My pastor introduced me to an audience by saying, “Before Tim teaches you how to do family devotions and lead your kids to follow Him, I thought it might be good to see how it worked at his house. I talked to his son Mark.”
Seriously? I thought. If I wasn’t nervous before, I was now. Mark is my strong-willed son.
“Mark allowed me to record our phone conversation,” he continued. “I’m going to play that for you now.” I imagined a lone bugler playing “Taps” for me.
The audience and I listened as my son told of the impact family devotions had had on him. Then he went on to talk about how my example had impacted his life in ways I hadn’t realized.
Pushing our kids to follow Christ rarely works, regardless of their age. Instead, as parents we must be all about following God ourselves. Then we need to think about the great parents we had — or wish we had — and work to become that kind of parent.
As we follow God and become better parents, our kids may follow us and the God we serve. In a sense, we become a magnet.
There’s nothing more magnetic than showing our love for our kids by spending time with them. So many parents sit while their kids play. If we play with them, we’ll have kids who love to be with us — and will want to be like us when they grow up.
Kids watch us as we try to live out our faith. We must try to
- Do what the Bible says
- Love our spouse, if we have one
- Not argue, complain or yell
- Forgive quickly, which can build closeness in relationships
It’s easy to think that we’re an exception to following the Word at times, but that only confuses and frustrates our kids. We can’t expect them to draw closer to God than we do.
Magnets only work when there are no obstructions. Put a two-by-four between two magnets, and their power is lost. Do we want to be a magnet? We must not let anything come between us and our kids.
Avoid screens when the kids are around. Phone. Computer. Television. Any screen can neutralize our power as magnets. Screens will distract us from giving our kids the face time they desperately need. And kids need our love given in physical ways. Hugs. A kiss on the cheek. Tussling their hair. Many parents give their phone more touches than they do their kids. We need to set a good phone-use example.
Set limits. What distracts our kids? If our kids have their own phones, our problems connecting multiply. Some parents make the dinner table a “no phone zone.” Smart. Then remember that too much of even good things — work, sports and other after-school activities — will limit our ability to connect directly with them. Find the right balance that allows kids to be active and with friends, but also be at home some so you can connect with them.
Steer clear of repelling them
Magnets draw close, but they also repel. Hold two magnets the wrong way and, instead of pulling together, they’ll bounce away from each other. As magnets, we do best to stay away from things that will keep our kids at arm’s length from us. The Bible says it this way: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NIV). Here are a couple things that can exasperate our kids.
A double life. If we don’t get rid of secret sin, our kids will somehow pick up on it — especially if they’re teens. They’ll distance themselves. If we think we can pull off living a lie, we’re only fooling ourselves. We won’t fool our kids.
Sloppy Christianity. We tell our kids how important it is to live out God’s Word. Yet if at some point the kids see we aren’t dedicated to living out the principles from God’s Word — especially in how we treat our mate — we’ll do more to drive them from the faith than we can possibly imagine. They’ll lose respect for us, which is one of the greatest roots to feed rebellion. (Yes, we all mess up. And when we do, let’s not hide it. When we mess up, fess up — and likely we won’t lose their respect.)
Set an example
How do we show our kids how serious we are about following God? We set the example. Let them see us spending time daily in the Word. Let them see us putting the Bible into practice as well. We might say, “Hey, kids, I was just reading in the Bible about being patient. I’m asking God to help me do better with that.”
Although a Bible app works well, a well-marked Bible says tons to our kids — and becomes a family heirloom. Another action that kids note is whether we make going to church a priority. Kids notice our actions, so we need to make sure we regularly attend church — and make the day fun from start to finish. That means you shouldn’t check email, news or social media on your phone while at church.
It’s important to demonstrate what you believe. For example, when the congregation is singing at church, sing your heart out. No matter how bad our voices are, we can worship with all our hearts. Singing is about worshiping God — and our kids need to see how important that is to us. In the same way, leading a quick and simple family devotion lets them know that we learn about God not only at church but also at home in our everyday lives.
Keep at it
Stay faithful. By God’s grace, Mark, my son who gave the phone interview to my pastor, kept following Jesus — and following me as I did the same. He’s a youth pastor now — and a good one.
We want our kids to follow Christ, so let’s be magnets, by holding tight to God and His principles for living, staying close to our mates and connecting with our kids. What might happen as we do? Our spouses and kids won’t be able to help themselves. They’ll be drawn to us — and the God we love.