How We have Raised Kids Who Love God.
I hear from a lot of parents who really want their kids to grow up to know and love God. I want so much to support families in this way, so I thought I would share a bit of what we’ve done with our boys, in case it might encourage a few people…
As most of you know, my husband Dave and I have four sons. As I write, they are ages 19, 17, 14, and 8.
And as I write, all four of them really, truly, independently love Jesus. (*Levi, my youngest, is just eight, so it’s fair to say his faith is still developing…) But as for the 3 teenagers? I can say without any hesitation that they have a personal and committed faith.
So I get asked, a lot: How did this happen? How have we (so-far) raised our boys to love God and want to walk with Him?…Boys who have not rebelled or turned away from the faith we have taught them. Boys who take their own faith seriously.
*Photo by Emily Turner
Well, next summer you’ll find a whole chapter in my upcoming Boy Mom Book which will dive deeper into this topic, (*wink* for the shameless early sales pitch) but for now I will share a few things…
First of all — important to keep in mind:
Parents have a great opportunity to give their kids a foundation of faith, but only God can truly change a heart. Also, we need to remember that every kid has a free will, so even if parents do everything right, a child may choose not to follow God. Finally, I am aware that my boys are not “done” yet…they may have twists and turns ahead in their lives, and I would never be so naive as to think we are through parenting or they are through growing.
Next, a few things that Dave and I have not done:
We have not brain-washed our boys, or force-fed them with religion.
We have not just prayed, and then hoped for the best.
We have not told them to live one way, but lived our lives another way.
So what have we done?
Dave and have tried to live out our own faith authentically in front of our boys. (Not perfectly, but authentically.) We introduced our boys very naturally to a relationship with God from a young age. We have answered some questions, and let them wrestle with others. (<– Luke just told me this was key to his own faith development.) We have stayed plugged into a local church, and valued the community that offers. We have remained humble and aware of our constant need for God in our lives.
I’m pretty sure all of that ^^ has had the greatest impact on our boys’ personal decision to follow Jesus.
But Dave and I also try to be intentional in teaching our boys how to grow spiritually. We know how much we need to spend time with God each day, and we have taught our boys the importance of doing the same. We call that daily time with God, “devotions”. (which, sorry if that is a bit of a Christianeze term, but it’s what we call it. 🙂 )
What are “Devotions”? Practically speaking, “devotions” are just taking the time to read the Bible and pray. Sometimes the boys also read a devotional book or app (I’ll list a few at the bottom) but really we just emphasize the importance of spending time growing to know God better.
There is no formula. It’s not a religion, but a relationship.
What do they read: When they’re young, Dave or I will read a kids’ devotional book and a few verses from the Bible with our sons, and say a short prayer with them. By Jr. High, the boys do devotions on their own. We encourage them all to read a chapter of Proverbs each day. This is a great habit (for a lifetime) because Proverbs is packed with wisdom for every day life, and it has 31 chapters, making it perfect to read a chapter a day all month. They also read a chapter or two from another book of the Bible (The Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John– are a great place to start.) All of our boys love reading the Bible, and I have to believe that has much to do with the fact that they’ve grown up learning from it and have realized how interesting and valuable it is to their lives. I also believe that their love for God’s Word has protected them from all kinds of trouble.
Psalm 119:9 says: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”
USING A SPIRITUAL JOURNAL:
We have encouraged our boys to use a spiritual journal as part of their devotions. We have taught our boys to use the acronym “SOAP” for journaling.
S.O.A.P. Bible journaling goes like this:
“S” is for Scripture. Read a chapter or two from the Bible, and find a verse (or two or three) that stands out to you. Copy it down.
“O” is for Observe. Observe what is going on in that verse. Who is speaking and what context is it in? (especially as kids get older and more mature it is crucial that they learn not to take Scripture out of context…)
“A” is for Application. How might this verse apply to your life? How might it encourage you, or someone else? Does it challenge you? Inspire you? Write it down!
“P” is for Prayer. This is a chance to write a prayer for the day…Perhaps something related to what they just read, or something else. Prayer is just talking to God so this can be as long as they need.
