Many parents feel overwhelmed and confused about what to say when it comes to having spiritual conversations with their kids. Conversations can seem especially tricky when talking to your kids about having a relationship with a personal God. Perhaps you have just hoped that something sticks and that your child’s faith survives adolescence. Sometimes the toughest part is knowing what to say and how to say it. Fortunately, when it comes to having conversations about God there is hope – real hope. Here is some guidance on how to spark a conversation with your kids as they seek to discover the personal God who loves them.
Barriers to Believing in a Personal God
The Language Barrier
If it feels like you are sometimes speaking a different language than your kids, it’s because you probably are. A lot has changed in the last few decades. The world in which your children are growing up is vastly different than the one you encountered as an adolescent. The resulting language barrier between generations can have a profound impact on your child’s spiritual formation. If you get blank stares when you talk about having a personal relationship with God, don’t be discouraged. You’re not alone. Know that you can overcome this language barrier if you are intentional about doing so and can lead them to Christ.
Pay attention to the language your children use when they talk about their spiritual life. Ask them what they mean by certain words. This will help you to learn how to communicate spiritual truths in a language that your children will more easily understand.
Reality vs. Concept
No matter how bright your child is, he or she probably struggles with the concept of a relationship with God. This is not uncommon. Our default way of seeing the world, especially in today’s society, is to doubt the authenticity of anything that isn’t immediately available to our senses. We tend to live inside a materialistic box where what we can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste is real. Everything else, we believe, exists only in our minds.
For many, God exists as a concept instead of as a real, personal being. This is more than simply a language barrier between parents and their children. Talking about a relationship won’t make sense to your kids when the object of that relationship is a concept, not a person. It is therefore critical to teach your kids how to discover the personal God. Using personal language when you talk about who God is will help your children come to see God as a personal being with whom they can have a relationship.
Definitions of Relationships
Additionally, social media and the Internet have caused students to reconceptualize what a relationship looks like. This is not something we need to fear. However, as parents we should help our students navigate this new technological world and teach them how to formulate solid, God-honoring ideas about relationships. As your child begins to grasp what healthy relationships look like, be deliberate in finding ways to talk about God as a personal being. Connecting who God is with their understanding of relationships is a key component of your child’s spiritual development.
See the Heart of God Through Your Child
Skills That Will Reveal a Personal God
Here are two skills you can practice with your family that will help everyone to begin to see God in a personal way:
Thanksgiving is usually not one of the first skills you’ll encounter in a book on spiritual disciplines. However, it can be crucial for opening your eyes to the reality of a personal God.
When someone receives a gift, they receive a bit of the gift-giver as well. The given item is important, but the relationship between the giver and receiver plays a vital role in how we value the gift.
God is the great gift-giver (James 1:17) and so to receive a gift from Him is, in a very real sense, to receive Him in relationship. When we receive what He has given to us with thankfulness, we are reminded that the giver of this gift is a personal God. This reminder can help solidify the image of a personal God in our minds. God is honored through our thanksgiving.
Make it a point to thank God each day for what He has given you. For instance, your family might take time each night around the dinner table to name one thing that each person is thankful for. Take time to say a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Think of Jesus as sitting at that table with you. How would you pray differently if you treated Him as if He were a part of that conversation?
When we go through difficult situations in our lives, we appreciate having others alongside of us. Often nothing needs to be said; a person’s mere presence is comforting and healing. This is how God operates as well. Jesus chose to leave heaven behind and join us in our suffering (Philippians 2:5-11). God’s presence with us in times of pain and sorrow is one of the most distinguishable characteristics about Him. When we join others in their suffering, we are not simply representing God to them, but we actually invite his presence into the situation (Matthew 18:20).
Realizing that God chooses to be present in our lives will open our eyes to see how active and involved He is in our lives. When we unite ourselves with others in their time of need, we become like Christ and create a channel for His ministering presence to operate.
One of my students once prayed at an altar that God would physically reveal Himself. While he was praying, the student felt someone put a hand on his shoulder. Whoever that person was, their simple act of being present opened the door for a supernatural act of healing. God is present in the actions of His people.
Take some time each day to notice how God has shown His presence in your life. How has He shown His presence that day? What difficult situations have you faced in life where He showed you His presence? Discuss these times with your family. It may be helpful to make a list or journal the ways that He has been present and personal. Then brainstorm with your family ways that your presence can bless others.
Expect to Encounter a Personal God
There are many other ways – such as reading the Bible, praying, and fasting – that will help you and your children come to see a personal God who is interested in having a real relationship with you. The skills of thanksgiving and presence highlight the fact that since God is personal, we should expect to encounter Him in the way we do other people. Receiving a surprise gift or having someone sit with you when you are hurting are real reminders that the relationship with God is intact. God is a personal being. He wants to be in relationship with you and He demonstrates this desire in many different ways. Treat Him as if He is a personal God and He will demonstrate His presence in ways you might never have expected.
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