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!
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LIST OF DEVOTIONAL BOOKS:
(Amazon Affiliate links -)
for Elementary and Jr. High age:
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! 😉