Last week, I sent my mom a picture of some running shoes I was thinking about buying with a “What do you think?” text. I had fallen prey to the lure of Instagram® ads for five minutes (OK, ten) and was heading down a rabbit hole of retail curiosity. A few minutes later, she responded with a picture of the exact same shoes that she had just purchased. Same brand. Same color. Everything. 😂 You might think this is a fun coincidence, but I cannot tell you the number of times my mom and I have had this same situation happen over the years—what color outfit we wear on the same day, what we decide to cook for dinner, you name it. The eight hundred miles of interstate spread between us does nothing to stop our minds from working scarily similar at times. I suppose the “like mother like daughter” cliché is a cliché for a reason. But our taste in shoes isn’t where our resemblance ends. My mom has a strong, consistent, steadfast love for the Lord and His Word. And I’m grateful to say she instilled the same love and steadfast hope in God’s Word in my life.
What’s the secret? How do you get kids to stay connected to the Word, to love it, to live by it, and to crave it more than video games? The truth is that nurturing healthy habits for spiritual growth is far from easy. The kids in our lives are growing up in a world filled with anxiety, skepticism, and fleeting hope. And we get to speak the truth of God’s Word into their hearts and minds. We get to point them to the one true hope, not just to give them answers to tough questions, but to help them find the answers for themselves. We get to help shape our daughters, our grandsons, our nieces and nephews, and our best friend’s kids with the hope of the gospel. That, my friend, is a precious gift—a gift we dare not ignore or neglect. Nurturing healthy spiritual habits in our kids that last begins and ends with our steadfast hope in the Lord, both for their lives, and for ours.
“Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:23, CSB
Start small. As you consider how to nurture the gift of discipleship with the smaller humans in your life, I want to encourage you to start small. Set appropriate goals for your child and for yourself. Don’t try to run a marathon in new shoes if you haven’t jogged around the neighborhood once or twice. Consider the time and energy you have to give. And be realistic about it. Be honest with yourself and your family about where you’re at and what you can handle.
Do you need something small and powerful? Consider one of the many 6- to 8-week Bible studies available from Lifeway Kids, including fantastic studies from Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, For Girls Like You ministry, and more. Fight the lies that are whispered to you that you can’t do this or that it’s too much. The Holy Spirit inside you has given you everything you need for life and godliness. Hope in God for deeper spiritual growth both for yourself and for the kids in your life.
Start together. You are wired for community and so are your kids. When it comes to helping our kids develop healthy spiritual habits, we need to start together. Reading the Bible isn’t homework or a chore. It is a delight. Take a moment to think about what your regular Bible study looks like from your child’s perspective. Do your kids and grandkids see you reading your Bible? Talking about it? Wrestling with difficult questions or passages? The kids in our lives love what we love. If we want them to love Scripture, we have to love Scripture, too.
If you have littles in your life, consider reading your Bible in front of them on a regular basis. Yes, you may be interrupted, but your kids will see what you prioritize and value. Read their age-appropriate Bible together before bedtime. Perhaps you choose one story and commit to reading it together three times this week, repeating a key truth that you want them to take to heart. With older kids, read a passage of Scripture together and be ready to have conversations about it. Find an age-appropriate Bible reading plan such as Foundations for Kids: New Testament where you can read along with your child and encourage him or her to also dig into Scripture on his or her own. Recognize the opportunities you have to ask important questions, not just to provide answers. Begin conversations about what they are discovering and be ready to point them to the truth. Invite your teens and young adults to study Scripture with you. Select a Bible study or reading plan for the next two weeks and make a plan to read, journal, and come back together to talk about what God is teaching you. I like to ask three questions:
- What is this Scripture teaching me about God?
- What does this passage ask of me?
- How does this Scripture lead me to pray?
No matter the age of the kids in your life, let them know both with your words and actions that studying Scripture is important, and it is for them.
Start with consistency. Healthy habits don’t last if we follow our feelings. (Anyone else working off some stress-eating pounds right now?) Our feelings are fleeting and fickle. While they are a good check in to what is happening in our hearts, they are poor motivators for lasting spiritual growth. If we only read the Word when we want to, we’ll never read it consistently. The same is true for our kids. Scripture teaches us to discipline our bodies and minds and take every thought captive (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 10:5). What motivates you to read your Bible consistently? My guess is that your love for the Lord, your hunger for truth, your need for God, and your desire for repentance and correction are just a few of the reasons you love to read and study your Bible.
These are the motivators we also teach to the kids in our lives. Rhythms happen in repetition. One of my favorite new tools for consistent Bible reading right now is God’s Brave Girl. This 6-week study for girls walks through valuable truth about trusting God, living in faith, and bravely following where God leads. It includes parent pages to lead your child through the study as well as five daily devotionals that are fun, age appropriate, and engaging for the girls in your life. This study weaves together the core concepts of starting small, staying consistent, and studying together. Wherever you choose to begin, remember that when it comes to helping our kids read, delight, and grow in God’s Word, hope is always appropriate. Hold fast to the hope of Christ within you, and boldly step out into something new in faith, believing that He who has called you is also with you. Trust the Holy Spirit inside you and lace up those trainers.
Kayla Stevens has been serving in kids ministry for over twelve years. She is a content editor for Lifeway Kids and a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Kayla lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she enjoys teaching kids each week at her church and exploring new adventures with her nieces and nephews.