The New Year will arrive in less than a week, and Christians around the world will be praying with hopes for a more prosperous, less worrisome new year. Prayers for our nation will be at the top of the list, but parents will no doubt be praying for their hopes and dreams concerning their children. They want their kids to get good grades, be well behaved, develop their talents, and have lots of stellar friends.
Christian parents have that very important item at the top of their wish list: They want their kids to be closer to God in the new year.
Christian parents also realize they are up against a lot. Most Americans acknowledge that while this is still the home of many Christians, sadly, we would not exactly call America a “Christian nation.” Mentions of Jesus in public schools are almost taboo, and school prayer is off the grid. Manger scenes at Christmas have been forced out of town squares in lieu of innocuous wintertime symbols such as snowmen and Santa. The separation of church and state has come to mean that our congressmen do not mention “God’s will” when promoting legislation.
As one mother said, “I feel like I have to grill my kids on the way home from school every day. My job has become to either augment or completely undo what they have learned – and most of what they remember best takes place on the playground and not in the classroom!”
Parents are aware they cannot tackle the job of raising Christian kids all by themselves. This is actually a good place to be! Apostle Paul notes God’s words to him when he was overwhelmed with the ministry, found in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me “¦ for when I am weak, then I am strong..”
If we ask God to take the helm of bringing our kids to saving knowledge of him, we can watch our kids grow as close to him as kids have done in any other era.
Let’s commit ourselves to God’s strength in the New Year and place Him front and center in tackling some mini-challenges. These seven challenges, concerning parents as much as kids, will help your kids become closer to Christ this coming year.
Mini-Challenge #1: Confess to God how much you need and want Him to get your kids’ attention early on this year. Confess it often.
Parents are used to being in charge of their households. They are used to their kids seeing them as in charge. Therefore it may be a bit counter-intuitive for them to confess that they are not big enough to tackle certain jobs. But let’s look at Ephesians 2:8-9 in the context of parenting: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Most of us acknowledge the truth in this when it comes to ourselves, but it also holds true for our kids. Reading the Bible to our kids and insisting on Sunday school is important; however, it will not replace the active and mighty hand of God working in kid’s lives. ”
Matthew 7:7 says, “Knock and the door will be opened.” Think of us knocking for our kids and Jesus opening. He wants to be close to our children. Our prayers matter more than anything else.
Mini-Challenge #2: Share at least one of your daily thoughts about Jesus with your kids.
It’s a fact that most Christian parents think of Jesus at least ten times a day. Some claim to rarely stop thinking about him or to feeling the sensations of “living in him,” regardless of what is going on. Yet, when it comes to our kids, we sometimes go on autopilot, under the assumption that parenting is about driving, cooking, laundry, and doing schoolwork.
While driving to pick your kids up from school, challenge yourself to remember one of the times you thought about Jesus during the day. Share it in the car on the way home from school or aftercare. You don’t have to lecture or make it sound fancy. Just share. If your kids don’t get it or are not interested, at least they will see your interest. Your sharing is seeds planted. Your kids will come to associate responsible adults with including God in their lives. When the kids become adults, they will fondly remember Mom and Dad as always setting God before them as a light unto their paths. Proverbs 22:6 states, “Raise your children in the way they should go, and when they are grown, they will not depart from it.” God knows you are not a trained theologian or even a trained Sunday school teacher. Just share. You can find 10 great conversation starters about God in our original Mom Challenge post.
Mini-Challenge #3 Ask your kids what you can pray for and pray for it.
Praying for your kids is a great witness – not only for them, but for yourself! Prayers about kids tend to get answered. After all, our Heavenly Father understands our love for them; he created parental love in the image of his love for his only begotten son Jesus. If your kids are struggling with a subject, tell them you will pray for them. If they are struggling with a bully or with a difficult crowd, do the same. Don’t shirk any ways you can help on a practical level, but let them know you are praying as well.
When your children realize your prayers are being answered, the power of prayer will stick with them in concept and will serve as an encouragement for their own relationship with God.
Prayer warriors across the country often say, “when you pray, pray specifically.“ It will help give you vision and power. When you pray, mention the name of the bully, the place altercations take place, and the times, for example. Tell God what you would like to see happen. Really listen for his answers. God wants to comfort and support you, and he wants your children to see that he is real, affectionate, intelligent, and interested in their lives. Prayers answered for parents create believers out of their children. Note: If your child is struggling with bullying, our Bullying and the Bible resource may be of help to you.
