Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sharing Faith & Practices with Children

I don't have parenting wins often, but when I do, I want to celebrate them. We started some traditions with Wesley sharing prayers and practices with him several years ago. Apparently the persistence and consistency has paid off because in the past few weeks he's been adding practices to his own life.

We are Christians and attend worship each week. Our children are present in a variety of capacities (Christian preschool, nursery during worship, present for theological dinner conversation, listen to Christian radio, etc.) but it is important to us that they make their faith their own, not borrowing ours. My prayer is that this will grow and develop over time, but I know it will take a lot from Jarrod and I to encourage, leave room for doubt, and have plenty of open conversation.

I am sure there are other parents looking for ways to share their faith with their children in age-appropriate ways. I thought I'd share what we do in hopes that I will hear from others about what you do too!

Prayers for Sirens
Wesley LOVES fire engines, police cars, and sirens. He started getting SUPER excited when he heard sirens when he was about 18 months old. It disturbed me because a siren is usually not an exciting moment. I began teaching him to pray when we hear a siren,
Dear God, please be with those who are helping and those who need help. Amen.
Each and every time we hear a siren, we pray that simple prayer.  Wesley now prays this prayer on his own when he hears a siren. He is beginning to understand that sirens mean people need help. It is precious.

Grace before eating
Almost 2 years ago, Jarrod and I went to a monastery in France. A special style of music comes from this monastery called Taize. They are simple, chats that are easy to learn and very meaningful. When we returned, Jarrod and I picked a song that we would use before eating. We picked "Let all who are Thirsty Come." We sing it every night before we eat dinner.
Let all who are thirsty come. Let all who wish, receive the water of life freely. Amen. Come Lord Jesus. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
This semester Jarrod has had class Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings. The kids and I still eat together and Jarrod gets dinner after he gets home. Wesley has begun singing with me every night and it's adorable. He was shy to join us at first, but now sings with enthusiasm and it is so fun.

Bible Stories before bed
I'm pretty particular about my children's Bible stories. I want them to be age-appropriate but also theologically appropriate. When I was introduced to the Spark Children's Story Bible, I knew I found the perfect Bible for my children.  This Bible is hardbound with thick and colorful pages. The Bible stories are shared in both an age-appropriate but theologically accurate way. Wesley loves reading the stories and looking at the pages. The Bible can be purchased here and I'd highly recommend it for any child!

We read one story from the Bible each night before bed. This was something I started when Wesley was an infant. I started with his first Bible, an NRSV children's bible. It had very thin pages and no pictures. He grabbed at the pages and I was terrified he was going to rip it. I never let him hold it or touch it. His story Bible is HIS Bible. He holds it, picks out the stories, and reads through it. He's getting the opportunity to use his Bible, which will hopefully make him more comfortable reading it in the future. Because the stories aren't watered down (too much) I'm hopeful that he will retain some of what he is learning and feel comfortable using his Bible.

The Lord's Prayer
Our church recites and prays the Lord's Prayer during worship each week. It was a standard part of growing up for me and it was important to teach this prayer to my children. We began praying this prayer as an end to our prayer time with Wesley when he was an infant. We continued doing this every night and when he was about 2.5 years old, he began joining in. He sometimes chooses not to pray it out loud with us, but he knows it and is capable. We pray in similar ways each night, "Dear God, thank you for this day. Thank you for.... Help us... etc." and keep things simple. This is not because we think prayer is simple or reserved only for bedtime but because it is a great and safe way for Wesley to learn to pray. He has copied our language (most of his prayers begin, "Dear God, thank you for this day.") and inserted some of his own (always thanking God for fire trucks, dinosaurs or Jake and the Neverland Pirates) in a way only a 3 year old can do.

It is my desire that Wesley develops a prayer life that is conversational, respectful, and open. I pray that he wrestles with God and listens intently. I pray he opens his heart to God and lifts up others.



I do not share any of this to brag or say that we are perfect. We do not do any of this ALL of the time. We skip nights and pray while children scream. We've found that consistency with faith practices (as with many things!) is key with little ones. If it doesn't work one night, it might work the next. Everyday is a new day and a new chance to share experiences with our kids.

How do you share your faith practices with your children?
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