It has become something of a stereotype in our modern day: young Millennials across America, when asked about their faith, confess simply and unapologetically, “My parents were Christian, but…” The reason varies from person to person, from “I don’t really identify myself with a religious system” to “And then I went to college.” The cause of this epidemic is complex and varying, but it ultimately leads Christian parents to wonder how they can do better and how they can give their kids the greatest gift: a relationship with Jesus Christ. For the Christian, this is a burden much greater than setting up healthy eating habits or paying for college. This is contentment and purpose on earth and community with God in heaven. What greater things could a parent ask for?
Teach Them the Truth
In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul encourages Timothy because he was acquainted with the Scriptures from an early age which made him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” You cannot teach a child into salvation, but your duty as a parent is to give the child the tools necessary for salvation. This is the Gospel story. Teach it to them as often as possible. Share it with them as a part of everyday life. Ask them probing questions to see if they are processing the information like, “How do you think God felt sending his only son?” or “Why did Jesus have to die?” The only word of caution here is to never force your child into this. Remember, it is the Holy Spirit who saves, not you. When your child truly repents from their sins and turns to Christ, you will know.
Show Them how to Live
Righteous actions will not save anyone, but there are still reasons to train your children up to do good. First, as Christians we believe that the Bible shows us the way that humanity was always meant to live. This means that even for the non-Christian, the best way to live as a human being is to follow God’s commands. Second, we all repent from our sin when we become followers of Christ, but it can be more difficult the more devoted we are to the mindset of this world. When you train your child up in godliness they have less to confront or “give-up” when they follow Christ.
So, teach them virtue and righteousness. Teach them the difference between right and wrong. Avoid simplistic and theologically inaccurate explanations for why something is right and something is wrong. When you say, “God doesn’t like it when you lie” a child can hear “God doesn’t like me when I lie” which presents a false picture of God’s love. Instead, say, “It pleases God when we do the right thing” or “Jesus loves us, so we should love others.” Modeling is also key. Let your children see you worship and read your Bible. When you serve others, explain why you are doing it. Don’t just say, “Because Jesus says so.”
There is no formula
Only God saves people. This is not a cry of defeat or nihilism; it is a call to prayer. There is no one formula that you can perform and have all of your children come to know the Lord. You are called to do your duty as a parent (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4)
and to give the rest to God. Interceding on behalf of your children not only places their fate in the hands of a loving and saving God, but it puts you in a right relationship with Him. It allows you to recognize your children as a gift from Him and that He is the only one who can save them. This, in turn, makes you more and more into the parent that you want for your child, one who trusts in God and brings all your needs before Him.