Why I Don't Want to Raise Religious Children

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One of my 2015 goals is to read more but my love of reading is inversely proportional to the amount of time I have to read. (SAT study with our youngest is affecting my vocabulary!) I just finished Mimosa, by Amy Carmichael, and I am currently reading Thinking. Loving. Doing., a collection of writings by various authors which was an assignment for my teacher2b daughter at Regent University. 

Theology ≠ Religion

In the chapter I read today, the author recounted a story about a Christian University that had renamed the “Department of Theology” to the “Department of Religion.” He went on to define the difference between religion (the study of human beings and how they react with things they consider sacred) and theology (the study of God). It is an important distinction that is often not understood.

Religious ≠ Christian

As Christian parents, we want to pass our faith to our children and so we teach them to pray, to read their Bible, to go to church, maybe even to fast or tithe, based on Biblical mandates. These behaviors may inspire our children to become religious and devout, but being religious is not the same as being a Christian. 

Christian = Follower of Christ

Christians, “little Christs” as the word is translated, are followers and imitators of their Savior, Jesus Christ. They have a relational connection to the God of the universe who is the Lord of their lives. Their behavior isn’t based on completing a legalistic list of behaviors to avoid guilt, but a genuine motivation of love for the God who first loved them. Christians pray, not just at meals or in church, but to communicate with the Lover of their souls. Christians joyfully go to church to learn more about Christ and to serve and to worship God for who He is. Christians read their Bible throughout the week, not to check off an obligation, but because the Word is life, like refreshing water for a dry soul. 

Christian = Lover of Christ

And Christians love others extravagantly. John 13:25 says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Christians love. The only way we can truly love is to be filled with the One who IS love. Love is the key. When we fall in love with the God who created us and Jesus Christ who gave His life to pay for our freedom, I believe we will want to pray and read our Bibles to stay connected relationally, and to share God’s powerful love with others who have no hope. When our children see us live this way, they will follow in our footsteps and connect themselves to the God we love.

Lover of Christ = Light to the World

If we as parents only expect our children to do religious things and they obey, we have successfully raised religious children who may appear to be Christians on the outside. But if we set expectations by our example and encourage our children to develop a vibrant relationship with Christ, we will raise Christian men and women who will live like Jesus, pointing others to the Father through their extravagant love.

A Secure Investment: Investing in Your Children

(Note:  This article is by no means intended to criticize working moms or moms who don’t homeschool.  God calls families to different ways to raise their children:  there is certainly more than one way to raise a godly child.  My heart is to encourage moms who have chosen motherhood as a career.  It is a wise investment.)

After investing diligently for twenty years, my retirement account still stands at zero.  It has nothing to do with my broker or with the economy, but it is a direct result of how I invested.  For more than 20 years I have been a full-time, stay-at-home mom for our four daughters.  I have invested money, time, and energy into teaching, training, and mentoring these young women and it is an investment that has paid high dividends.  (Of course my husband has also played a significant role in their development, but this article is not for the Daddies.)

Before our children were born, I was a public school music teacher who also taught several classes of hearing-impaired students.  Most of the 750 students I saw each week knew my name and some even regularly visited my classroom for extra time together.  I had a decent income, a retirement account, and summers off.  My career afforded me the opportunity to make great dinner conversation as I described how I taught music to hearing-impaired children.  I taught for two years and loved my job.  In the eyes of our culture, I was successful.

God blessed my husband and I and three days after the last day of school, I found myself at home with a newborn baby girl who wasn’t interested in my teaching success!  My ultimate career choice was to be a wife and mother, but somehow this wasn’t what I thought I had signed up for.  Everything was new to both of us and it took some time for us to learn.  Even more disappointing was the reaction of friends and acquaintances when I told them I was a stay-at-home mom.  Some of them questioned what I did all day and others politely smiled and found someone else to talk to.  It was painfully clear that society did not approve of my

No matter what the view of others, I stayed true to God’s call for me and our family.  There were joyful days and there were difficult days (when wanted to quit or resign!).  Most every day was full—full of laundry, cooking, cleaning, straightening, counseling, teaching, repeating, training, undoing, redoing, correcting, repeating, disciplining, discipling, and did I mention repeating?  We read the Bible together, prayed together, talked together, dreamed together, and cried together.  Sometimes the progress was infinitesimal and my dream of God-fearing daughters seemed elusive, but still my husband and I prayed and stayed the course.

As with any investment, there was risk.  Would it be better if we had a second income so we could provide better?  Would a one-income household limit what they could do?  Should we send them to school so they can be taught by the “experts” instead of an inexperienced mom?  What if I ruin them?  The enemy of my soul tried to discourage me and cause me to doubt our choices and my value, but I held to the truth that I am a precious daughter of the Most High God.