Mini-Challenge #4 Commit the whole family to Sunday mornings and, if possible, one night a week.
With life being so busy and so many businesses staying open on Sunday, it is often very tempting to pass off Sunday school or church. Whatever rules you establish for yourself for church, your children will watch and emulate. One mother made the exception of not going to church on summer Sundays, when they had lots of company at their shore house. Before long, her kids were asking to get out of Sunday school for social reasons as well.
Committing Sunday morning or Sunday night to church is not asking too much for the committed parent. Adding in Wednesday night recharge is not “something extra” for you to do; it’s actually taking a burden from you by having professionals explain spiritual issues to your kids where your own words might seem lacking.
Most everyone can find a way to make services and, even if we have worked all night, we can find the situation rejuvenating. Families that end up with faithless children are often the ones where the kids watched their parents wiggle out thinking they were gaining free time. Actually, those parents were losing free assistance. Your kids may have no idea what you do in Bible study or adult church services. But knowing you are there will become a part of their definition of responsible living.
Mini-Challenge #5 Fix Saturday night rules to fit Sunday mornings.
Especially as children enter the sleep-over stage, church can become challenging. Many of their friends may have lapsed or lax parents. Many times, the kids will stay up well into the night without the parents realizing. When it comes time for church, it can be like dragging dead weight out of the bed, and the kids do not find Sunday school enjoyable. They’re exhausted, haven’t had a decent breakfast, or aren’t in the mindset to listen to the teacher.
Establish rules with your kids early on. If they sleep at a friend’s house on Saturday night, make it clear to your kids that they will be picked up before Sunday school and not after. Make this clear as well to the hosting parent. (You may plant a seed that reignites their faith!)
Tell your kids they may bring the hosting child to Sunday school, but they do not get out of Sunday school via a sleepover. Stick to your rule. If they are invited to a sleepover party, where traditionally kids stay up all night, plan to pick them up at ten-thirty or eleven and not let them sleep over. Whatever rules you establish with your kids when they are younger will be easier to maintain when they are teenagers, so get on it as soon as possible.
Mini-Challenge #6 Seek out not only friends at church, but friends for your kids at church.
Kids who are regular attenders at church may have just as many personality problems as kids who don’t. It often takes years of exposure before real faith begins to conquer adverse personality traits; going to services does not magically wipe out ADHD, tantrums, meanness, bossiness, or whatever else kids do. It does mean, however, that you are surrounding yourself with parents who have similar goals to your own. They want their kids in houses where the gospel is alive and active. They want their kids to develop a relationship with God that will be lifelong.
Having Christian friends will give kids exposure to families with similar goals to yours and parents who are looking to avoid and/or embrace the same things as you. Christian parents have different temperaments, backgrounds, education levels, and intelligence levels. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Your kids are better off in a small cabin with parents who love God than playing at the home of a wealthy professionals who care nothing for God. They are better off in the ramshackle dwelling of committed Christian parents than in the neatest, most highly sanitized homes of non-believers. Seek out Christian friends for your kids, and knit yourselves to their parents! You are brothers and sisters, and will be spending a long time together in eternity.
Mini-Challenge #7 Don’t neglect your own daily walk.
You can find that you’re too busy to talk to God, or too ashamed of something you’ve done, or too angry at God for something that happened to you. You can begin to avoid him. Rest assured your children will quickly start doing the same. A wise mother once said, “You can’t lie to your kids. You can avoid subjects, but somehow, they always wind up knowing.” If you ignore your own spiritual walk, your kids will ignore theirs.
Talk to God daily. If you find that hard, tell him why it’s hard. Listen for his answers. If you’ve done something wrong, apologize. Simply tell him you were a big idiot again and ask for his help. And at the same time, don’t buy into false guilt, which tells you you’ll never be good enough for him. Nobody is good enough; as Romans 3:23 states, “All have sinned; all fall short of the glory of God.”
The point of being a Christian is that we have a relationship with the most loving being in the universe, who happens to be available 24/7. It doesn’t get any better than that.
It appears, thankfully, that the endless dooms day talk of 2012 was for naught. We are pressing on. We need God in our lives and in our kids’ lives for as long as the world lasts, and we’re feeling it right now. Bring in the New Year willing to abide by these mini-challenges and, with God’s help, you will plant a bushel of seeds that will begin to sprout in your children. Your prayers and attentiveness will continue to make them the strong adults that our world needs.
Ready for Another Mom Challenge?”¦
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