5 ways churches and parents can help grow children’s faith
Olly has spent the past three decades working with children and helping churches and families around the world disciple the next generation. He is a children’s ministry consultant and co-founder of international ministry ‘Children Can’.
Here he shared his advice on how to develop faith in children.
1. Include kids in your church community
A good kids’ ministry will produce children who are in love with Jesus, but you have to have the whole church behind it to achieve this. A lot of research speaks about how a community is important for faith development – it’s as important, if not more, than what you deliver to kids on a Sunday. If kids don’t feel part of the wider community, they’re more likely to walk away from church when they’re older.
2. Train children in the way they should go
The whole concept of training children rather than teaching them is massive. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he won’t depart from it.” That word ‘train’ is translated ‘dedicate’ in the other places it appears, and it’s all to do with dedicating things into the temple. For our kids today, the temple isn’t in Jerusalem; our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we have to bring our children into his presence, pray over them, and leave them there.
3. Don’t just focus on Sunday
At a kids conference I spoke at recently, the topic was ‘children and prayer’ and I asked how many leaders knew if their kids were praying on Mondays. Just one answered. If we just focus on Sunday ministry we could be deceiving ourselves that we’re doing OK, as when kids are older they could just fall away. To help them develop healthy prayer lives throughout the week, we’ve set a challenge for children to pray for as many minutes as they are old. It’s a great starting point for children to meet with God.
4. Help kids know who they are in Christ
When kids know who they are in Christ, everything else flows out of that. There was a seven-year-old girl who always talked about Jesus. Her schoolteacher said, “Stop talking about Jesus – I don’t know how you can believe in someone who died and rose again. That doesn’t happen.” This girl replied, “But I do believe in him. Number one, he healed my mummy from cancer and number two, I spoke to him this morning.”
I’ll admit when we first started taking children deeper with God, I was concerned they would end up a bit weird, but I found the deeper we take children with the Lord, the more normal and confident they become, and because of that, their friends look to them and they become leaders.
5. Pray out of faith, not fear
We’re good at praying out of fear for our kids – “Oh Lord, don’t let them become friends with that person,” “Oh Lord, don’t let them fail,” “Help them to stay in church till they’re 18.” But it’s a different way of pray-ing if we say, “God’s not put a spirit of fear in me, but one of love, power and sound mind, and I’m going to start praying for my children out of faith.” That means prayers like, “Lord, let them make friends with the people you want them to be friends with so they can be an in-fluence,” “Let them be the head not the tail in their academic studies,” and “Let them become the pillars of tomorrow’s church.”
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