The Bible explains that the children of Christian parents are holy and that God is calling them into a relationship with Him (Acts 2:39 Acts 2:39For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 7:14 1 Corinthians 7:14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
American King James Version×). However, even with God’s invitation, your children must personally choose to follow Jesus Christ. You may wonder what you can do now to encourage them to accept His call to live Christian lives. Here are several suggestions to consider.
1. Teach your children to love and revere God
The best way to help your children learn to love God is through your personal example. If your children see that you are in constant loving fellowship with Jesus Christ and obey Him at the expense of small sacrifices in your life, they’ll likely desire to do the same. Conversely, if you rarely take time to study the Bible or pray, your children may feel that having a relationship with God is of little or no value.
Besides demonstrating a Christlike example, you can regularly discuss God and His nature with your child. Scripture tells us that parents have the responsibility not only to teach their children about their Creator, but to help them learn the importance of obeying His laws and revering Him (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 Deuteronomy 6:4-7 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
6 And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart:
7 And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
American King James Version×).
Additionally, be sure to talk often about all that God has done and continues to do. The Bible says we can even boast about Him (Psalms 34:2 Psalms 34:2My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 1:31 1 Corinthians 1:31That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.
American King James Version×). Highlight many of His qualities by pointing out the marvels of the natural world. You can also discuss how God provides your family’s daily needs and how He has assisted you in miraculous ways. These actions can help your children comprehend that God is very real and that He blesses those who choose to honor and obey Him.
2. Give your children the vision of God’s purpose for them
Your children need to see not only that God has a purpose for their lives, but that He will guide them into future success. Help them understand that they will receive greater blessings by following God than by leading a life without His involvement.
Make a point to show them not only that they can expect a promising future, but that life today can be rewarding and fulfilling (John 10:10 John 10:10The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
American King James Version×).
This is important, for if your children feel that living a Christian life is only one of sacrifice with few immediate benefits, it will seem unattractive to them. While helping them enjoy life now, continue pointing them to the special future that awaits them in the coming Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×).
3. Present Christianity in a positive light
We all know that even while striving to lead a Christian life, troublesome events occur from time to time. Be very careful about discussing negative situations in your children’s presence that don’t really concern them. This is because most children lack the maturity to accurately evaluate adverse events. If at all possible, discuss such circumstances with your spouse and friends in private.
If your child does learn about a particular problem, take the time to explain the situation in the most positive manner possible. Failing to do so could lead him or her to inaccurate conclusions. If negativity is emphasized, a child may begin to think that God is weak, powerless or even a myth. Explain that patiently waiting on God’s help and intervention is vital and that there are many valuable lessons to be learned in the process.
If your children observe poor or sinful conduct in other Christians, help them understand that all Christians sin at times. Encourage them to pray for those who have fallen short and to trust that God will deal with the situation in a just and fair manner.
4. Teach the purpose and value of trials
God sometimes allows trials to correct and refine us. Children should be taught that such difficulties are meant not to discourage but to strengthen and help us to think and act more like Christ (James 1:2-4 James 1:2-4 2 My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
American King James Version×).
At times we can unintentionally discourage our children by describing troubles or missed opportunities we’ve encountered as a result of obeying God’s laws.
For example, a parent might mention that he was passed over for a promotion at work because he wouldn’t do something unethical. While it’s understandable that a parent may be temporarily discouraged by such an event, a child might mistakenly conclude that God’s way of obedience, patience and faith doesn’t work. Always remember that your child needs to see that God’s way of life brings greater success and happiness, but sometimes requires faith and patience on your part (Matthew 11:28-30 Matthew 11:28-30 28 Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
American King James Version×).
In Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×the apostle Paul stated that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Help your child understand this truth by discussing the stories of Joseph, Esther and other biblical personalities who successfully overcame difficulties with God’s help. Teaching your children lessons like these can help them build spiritual faith and confidence.
5. Fulfill your children’s physical, social and emotional needs
Children need to feel accepted and valued, and it’s crucial for their spiritual and emotional development. Be sure to spend a lot of time talking and interacting with them in addition to caring for their physical, social and emotional needs.
Sometimes parents only correct for misbehavior and fail to give their children praise for accomplishments. Try hard to have the majority of your interactions positive. You can do this by actively looking for ways to positively reinforce good behavior.
As your children grow into their teen years they’ll experience increased social requirements. Since their friends will gradually influence them more and more, it’s important to give them many opportunities to interact with other teens from Christian homes.
To do this, however, you might need to give up some of your short-term personal goals. But sacrificing for your children will give you greater long-term blessings. Your sacrifices will also show them how truly loved and valued they are to you.
6. Honor God by disciplining your children
While it’s important to make your children feel accepted and valued, they also have to understand that you won’t allow bad or sinful behavior. In an attempt to please their children, some parents allow them to dishonor God by their actions. Teach your children godly principles of obedience to all of God’s laws, including the Fifth Commandment to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12 Exodus 20:12Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long on the land which the LORD your God gives you.
American King James Version×).
Lovingly discipline your children when they fall short. We find many scriptural admonitions to do so (Proverbs 19:18 Proverbs 19:18Chasten your son while there is hope, and let not your soul spare for his crying.
American King James Version×; Proverbs 23:13-14 Proverbs 23:13-14 13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not die. 14 You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell.