And to help guide kids in prayer, I have another acronym! 🙂 (why not?) We use “ACTS.”
A.C.T.S. Prayer guideline goes like this:
“A” is for Adoration: We like to open up prayer by praising God for how good He is…It is good to remind ourselves that God is Holy and worthy of our praise.
“C” is for Confession: This is a time to confess our sins and ask forgiveness from God. (1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”)
“T” is for Thanksgiving: This is about taking the time to thank God for everything –big or small. We ALL have things to be thankful for, and it does a heart good to stop and thank Him.
“S” is for supplication: This is a time to bring our needs before the Lord. Physical, emotional, relational needs, as well as the needs of others. (He knows our needs before we even ask, but He loves to hear us ask.)
Just the beginning: This is just scratching the surface of what we do to support our boys in their spiritual development. This goes along with being intentional about influences in our kids’ lives and guiding them in all ways. Parenting is no joke, and faith is a big deal to Dave and I, so we make it a big priority as we raise them. It is incredibly rewarding to hear from my son who is away at college, where he continues to do devotions each morning, as well as gather with friends for Bible studies and prayer. It makes me think of the verse in 3 John 1:4 that says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” I fully agree!
It is never too early or too late… to encourage your kids to grow spiritually. Giving them a Bible and a journal is a great way to begin to work on a daily habit of time with their Creator. I’d love to hear from you in comments if you want to share what you have done with your kids in the way of daily devotions or spiritual development. Or if you have a question or challenge along these lines, feel free to leave it in comments!
IF you want to be first to know when my Boy Mom Book launch team opens, leave your name over on THIS PAGE! (Launch team will get advance copies of the book and some special perks along the way!)
LIST OF DEVOTIONAL BOOKS:
(Amazon Affiliate links -)
for Elementary and Jr. High age:
The One Year Book of Devotions for Boys
Growing with God: 365 Daily Devos for Boys (VeggieTales) (they also have one for girls!)
Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids
Luke (14) likes going online and using the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Devotional (https://fcaresources.com)
He has also used: Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence.
My older boys prefer to read through a book of the Bible, but they have also used the Jesus Calling devotional, or gone through various books with their youth group leader. (Currently, Jonah is going through Multiply by Francis Chan.)
They have also used: My Utmost for His Highest:
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. Please share it with your friends using the share buttons below, and subscribe to my blog for future posts and updates!
Also: if you think it would be helpful for me to offer a printable of the Journal or Prayer Acronyms, let me know and I’ll try to whip one up! 😉
I LOVE these ideas. This post truly moved me. Our children are blessed to attend a private Christian school, and so I know that their days are filled with the bible and His word, but these are good reminders of things/activities we can do at home. Thank you, Monica, for being amazing and for sharing this!
‘Intentional’ . That’s the word I love best in this post. It speaks directly to me! xx
Thank you for sharing! I think the printables you mentioned at the end of the article would be amazing!!!
We have family scripture study before school every morning, and family prayer twice a day. The spirit of love in our home is different (not as good) when we fail to do these things. It is such a high priority for us that we do our very best to be consistent and diligent in this. But we emphasize to our children that the most important thing they can do to develop their relationship with God is their private religious observance – – personal scripture study, private prayer, journaling. Like your son, these are the things that they carry with them as they leave the home. I was both stand and pleased and grateful the day that I realized that my oldest child had a relationship with Jesus that did not involve me. They will carry with them as they leave the home. I was stunned, but also pleased and grateful on the day that I realized that my oldest child had a relationship with Jesus that did not involve me. We worship every Sunday at church, and several times a month in the temple. We also emphasize service to our neighbors (friends at school, neighbors close to home, neighbors around the world) as an important part of living a Christian life.
