeling Christian truth for your kids doesn’t just mean going to church, reading your Bible, and letting them see all your spiritual bright spots. Allow them to see the dimmer points in your past and present. Without disturbing them with unnecessary detail, be honest about the struggles you’ve endured. Relate to your kids as a fellow frail human being, asking questions, not just giving answers. “How would you handle that, Son?” “What would you have done if you were in my shoes, sweetie?” They will learn from seeing how you handle adversity in the Christian life.
2. Spin Yarns and Weave Tales. Christ told stories throughout His ministry—humorous, emotional . . . even scary stories. And His disciples related to them and remembered the truth they contained. Kids relate to stories too—true stories, fables, books, stories in song. So parents need to make it a habit to read to and with their kids. Tell bedtime stories with characters and conflicts relevant to your kids’ struggles. There may be no better tool for teaching kids truth than narratives that not only occupy the mind, but also impact the heart.
3. Transform “Eye Candy” into “Food for Thought.” Let’s face it: the audio-video age is here to stay. Yet your child’s daily dose of television or radio can be either a brain-numbing drug or thought-stimulating nourishment. Encourage your kids to actively think through what they hear or see rather than passively absorbing it. Ask them questions about characters, conflicts, and resolutions. “Were the actions or circumstances good, bad, or neutral?” “How was the biblical principle applied or the wrong decision illustrated?” Media provides great opportunities to launch into spiritual questions.
4. Sing Loudly and Often. Paul said, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). How many of you still remember the songs you learned in kindergarten? In the same way, songs filled with spiritual truth will stick with your kids as they repeat them over and over again. Teaching kids great hymns of the faith, Bible memory songs, poems, prayers, or even creeds can have an enduring impact on their lives. You want to teach your kids truth? Sing loudly and often.
5. Minister with—Not Just to—Your Kids. Hands-on activities often teach better than any other means of communication. Telling kids about faith, hope, and love is one thing. Sharing your faith with neighbors, ministering to the hopeless in a nursing home, or giving your time for the sake of others will clothe bare biblical facts with the fabric of real life. Take your kids on short missionary trips. Bring them to minister in a soup kitchen one day a month. Gather gifts for poor children around Christmas. Family-friendly opportunities for ministry are countless
. . . and priceless.
6. Unplug the Microwave Mentality. The process of spiritual maturity takes a lifetime. Don’t expect the profound and practical truths you share to transform your kids into Billy Graham or Corrie ten Boom overnight. Expect your kids to listen attentively to the truth you teach one minute and blatantly rebel the next. Expect them to ask the same questions over and over again without even realizing it. Have patience. Remember, teaching kids truth is not a sprint
. . . it’s a marathon.
7. Allow Room to Flourish . . . and Fail. Parents sometimes stifle kids’ questions with critical comments and corrections. Making micro-adjustments to their words and actions might make sense in the toddler years, but older kids need space to think critically, even about their own beliefs. Let them ask the hard questions, providing that you gently lead them toward the right answers. If you snuff out their curiosity as kids, they may think you tried to hide something from them as they get older. Give them room to think, to ask questions, and even to offer up bad answers—all in the safety of your patient and loving arms.
8. Avoid the Dump Truck and the Fire Hose. Kids don’t move straight from baby biscuits to five-course meals. And when it comes to spiritual food, parents shouldn’t try to accomplish too much too quickly. Expose your kids to the basics first. Tell them about the God who loves them, who sent His Son Jesus to die and rise again, and who sent the Holy Spirit to live within us. Teach them Bible stories. Communicate Christian living creatively. There’ll be time for problem passages, difficult doctrines, and philosophical conundrums as they get older and begin asking those questions themselves. Don’t dump all your knowledge on them at once or knock them over with a fire hose of truth.
9. Know . . . but Don’t Be a Know-It-All. Parents need to know and live the truth themselves if they hope to teach it to their kids. You don’t need to come across as a know-it-all or have answers to every potential question ready at a moment’s notice. However, kids can’t learn what you can’t teach . . . and they won’t mimic what you don’t model. Nothing undoes teaching like ignorance or hypocrisy. Equip yourself through prayer, fellowship with other Christians, and Bible study. Be sure that your lifestyle jives with your words.
10. Bend with Their Bents. Every child is unique, with different capacities, interests, gifts, talents, and temperaments. To teach kids truth, parents need to bend their approaches and activities to meet their kids’ individual needs. Don’t keep taking Ms. Bookworm to a ballgame, and don’t force Mr. High Octane to sit through an opera. Do things with your kids that interest them. Carve out one-on-one time with each of your children as they grow. Seek to package eternal truths in age-appropriate ways with enough variety to keep them interested. Don’t let an inappropriate or boring presentation get in the way of communicating exciting truth.