American King James Version×; 1 Timothy 3:1-5 1 Timothy 3:1-5 1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
American King James Version×). For example, the Bible tells the sobering story of Eli the priest who didn’t correct his sons for their bad behavior. Eli honored his sons above God, which is sinful (1 Samuel 2:30 1 Samuel 2:30Why the LORD God of Israel said, I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD said, Be it far from me; for them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
American King James Version×; Matthew 10:37 Matthew 10:37He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
American King James Version×). In the end this led to both his and their demise (see 1 Samuel 2:12-36 1 Samuel 2:12-36 12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD. 13 And the priest’s custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a meat hook of three teeth in his hand; 14 And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the meat hook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites that came thither. 15 Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of you, but raw. 16 And if any man said to him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as your soul desires; then he would answer him, No; but you shall give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. 17 Why the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD. 18 But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. 19 Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give you seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went to their own home. 21 And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bore three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD. 22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did to all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 23 And he said to them, Why do you such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. 24 No, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: you make the LORD’s people to transgress. 25 If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall entreat for him? Notwithstanding they listened not to the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them. 26 And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favor both with the LORD, and also with men. 27 And there came a man of God to Eli, and said to him, Thus said the LORD, Did I plainly appear to the house of your father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? 28 And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer on my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give to the house of your father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel? 29 Why kick you at my sacrifice and at my offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honor your sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the most chief of all the offerings of Israel my people? 30 Why the LORD God of Israel said, I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD said, Be it far from me; for them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off your arm, and the arm of your father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in your house. 32 And you shall see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in your house for ever. 33 And the man of yours, whom I shall not cut off from my altar, shall be to consume your eyes, and to grieve your heart: and all the increase of your house shall die in the flower of their age. 34 And this shall be a sign to you, that shall come on your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them. 35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before my anointed for ever. 36 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in your house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray you, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.
American King James Version×thru 1 Samuel 3:1-18 1 Samuel 3:1-18 1 And the child Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision. 2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; 3 And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; 4 That the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. 5 And he ran to Eli, and said, Here am I; for you called me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down. 6 And the LORD called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for you did call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again. 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him. 8 And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for you did call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call you, that you shall say, Speak, LORD; for your servant hears. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for your servant hears. 11 And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that hears it shall tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knows; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. 14 And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever. 15 And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision. 16 Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I. 17 And he said, What is the thing that the LORD has said to you? I pray you hide it not from me: God do so to you, and more also, if you hide any thing from me of all the things that he said to you. 18 And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the LORD: let him do what seems him good.
American King James Version×).
Parents who overlook sin or neglect discipline can cause damage to their child’s character (Proverbs 22:15 Proverbs 22:15Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
American King James Version×; Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×). For example, if you fail to teach self-control your child may suffer penalties from lack of self-control throughout later life.
Teach your children that every decision and action has consequences. Help them understand the debilitating results of sin. As situations arise where you see the penalties of sin in other people’s lives point these out to your child, without revealing names, unless it is a circumstance he or she already knows about. Such examples may help your child see that sin leads to bad results.
Create in your children the desire to obey God. For example, instead of just telling your son that he can’t be involved in sports on the Sabbath, ask him if he loves God. If he answers that he does, remind him that God instructs us to observe the Sabbath as a day of worship and rest, and that it isn’t for seeking our own pleasure (Isaiah 58:13 Isaiah 58:13If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words:
American King James Version×).
Help him understand the lasting blessings of godly obedience compared to the temporary pleasure of playing sports on God’s weekly Holy Day. And try and find him another activity that does not fall on the Sabbath, so he can learn to build a fulfilling life in line with God’s law.
7. Guide and correct through loving parental authority
While parents should always encourage their children to voluntarily obey God, there will be times when they may be unwilling to do so.
To use the above example again, if your son insists on participating in sports on the Sabbath, you might have to use parental authority to keep him from doing so. However, determining how such a situation should be handled will be different in each family.
For instance, if your spouse is not a practicing Christian you may not be able to establish family Sabbath rules. Also, you may have just begun Sabbath observance yourself and your child has already been participating in Saturday sports activities. In these situations you may want to seek counsel with a minister of Christ on how to best proceed. (Contact the United Church of God , which publishes The Good News, to be put in contact with a minister near you .)
8. Help your children discern for themselves
Your children will need help dealing with scientific theories like evolution. Widespread concepts like this can lead to the faulty conclusion that God is a myth. You should take the time to discuss the biblical account of creation with your children and answer any questions they may have to help them reach an understanding that God is very real.
It’s important for you to know what they’re being taught so you can help them by giving factual, scientific research and information revealing the many inconsistencies and falsehoods of evolutionary theory. A wealth of information is available on the Good News magazine website to help you in this important task.
Ultimately your children will have to develop their own personal faith in God. Until they mature spiritually, make it a point to help them find and sort through scientific findings that clearly disprove defective concepts and ideas.
9. Trust God to help you with your children
Preparing your children to follow Christ is a challenging yet rewarding responsibility. You have the wonderful opportunity not only to explain but to demonstrate God’s way of life. Remember that no parent can be successful without God’s help. Ask Him regularly in prayer to guide and direct you. Each child is unique, and God will lead you in the way to best help him or her.
If, however, your child decides to lead a secular life after reaching adulthood, don’t beat yourself up over it. Although you might have done everything possible as a parent, the fact is that you can’t ultimately control what happens to your child. Many variables will influence his or her decisions throughout life, and many will be out of your control.
In this case it’s important to realize that God fully knows what has occurred. Ask Him in prayer to continue guiding your child. Place the situation in His capable hands and wait patiently and faithfully as He works with your child in His good time.