Being a parent can be hard. Feeding, bathing, playing, helping with homework, sports teams, weekend family outings, church, dinner playdates with friends, and trying to catch up on House of Cards without falling asleep in the middle of an episode is quite an accomplishment. My life seems to consist of the following slices: marriage, kids, job, church, social life, and spiritual life. Compartmentalizing these significant parts of my life pressures me to “find time to share Jesus with my family.” But what if I choose to stop living a compartmentalized life and start living an integrated life in Jesus? Then my everyday life becomes sacred, not just Sundays, and I am sharing Jesus daily with my entire family. As parents of a teenage girl and eight year old boy, we have chosen to try something different. We have chosen to make everyday an encounter with God for our kids, but without the stress. Our parenting principle is this: make the small everyday moments in life the most spiritually engaging moments in life.
Here are six small everyday moments that you can integrate life and faith with your children:
1. Make the dinner table the devotional table. We made a unique call when our kids were little that we still practice today: we would not watch TV during the week (which gave us less guilt on the weekend in front of the TV). We would only read, create, talk, and chill throughout the week. So when dinner time comes, we put on music: orchestra, worship, Norah Jones, Sleeping At Last, Mumford, Coldplay, movie soundtracks and we have the most meaningful and memorable conversations over dinner.
When little, we would read out of this corny devotional book that had a different story each day about a family life lesson. I always substituted our family names in the short two paragraph story to make it more exciting. After reading the story we would respond the to the enclosed questions that accompanied the devotional. Not only that, we would act out the Scripture verse with hand motions while we sat in our seats at dinner (yeah, our “jazz hands” game is strong). Then we would close with a prayer. Either I just prayed or all of us prayed something related to the story or Scripture. We did that for years.
Now that they are older, we talk about what our day is like and after dinner, we take turns reading the Bible verse by verse, one chapter a night. In preparing to write this, I asked my kids and they said that these were their most meaningful and memorable spiritual moments.
2. Create before moments. I pray with my kids before school. Always. Not long prayers but something fast, sometimes serious, sometimes light, sometimes funny (thanking Jesus for my sons crazy cool “bedhead hairstyle”). I pray with my kids before bed. I never miss it. I remind them of what their names mean. I remind them of who they are as children of God (“you are special, chosen by God to do great things”). I pray with them before soccer games reminding Magnus to “unleash the beast on the field,” before piano recitals, before road trips. These aren’t usually long or super spiritual prayers, but they are just simple reminders that Jesus is with us when we get up, when we go to sleep, and when we play sports.
3. Watch modern-day parables. Most movies are stories with some sort of lesson in them. So why not leverage family movie nights to have spiritual discussion? We watch movies as a family often and find spiritual themes in the film. We don’t wait for the Christian Wolverine film called “The Wonderine” to come out about a ½ man ½ lion dude who does “wonderous” works for God with golden claws from heaven. Instead, we watch “Xmen” as a family and talk about what a hero is and how we can be hero to other people and be a hero for Jesus.
4. Make a family playlist. We make a playlist for road trips and everyone gets to pick a few songs. Then we get to not only sing along but we find out why we like the song, ask about what they are singing about, is there a spiritual idea in the song and learn more about where my kids are at spiritually.
5. Celebrate often. We find lots of reasons to celebrate. Pastor Heather Zempel has a theology of fun. We have what we call the “Pastian Commotion.” That is our fun way to say we are here, we are loud, we are laughing, and we love life. Birthdays aren’t just birthdays but time to say “you are a gift from God to us.” We all go around the table and say one thing we love about the birthday boy or girl. Valentine’s Day is a time to send love notes to each other. Easter is an opportunity to share the saving death and resurrection power of Jesus and eat the most candy we possibly can. Holiday’s aren’t just calendar dates but the chance to celebrate and share faith in Jesus.
6. Have Ice Cream and talk “Up, In, and Out”. I love eating ice cream with my kids. But we don’t just have ice cream, we have great spiritual talks. While eating, I ask the following questions involving my hand gestures pointing in the following directions: upward, inward, outward. “Upward” is when we talk about how things are in the relationship between you and God. I point up and start by having them show me a number (one to five) on their hands to rate this upward relationship. Then we talk about why they picked that number. “Inward” is when we talk about something God wants to work on “in” them and I point towards the “inside” of our heart. “Outward” is when we talk about one relationship that God wants them to invest in: a family relationship, a friendship, or someone to reach out to and I point outward to get my kids thinking about others.
These opportunities are a unique expression of the DNA of our family. It will likely look very different in your home. But it shows our commitment make the small everyday moments in life the most spiritually engaging moments in life. And we hope it helps our kids to see God at work everyday.
What everyday moments do you leverage to share faith?
Alan Pastian is husband to Heidi and zany father to Anja and Magnus. He thinks coffee and community are inseparable, and believes that a picture speaks a thousand words. He celebrate films as modern-day parables and knows that collecting experiences is more valuable than collecting things. He served at National Community Church as a Campus Pastor. He is now the Creative and Young Adults Pastor at Dessert Springs Church in Chandler, Arizona.