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Helping children find a faith that lasts

Raising Faith is a new title from Care for the Family full of stories and encouragement to help parents feel confident about nurturing faith in our children. It's co-written by Andy Frost and Katharine Hill, and in this extract Andy explains why he wants his children to know there is a God who loves them  

Raising-Faith600Where it all begins

I remember it so well: that moment when I left the hospital lobby carrying this tiny baby. I was sure someone was going to stop me.

I was with Jo, my wife, who had just been discharged with our daughter from the maternity ward. I felt like we were imposters. We were totally responsible for the small bundle of life in my arms, yet we felt completely unqualified for the task; we had no idea what to do as parents.

That was five years ago, when our first child was born. We now have another daughter aged three, and I still feel underqualified as a dad. As parents, we want our children to grow physically, to be healthy and active. We want them to develop in all kinds of ways, helping them learn how to interact with the world and encouraging them to do their best at school. We want to look after their emotional health, equipping them to deal with feelings such as sadness, frustration, excitement, anger and anticipation. On the relational side, we want to give them the skills to make strong, healthy friendships. And then there is their spiritual life to consider. We want our kids to find faith in a God who loves them.

As our children grow, we can monitor certain aspects of their development fairly easily – we can see whether they are growing physically and how they are interacting with other children and adults, and their school report will give us an idea of how well they are doing academically. But their spiritual development is much harder to measure.

As parents, are we doing enough to help our children grow in their faith? Are we doing too much? In fact, given the sheer busyness of family life, have we actually been able to give the subject any thought at all?

Why do we want our children to find faith?

It’s very easy to operate on autopilot, going through the motions of life without asking why we do what we do. But when it comes to passing on faith to the next generation, it’s important to think through why we might want our children to grow up with a faith in Jesus.

The answer could be very clear to us. For example, we may want our children to have faith in Jesus so that they can be with him in eternity. But of course there may be a whole range of other reasons as well. We might believe that the Christian faith helps us understand what life is about: our existence is not just a cosmic accident; there is a God who created us and there is a purpose for our lives.

At its core, the Christian faith is packed full of life-affirming values that help us make good choices. As parents, we want our children to be happy, of course, but much more than that, we want them to live life generously, helping others rather than living merely for themselves.

Being a follower of Jesus gives us so much. We have a church community to belong to and a sense of our value and worth. We are not defined by our successes and failures but by who we are in Jesus. His death and resurrection has allowed us to be forgiven and adopted into God’s family.

A Father in heaven

One day when my daughter was two years old, she spotted a bouncy castle in the garden of a pub. She wanted to have a go on it (well, what self-respecting two-year-old wouldn’t?), so we went in through the gate. As quickly as she could, she took off her shoes and ran up to the castle, her excitement and enthusiasm unmistakable.

As she clambered aboard, from a few metres distance I saw a mean-looking eight-year-old walk up and say something to her. She looked dejected, slid off the castle, and came over to me to explain what had happened: ‘He said girls aren’t allowed on it.’

Quickly, I told her that she was allowed on the bouncy castle, and I walked up alongside her as she climbed back on. With a real confidence about her, she went up to the boy: ‘That’s my daddy!’ she said. And then she started bouncing.

There’s something beautiful about that story and the simple words she said because it gives us a snapshot of our Father God. We can’t protect our children from all the challenges they’ll face in this world – disappointments, ill-health, eight-year-old bullies! – but we can help them realise that they have a Father in heaven who is always with them.

That’s what I want my children to grow up and discover. I want them to know the God who loves them and will never leave them no matter what trials and tribulations they face.

Raising-Faith600Raising Faith by Andy Frost and Katharine Hill is published by Care for the Family. Andy Frost is the director of SJI, a Christian mission based charity passionate about communicating the message of Jesus

Katharine Hill is the UK director for Care for the Family.

Order copies here 


Baptist Times, 04/05/2018
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