What do you want your kids to see more than anything else? I hope you would say the beauty, majesty, and glory of God. Don’t you want your kids to be awestruck at God and his mercy and grace for them? Creation can show them God’s eternal power and divine nature, but not his justice, judgment, mercy, grace, and love. Only in the Bible does God reveal his redemptive character, nature, and works. If our kids are going to see the beauty, majesty, and glory of God, they will need to see it by grace alone through faith alone. They will need to see God in God’s self-revelation in the Bible. They will see only when the Holy Spirit sovereignly opens their eyes.
But the Bible is a big book. Many kids hear a lot of Bible verses but don’t really understand how they all connect with each other and with their lives. Think about a dot-to-dot puzzle. You have all these individual dots and numbers and no real image. With some dot-to-dots, you can kind of tell the image before you start, but with others, you can’t. The image is indistinct. It’s when you begin connecting the dots that the image becomes clearer and clearer.
It can be like that with Biblical truths, God’s glory, and life. Imagine tons of Bible verses scattered everywhere. Your kids hear them at church and at home, they’re familiar with them, but they don’t understand how they fit together or what difference they make in their lives. Make no mistake, it is the Holy Spirit that connects the dots. However, this is where the five essential gifts make a big difference.
First, give your kids the gift of your prioritization of their discipleship. Your commitment to their spiritual growth is integral to their spiritual growth. Second, give your kids the gift of a basic theological framework through catechization. A framework helps them connect the dots of Scripture. Third, give them the gift of weekly corporate worship. God works faith in our kids by the preaching of the gospel and strengthens faith by the sacraments (HC 65). Fourth, give your kids the gift of daily family worship which is also essential to helping them connect the dots between doctrine and life. But there’s a fifth gift that ties it all together. With this fifth gift, the manifestation of God’s glory will become clearer to your kids as they see more dots connect. The fifth essential gift to give your kids is to connect the dots with relationship.
One of the disadvantages of daily family worship is it’s only one or two dedicated times during the day. But a lot of other things happen in a day. Life happens. Each day presents opportunities for teaching, reinforcing, and applying the Biblical truths you learn in weekly corporate worship and daily family worship. But these opportunities will be wasted if parents do not have a deep relational connection with their kids. Parents must attentively and wisely pursue an open and loving relationship.
On the way home from practice your child mentions they feel like they don’t have close friends. You tuck your little one into bed and they confess, “I’m scared of the dark, mommy.” They break their leg and need crutches for six weeks. They slap their sibling. They yell in your face, “I hate you!” You yell at them for being irresponsible. The dog dies. Grandma dies. The doctor says, “It’s cancer.” Life happens, and life is an opportunity to teach, reinforce, and apply profound Biblical truths in the context of an open and loving relationship. We have to know our children really well to know how to help them connect dots. We need to get close.
It is easy for us parents to cruise through life and miss the opportunities God gives us along the way to teach, reinforce, and apply the content we learn in weekly corporate worship and daily family worship. We forget. We get so distracted by life’s pressures on us that our responsibility to train them up for their life’s pressures gets pushed aside or crowded out (Prov. 22:6). Days turn into weeks turn into months and soon we realize we have not helped them connect many dots. Some heartbroken parents realize this after their children leave the house or the faith. It’s also true that some children simply reject the faithfulness of their parents.
Please listen carefully. One of the most powerful things you can do to help your kids connect the dots is to have an ever-deepening relationship with Christ yourself. Another is to have an open, transparent, humble, and ever-deepening relationship with them. Relationships help connect the dots.
Years ago, I heard a man say that no one had ever asked him how he was doing spiritually. This man’s father was a pastor. His father could’ve asked. His mother could’ve asked. “How’s your soul, son?” Pretty easy to say. That’s a relational question that opens a door for teaching, reinforcing, and applying. But it can’t just be a question here or there. It must be a pursuit of ever-deepening fellowship, relationship, friendship.
Here are some quick encouragements to help you build a deeper relationship with your kids.
- Ask your kids to keep you accountable, to respectfully say something when they see sin in you and be humble to receive it. My daughter once rebuked me for speaking too harshly to her brother, and by grace, I received it and went and made it right with my son.
- Confess your sins to your kids and ask for forgiveness. If you want to drive your children away from Christ, never admit your sin and never ask for forgiveness. You will crush and embitter them. Be quick to confess, “Daddy was wrong. I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me? I need God’s grace and Spirit to be a better man and daddy.” Do that, and you will catapult your kids toward Christ.
- When your children sin, use God’s law (the Ten Commandments) to help them understand the depth of their sin and need of Christ. Then, take them quickly to Christ in the gospel, and help them confess and ask God and others for forgiveness. Then, help them understand that obedience is how to express gratitude for mercy and grace. This is connecting guilt, grace, gratitude to everyday life. Connect those dots.
- Pray for your children out loud in front of them. Since they are body and soul, ask them for body and soul struggles and needs. Then pray for them. Share that you struggle with anger, envy, or grumbling, and ask them to pray for your sins. Daily family worship is a great time to pray together, but don’t only pray then. Pray along the way as life happens. Pull the car over and pray. Pray in the woods as you track the whitetail. When an ambulance passes, pray.
- Frequently ask your kids questions even if they don’t regularly give answers. What questions do you have about God? What about the Bible doesn’t make sense to you? How can I be a better dad to you? What things do I do that hurt you or make you feel sad? How is your soul? How are you doing spiritually? What are you scared of? There are so many questions but so little time. Ask, listen, and then look for simple ways to connect dots. Connect God’s sovereignty, providence, forgiveness, mercy, grace, wrath, judgment, law, gospel, etc. to everything in life.
- Tell your kids every day that you love them. Explain to them that you want God’s best for them.
Dear parents, these things happen in relationship, but not surface relationship, deep relationship. That takes time. That takes effort. That takes tears. Many dots are connected around the kitchen table, at mealtimes, on the walk, on the car ride, on vacation, at bedtime.
Without this fifth gift, the first four may seem like coal on Christmas for our kids. But if we give our kids all five gifts, it is likely that they will grow up to realize the grace, power, and Spirit of God at work in your faithful discipleship.