3 Myths About Family Faith Formation (and How to Bust Them)
I gently placed the devotional book in the recycle bin, simultaneously feeling relieved and rebellious.
Who was I to actually get rid of a devotional book?
I must be a terrible Christian. And yet, the expectations the book placed on me felt insurmountable.
I had been so excited about doing devotions with my young son at bedtime, yet every time I opened that book, I felt unprepared. I needed supplies, I needed understanding, and I needed time, none of which I had (especially at bedtime).
Have you ever felt that?
You want to talk about God naturally with your kids, every day, but it feels impossible, or you just don’t know how to help your kids grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus because you feel unequipped and strapped for time!
Why is it even important for us moms/parents to take on sharing faith with our kids personally and not just leaving it to the specific ministries within the church? A few years ago, the Search Institute did a survey to determine what factors influence teens in their faith. Their research shows that THE most influential people in any teen’s spiritual life is their mom. Pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders – those are all on the list, but way further down from mom, dad, grandparents, and even friends.
Why is it that we moms have the most influence on our child’s faith? Because of sheer volume. As a mom, we have WAY more time with our kids than any Sunday school teacher.
And that means, whether you want to or not, you ARE influencing your child’s faith. Even if you never talk about it at home, you are still influencing your children. In this case, you’re unintentionally telling them that faith isn’t important or relevant to their daily lives.
Here’s what happened to me:
First, I learned that the best way to talk about God naturally with my kids was to grow a deeper relationship with him myself. I learned to be creative with connecting with God throughout my day, whether that was listening to the Bible app while folding laundry or tuning in my own heart when I read the Bible with the boys. That helped conversations feel more natural.
I also normalized conversations about God with my kids by learning how to be consistent. That was a whole process in itself but it has reaped huge rewards because as we read the Bible and pray together intentionally most days, it’s become something that is just our way of life.
So let’s get to those myths, shall we?
Myth #1: I have to know more than my kids
Many of my readers have told me that they just don’t feel confident teaching the Bible to their kids because they didn’t remember what they learned in Sunday School, or they haven’t studied the Bible a lot themselves. This is the lie of the enemy.
Truth #1 –> You don’t have to know it all
God equips us for the calling he’s given us. That doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly have all this knowledge to share with your kids, but that when we ask him to help us understand the Bible or help us find answers to tricky kid questions, he will! In James, 1:5, God promises to give wisdom to those who ask.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
James 1:5 NIV
Do you know the Bible story of the little boy with his 5 loaves and 2 fish? There were over 500 hungry mouths, and Jesus told the disciples to find some food. They were flabbergasted – where would they ever find that much food?
Suddenly a child stepped out of the crowd, offering his basket of 2 small loaves of bread and 5 fish. His lunch was not even big enough to share with the disciples. But he offered it anyway, and Jesus multiplied MANY times.
That story reminds me of my role as a mom – I offer the little understanding, the little time, the little wisdom I have to God and he multiplies it in amazing ways!
Myth #2: I have to do it RIGHT
I have read books and blog posts that made family faith out to be this big thing with hour-long worship times. It even makes my mama guilt rise up, and I know better!
Laying those expectations on ourselves can be completely paralyzing.
Again, that’s a lie that says “if you can’t do it RIGHT, you shouldn’t do it.”
–> TRUTH #2: You don’t have to do it right
Here’s the thing: there’s no “right” way to disciple your kids. Each family is unique in circumstance, personality, and priorities. Because your family won’t fit in any cookie-cutter box, you just get to start. And of course, you ask God to help you grow from there.
Discipling a child doesn’t come with a manual because KIDS don’t come with a manual. There is no one-size-fits-all spiritual training machine that will churn out Jesus-followers on the other side.
Myth #3: It takes a lot of time
When you think of family faith, what do you imagine?
For some reason I think of an enormous family sitting around the table after supper, reading big chunks of the Bible and talking about it excitedly. (I think I might have gotten that vision from Ann Voskamp, haha. That was SO not my house growing up.)
Truth #3 –> It’s best to start LITTLE
But the truth is, small bits of time are just fine. When my boys were very small (my eldest was 3-5 years old), all we did for family faith was a nightly devotion from my book. I think the average amount of time was 3 minutes.
For kindergarten, he was at a Christian school. His teacher (who had been teaching for many years) told me that she was floored by his Bible knowledge. But it wasn’t just about knowledge. Because we were engaging the Bible and God in different ways every day (through play, singing, imagining, reading, etc) it became a natural outflow of his life.
All from 3 minutes per day!
But those 3 minutes per day x 5 days per week = 13 hours per year where he was actually paying attention.
And over the years, that 3 minutes became 5 minutes, which because 5 minutes twice per day, which became a natural outflow of our lives that we can’t even count anymore.
So please don’t feel guilty if all you can “manage” is 3 minutes, because 3 minutes here and there adds up to a lifetime of faith!
✔️That 30 seconds you spent praying with your child this morning? It counts.
✔️That devotional where they only heard the first half? That counts. (they’ll remember the picture in 3 months and want you to read it again. Ask me how I know…)
✔️That Bible verse you hung on the wall and prayed over her last night? That counts.
BJ Fogg, author of a bestselling book called “Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that change everything” says basically the same thing about anything you want to become a lasting habit in your life.
His discovery? The easier something is, the more likely it’ll become a habit. These 30-second habits we start with our kids are the ones that stick, and it’s better to have 3 tiny habits that stick than none at all!
If you’re ready to start something new, the best way to start is with small, tiny-sized habits and allow those to become part of our life. Once those are established, your can move onto bigger habits.
The good news is that parenthood is not a race. Change and growth occur slowly, over time, which gives us the chance to start SMALL and grow slowly.
HOW TO START
Remember those 3 truths?
- You don’t have to know it all
- You don’t have to do it “right”
- You do need to start LITTLE
If you’re just starting, I recommend starting with my favorite habit: a 30-second bedtime blessing. You choose a verse from the Bible that is meaningful to you, then you write it out and stick it above your child’s bed. When you tuck them in, you put your hand on their forehead and speak the verse as a blessing. It’s very simple.
Learn more about establishing that habit here.
Once you’ve gotten that habit down, I recommend reading a bit of the Bible with them each day. In our family, I usually do that at breakfast with all the kids. At bedtime, we read a devotional or other section of the Bible with them individually. In the evening I let them choose what they want to read, because I want it to be a special time for both of us.
Using the start small method, start by using a really simple devotional that your kids really love. Once that feels like a regular routine, you can switch it out for reading directly from the Bible and talking about it.
I believe that every Christian mom can confidently nurture deep faith roots in her kids through little habits that add up over time. When you join the Little Shoots, Deep Roots community, you will learn to lead your kids spiritually through little faith habits, without feeling like you have to do it all or know it all. I’m all about making family faith fun and simple so that your kids love it, and you can feel confident that you’re nurturing deep faith roots in your family. I help parents pray with squirmy kids, confidently teach the Bible, and speak God’s truth over their kids.