Giving a Strong Spiritual Legacy
Kurt Bruner, The Center for Strong Families
Every believing dad hopes his child will embrace the faith and grow deep spiritual roots. But studies tell us that over half of those growing up in Christian homes will walk away from Christianity by the time they leave the teen years. Too often parents “outsource” the spiritual formation of their children to the church. While a good church is very important, God designed the family to be the primary place where faith is nurtured. So parents need to understand four principles to help them become more intentional about their child’s faith.
THE LEGACY PRINCIPLE
Scripture tells us that what we do today directly influences the multigenerational cycle of family traits, beliefs and actions—for good or bad (Exodus 20:5–6, Psalm 78:5–8). Passing a strong faith to our children begins by having a strong faith ourselves. Some of us need to break negative cycles that may have started with our own upbringing in order to launch a new, improved legacy for the next generation.
THE LIKELIHOOD PRINCIPLE
In the context of healthy relationships children tend to embrace the values of their parents. Proverbs 22:6 tells us that when children learn right from wrong at home under the nurturing, loving training of parents, they tend to adopt mom and dad’s beliefs. While there are no guarantees because every child has a free will, kids are far more likely to embrace their parent’s faith if they enjoy their parent’s company! That’s a big part of the reason parents are warned not to “provoke your children to wrath” but rather “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). A strong relationship with you, dad, is key to a strong Christian faith.
THE LENSES PRINCIPLE
Jesus taught that our enemy’s primary weapon is deception (John 8:44). Our children are growing up in a culture that bombards them with lies. An hour or two per week at church is no match for the hundreds of hours spent with media, school, and friends. It is the job of parents to equip children with the corrective “lenses” of truth so they can better navigate the deceptive roads of life.
THE LEARNING PRINCIPLE
Our children can only learn what we teach them in a manner that will reach them. We need to vary our approach based upon their unique personality, learning style, and stage of development. Children fall into one of three stages that guides the methods we choose for discussing our faith and values at home.
The Imprint Period (toddler to about age seven)
Small children are all ears and will soak in what we tell them – this is an ideal season for teaching them basic Bible stories, memorization, and other building block truths of Christianity.
The Impression Period (about age eight to early teen)
Children no longer accept what we say at face value. They need help understanding the rationale behind their parents’ beliefs. While more work, this is a positive part of their faith development because it means they have grown past blind acceptance and are ready for deeper understanding.
The Coaching Period (early teen to young adult)
We can help them clearly articulate what they believe, challenge their thinking and remind them of the “basics” learned during the “practices” of the imprint and impression years. We can provide a safe environment to wrestle with the values they’ve learned. Maintaining a strong relationship and frequent dialogue are the keys to your influence.
- It Starts At Home by Kurt Bruner and Steve Stroope
- Parents’ Guide to the Spiritual Growth of Children by John Trent, Rick Osborne and Kurt Bruner
- Parents’ Guide to the Spiritual Mentoring of Teens by Joe White and Jim Weidmann
- Just Add Family Kit by Kurt and Olivia Bruner
Prestonwood has a variety of Bible Fellowships for the spiritual development of every person. No matter your age and stage of life, there’s a Bible Fellowship for you. Visit prestonwood.org/connect for more information. The Prestonwood Library, located on the second floor of the Plano Campus, provides additional resources and services to help Christians grow in faith and ministry.
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