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Family Rhythms

Mac McCarthy
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October 11, 2021

One of the best ways to help prioritize the spiritual growth of your children is to create regular rhythms to attend to God together. Read on to find out more about why family rhythms like this are important and discover a few ideas to try out in your home.

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What’s the role of the church in helping children grow spiritually?

Some parents, it seems to me, underestimate the role of the church. They essentially treat children’s programming like free childcare.

"Oh, I am so glad the church provides on-site babysitting so that I can enjoy the worship service free of distraction! Isn’t it great that we get a free date night every Thursday night while our kids attend Awana?"

I believe the church provides much more than free childcare. The church can have a great impact on the lives of children.  The church can provide a safe place, an environment of love and acceptance, where children learn about the love of Jesus while being invested in by caring adults.

Treating children’s ministry like free childcare underestimates the impact the church can have on your child.

Other parents overestimate the role of the church. They place too much weight or emphasis on children’s programming when it comes to the spiritual development of their children.

"If I just drop my kids off at children’s church each week, my kids will turn out great!" The church simply can’t give your children all they need to grow in just one hour a week, especially in homes that actively undo during the week what the church tried to build over the weekend.

The church can’t be the primary catalyst for your child’s spiritual growth. It’s a mistake to treat it as such.

The church can’t be the primary catalyst for your child’s spiritual growth. It’s a mistake to treat it as such.

This is why church staff teams have been saying for a long time that parents are the primary spiritual developers of their children. It’s the job of parents to nurture their child’s spiritual growth. It would seem that most parents don’t find much to quibble about here.

Partnering with parents and equipping for success

According to a study conducted by Barna, most parents with children under the age of 13 believe they are primarily responsible for engaging their children spiritually (96%). In other words, most parents know it is their responsibility—not that of the church—to raise their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

The same study indicated, however, that despite this conviction the vast majority of parents do not spend any time during the week actually engaging their children in spiritual conversation or practices. Instead, two out of three parents said they attend service at least once per month and often bring their children along. That’s about as far as it goes.

Notice the discrepancy. On the one hand, parents know it is their responsibility to prioritize the spiritual development of their children. But, on the other hand, they rely almost completely on the church to do it for them, in just one hour a month.

One has to ask: Is this predominately a motivational issue or an ability issue?

Is it the case that these parents know how to invest in the lives of their children, but are choosing not to do so because they are lacking motivation? Or is it the case that these parents want to invest in the lives of their children spiritually, but don’t know how to do so?

Perhaps it’s a combination of both. After all, you can’t give what you don’t have to give and you aren’t going to give what you don’t want to give.

The church can’t help parents who don’t want to invest in their children spiritually. Plain and simple. But a synergistic partnership between the church and parents is possible.

In addition to supplementing work that is being done in the home, the church can also equip parents who are struggling in terms of ability—i.e. they want to invest in their children, but don’t know how to do so.

With this in mind, I’ve found that the best way to help prioritize the spiritual growth of my children is to create regular rhythms to attend to God together.

I’ve found that the best way to help prioritize the spiritual growth of my children is to create regular rhythms to attend to God together.

If you build regular rhythms into your life together as a family, they will eventually become natural and feel comfortable. At first they may require some extra effort and feel a bit burdensome, but that’s how anything additional feels at first. After a period of doing the additional work required, rhythms can become like second-nature, part of the regular flow of your life together as a family.

Ideas for family rhythms

Below are some ideas for rhythms that could be incorporated into your life as a family. Ultimately you will have to discern and select the rhythms that best support your unique circumstances as a family.

Family Dinners

Prioritize having dinner together as a family. Even if you pick just one night a week to eat together, this can become an incredibly rich time. Sharing highs and lows for the week and where God was at work in each is a great way to start.

Weekly Sabbath

In our fast-paced culture, setting aside one day a week to slow down as a family, unplug from technology, and spend some meaningful time together can be a great practice. For our family, we often enjoy great food together, plan at least one fun activity, and spend time in Scripture together.

Weekly Verse

It’s not always how much Scripture you get through, it’s allowing Scripture to get through you. One great way to get after this is to put a Bible verse up in a visible place (chalk board, bathroom mirror, refrigerator) and memorize it as a family. Discussing the verse at your family dinners is another way to take things deeper.

Bed Time

Another great time for some rhythms is bed time.  When our kids were young, we would read out of a story Bible that our kids really enjoyed. Bed time is a great time to read together and pray together. It’s also a great opportunity to speak good news over any bad news that surfaced that day in your kid’s lives.

Hospitality

Hospitality is at the heart of the kingdom of God. If you have more than one night a week to share dinner together as a family, consider inviting a friend, neighbor, or co-worker over for dinner. Creating space in our lives for others is one way we can join God’s work and go deeper in relationship with others.

Christmas Cards

In our house we put all the Christmas cards we receive up on our refrigerator. Starting sometime in January we start to take them down one card at a time during dinner and pray for each family. This is a great time to talk about what we enjoy about our friends and family and pray blessing over them.

Serve Together

Spiritual formation isn’t just about praying and reading the Bible. It involves using our hands and feat. Is there someone you know who is in need?  Perhaps an elderly neighbor could use some help shoveling in the winter. Engaging in acts of service with your kids can activate their hearts toward Jesus in new ways.

Prayer Walks

Go for a walk around your neighborhood and gather together as a family afterwards to discuss what you noticed. Did you encounter any new people? Did you learn any new names? Where were people gathering?  Spending time in the community together looking for ways God might be at work can be an incredibly transformative rhythm when done consistently.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you tend to underestimate or overestimate the role of the church in helping you children grow spiritually?
  2. What’s one spiritual rhythm you could start engaging as a family this week?

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