Today, our investment continues to yield a high rate of return.  We have four daughters who are lovely, inside and out.  They aren’t perfect, but they know the Savior who is and they’ve been saved by grace.  They know the Word, and they obey the Word.  They are carriers of His presence who sow seeds of Jesus’ love everywhere they go.  My time as a stay-at-home mom has been the best investment I’ve ever made.

Help Your Daughter Develop a Prayer Life

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Every Christian parent wants to pass on their faith to their children. I am no different.

Like any goal, it doesn't happen by accident; it requires a plan of action. In our home, we have used different strategies for different ages.PRESCHOOL

It's never too early to introduce your daughter to the power of prayer. Preschoolers are capable of praying more than "God is great; God is good." Once when my youngest was only two, we visited a 99-year-old saint who attended my church when I was a young girl. During our visit, we had a time of prayer. Each of us placed our hand on this precious prayer warrior and offered a prayer of blessing. The last to pray was the 2-year-old who babbled something incomprehendable. The woman was moved to tears that such a young child would pray for her. Here are some ideas for your preschooler:

1.Explain to your preschooler that prayer is talking to Jesus is as easy as talking to their friends.

2.Remind them that God hears every prayer they pray.

3.Give them opportunity to pray from their heart. If they have trouble thinking of anything, start off with "Thank you, God, for" and let them fill in the blank.

4.Make a prayer book. Place pictures of your family, friends, pastors, missionaries, etc. in an inexpensive photo album. As you flip through the book, your daughter can pray with you or repeat after you: "God bless____________." Unfortunately, I didn't think of this while my girls were pre-schoolers.

ELEMENTARY

When our girls were old enough to read on their own, I made them a prayer card that doubled as a bookmark in their Bible. This simple tool helped our daughters develop their own prayer life. You can make this card on a computer, but these directions are for doing it the old-fashioned way, by hand. Be sure to write clearly and print unless your daughter can read cursive. Here's how to make a prayer card for your daughter:

1.Choose a 3x5 card, with or without lines. Look for one in your daughter's favorite color or use a white card and make it colorful with colored gel pens or stickers.

2.Begin on a side with no lines. Hold the card in a vertical position with the longest side going from top to bottom. Begin by listing names of your family, one name per line: Ex. Dad, Mom, brothers, sisters, grandparents, other close family members.

3.Next, (on the same side) list pastors, missionaries, teachers, or others in authority.

4.Lastly, include things on the heart of your child like a friend who is ill. My oldest daughter included the country of China because she felt called to missions at a very young age.

5.The opposite side is for your daughter. Choose one or two character traits that your daughter needs to work on. (Honesty, Laziness, List the trait and a Bible verse about that trait. For example, if you need to work on honesty, then you may want to copy Psalm 34:13. If you're struggling with a lazy child, you could copy Proverbs 10:4. Each day your daughter can read the verse and pray that God would change her heart. If your daughter reads the scripture each day for several weeks, she'll memorize it without any trouble.

Of course, the card will not be accurate forever and will have to be updated every 1-2 months. Involve your daughter as you make changes. Pray together about which trait(s) your daughter needs to develop and encourage her as you see growth in her character.

UPPER ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE SCHOOL

Encourage your daughter to begin a prayer journal. Many Christian and non-Christian bookstores carry bound books with lined or unlined blank pages or create your own with a 3-ring binder and dividers. Here are some ways you can help your daughter prepare her journal:

1.Use a prayer plan like ACTS:

Adoration - telling God how great He is

Confession - repenting for what you've done wrong

Thanksgiving - thanking God for His blessings

Supplication - bringing your requests to God

Prayer isn't a laundry list of requests; it's about building a relationship.

2.Make a list of daily prayer requests, similar to the list above or help your daughter divide the requests: Monday for Missionaries, Tuesday for Wednesdays for Pastors, Thursday for Friends, Friday for Friends, Saturday for School.

3.Make a chart for prayer requests, include a space for the date you begin to pray for the request, the date it was answered, and the answer. Seeing so many answers to prayer will grow your daughter's faith.

4.Record the scripture you read each day. Write one sentence summarizing the scripture in your own words and one sentence about how it applies to your life.

5.Write your prayers to God. Encourage your daughter to write her feelings, but written words should be respectful and represent only what she would speak to others.

6.Listen to God. In my own journal, I record my thoughts and prayers in cursive writing and what God says in all caps. Prayer is a conversation, not a monologue.

These are just a few ideas of how we taught our daughters about prayer. Prayer is such a key part of a relationship with God. The earlier we teach our children about prayer, the earlier they establish a vital spiritual discipline. Ask God to show you how to best reach the heart of your daughter and help her develop a vibrant and powerful prayer life.