This month I’m highlighting four families with four unique ways of helping kids treasure God’s Word in their hearts. Some are well-known families and others less prominent but each offers unique ideas on how to nurture faith.
Check out Part 1 with the Getty family or Part 2 with the Wilson family.
Discover something new that resonates with your own family. Be inspired by their examples!
Ten-year-old Gabriella can’t squeeze into her little brother’s tennis shoes. And he can’t tromp around the house in her flip flops.
One size doesn’t fit all and not just when it comes to shoes.
If you want to be successful helping your child hide God’s Word in their heart, you have to tailor teachable moments and faith conversations to each child. When you celebrate his or her differences–their age, season of life, personality and culture–you can better shape what you do and how you do it so there’s a better fit.
Kids can go to church on Sunday morning and learn true stories from the Bible. They can attend Bible club on Wednesday evening and memorize verses. But the shaping of those truth principles and internalizing them happens at home–with YOU! Why? Because there’s no one who knows your child better than you do.
What does “hiding God’s Word in your child’s heart” really mean?
Wood & Fire: A Two-Pronged Approach
Think of it this way: You need both wood and fuel to make a fire. You can split logs and stack wood, but until it’s ignited a fire won’t happen.
A parent’s job is to help their child “stack the wood”, learn Scripture, and get things ready. Then God’s Holy Spirit can come and activate, act on, that word to create his life inside them. Just like you need wood and fuel, you need God’s Word and his Spirit.
I sat down with Pr. André and Julie Vargas of São Francisco do Sul, Brazil to talk about their own family.
“Helping your kids hide God’s word in their hearts means your kids internalize God’s principles and are able to live them out,” they said. It’s more than head knowledge but putting things into practice. But helping kids internalize truths means being aware of their differences and what works best for each one.
Celebrating Differences: A blend of cultures
Pr. André was born and raised in Brazil where the family lives now. For college he traveled to the USA where he met Julie. So in essence their family is a blend of two cultures—American and Brazilian.
Many American kids struggle with their identity and value and with feeling lonely. So at first Pr. André and Julie kept encouraging their ten-year-old Gabriella with words like, “You’re so awesome! You have so much value.”
Gabi though just shrugged her shoulders. “Why do we need to talk about that stuff?” she asked.
That’s when it hit them–Brazilians highly value community and social networks. As a result, they don’t struggle with feeling unimportant or lonely. So André and Julie shifted faith conversations to address some of the cultural battles in Brazil.
Cultural differences can happen within a country too. Texans value independence; Scandinavians in the Midwest conformity. As a parent, you have to be aware of the cultural differences impacting your kids.
- What are the cultural norms where you live, whether that’s a different region, state or country? How does it impact how you communicate God’s Word and what you emphasize with your kids?
- If you’re married, what are some of the cultural differences you and your spouse brought into your home?
Celebrating Differences: Personalities, Likes and Dislikes
Celebrating differences also means being sensitive to each child’s personality as well as their likes and dislikes. Gabriella Vargas is fascinated with creatures. She might walk in the door with a lizard in hand or a butterfly perched on her finger. The way to her heart is piggybacking on her natural love for God’s creatures.
So her parents might use the transformation of caterpillar to butterfly to help her understand how God’s Spirit changes a person’s heart from the inside out (2 Corinthians 5:17). Or they might tell her about a devious wasp that confuses ants to drive home the importance of telling the truth.
Gabriella’s brother Matthew though loves music. He knows every worship song at church. He learns Bible verses when they come before a song at church. So Pr. André and Julie create plenty of space for music in his life. That’s how he learns about God best.
- What does your child like to do? What are his or her hobbies? How can you make a connection between faith principles and those interests?
- What’s your child’s personality? How does that influence what Scriptures you emphasize?
Celebrating Differences! Ages and stages
At every age, kids learn new things and have unique needs. Infants and little children, for example, are learning what trust means. When a mom picks up a crying baby, that baby learns, “Hey, I can count on someone to be there for me when I need them.”
Physical touch is one way of communicating love and affection and a sense of safety for a child. Several years ago, Matthew was diagnosed with autism. Like a young child, Matthew craves physical touch. When his dad and mom gives him hugs or dance around the room with him, they teach him about who God is through closeness and intimacy.
He doesn’t understand verses or faith principles cognitively. But his spirit understands what his mind cannot.
Pr. André and Julie feel so strongly about this that when they dedicate a child in their church, they tell the parents, “Don’t wait to read God’s Word until your child understands it. There’s a deeper ‘knowing’ inside. Even though your child might not understand the words, in some ways those words are becoming part of their identity.”
They aren’t ignoring the stage of life Matthew is in but see its potential. They sense in him a sweetness and tenderness toward God.
- What stage of development is your child is in? What are they learning to do?
- What’s important to your child at this age? How can you show them that God meets them there?
Differences are meant to be celebrated!
Each bit of uniqueness is an opportunity to point your child to God in a special way.
2020 © Carol Garborg