**stunned and please and grateful
Hi Monica, fellow WriterMom of four boys (and I have a girl too I think you know ❤️)— great post and something I’ve written (and am currently) writing about as well! -you have some excellent ideas here! I’m just a little bit ahead of you in this Boy Mom journey as my youngest son is 15 — having our kids love the Lord is huge and we too are very intentional in how we raise all of our kids- we echo what you are doing – ACTS is something my husband and I learned from our involvement in CRU- in fact so much of our raising our boys we’ve learned from CRU like devotions etc! – And you asked for our ideas on raising kids to love Jesus, I’d add the social part – helping our kids make strong Christian friends -.. I love your heart and energy! – Cornelia
Would love to know when new book launches! Thank you (from another “boy mom of 4 sons)
Thank you Elisabeth! Awesome, if you click over to that page I linked to you can be on the first-to-know list. Yay for 4-boy moms — we need each other!! 🙂 Much aloha
Monica, I recently found your blog, and I love it more than I can say. Especially this post! Humble, practical, so inspiring. Thank you, please keep writing! I’m a Connecticut mom to two, who are out of VeggieTales but headed toward FCA type resources. Maybe you’ll do a devotional for middle schoolers when this manuscript is done? 🙂
Sending East Coast love and support.
Thank you so much Liz!! I totally get that stage you are in…(and there is definitely a gap in the devo-realm for that age, so not a bad idea. :)) Blessings to you and thanks again. XO
Thanks for that, Monica, good reminders for me too! I love your SOAP acronym and think I should adopt that for my own “devotions”. Raising kids to love God can be really hard, especially if your spouse doesn’t share your faith. My husband is not a believer but my elder son (20) is fully on fire for God and really does put him first. In fact I have to rein him in from getting involved in too many church activities and from reading his bible or other Christian books when it’s time to study! My younger son (16) has not wanted to attend church with his brother and I for the last two or three years. I’ve had fights with him about it but figured out that wasn’t a good way to handle it and have backed off. HOWEVER, he watches his older brother and I and our love for God, and I was in tears in a shopping mall recently when the older son and I were out shopping and the younger son texted to say “Please buy me a bible while you’re out.” He’d had one before but somewhere along the line the elder brother had adopted it. The two of us spent ages choosing the right one for him, and I’m thrilled to see the bookmark moving, so he’s obviously reading it. He’s also been unwell lately, and although I’ve been praying for him one night he was really battling and deliberately went to ask his brother to pray for him. All that does my heart the world of good and I know God’s got him! Then last week my elder son was watching Passion of the Christ in the same room where the younger one was studying for exams. I’m pretty sure very little studying got done, BUT more importantly my elder son later told me that his younger brother was asking lots of questions about the movie and Jesus etc. All encouragement for a mother’s heart. As you said, you can only teach them what you believe and show them that it’s real, and then trust that God will speak to their hearts in a personal way. Much love to you.
You’re right that having an unbelieving spouse can make things challenging, but it sure sounds like you’ve done a great job with what you have! Love those stories so so much!! Thank you for sharing. God is clearly at work! 😉 Keep it up and do keep me posted about that younger son…I have a good feeling! xo
Thank you for this article! When your kids were younger – when did you do devotions? Now that some are older – what time of day do the ones still at home do their devotions?
Well because we homeschool our days vary a lot, but the general rule is devotions happen pretty much first thing. My youngest son might eat breakfast while we do devotions or we’ll curl up on the couch straight out of bed. The older boys will have a cup of coffee (like mom does :)) and do devotions very early, sometimes before I am even up! I’ve pretty much taught them the habit of reading their Bible first thing. If schedules are challenging (like my son who surfs, often straight out of bed!) I have also suggested it is not a bad option to do devotions right before bed. I personally find early morning better, but again — it’s not about rules it’s about relationship! Hope that helps.
Hi Monica! Love your blog and today’s post hit home. Thank you so much for posting on this topic. This is something my husband and I currently struggle with as our 9 and 12 year old boys get older. Your advice and devotional links are a huge help.
Yay, thank you Faith! So glad to hear that! 🙂 blessings and keep up the good work! aloha-
Would love to be part of the launch team!!
aw, thank you Antoinette! Just make sure you have clicked on that link in my post to put your name in the box so you’re on my list! I’m looking forward to it!! 🙂