Do you desire for your kids to know God? Here are 10 practical tips for parents who want to teach their children about Jesus and build their faith from an early age.
Guest post by Jessica Smartt
Full disclosure: Right now, my weary, eight-month-pregnant self is plopped on my couch. It’s 7:30pm, the kids are in bed, and boy, I am tired. Long-day, toddler-chasing, bone-tired.
I sit writing this post on introducing your child to Jesus…and as I reflect on my day, I can’t help but feel a little uneasy…hypocritical even.
The thoughts start coming: Have I taught my children about Jesus today? Have I showed these little ones I love them? Have I taught them anything meaningful??
And suddenly, today’s prayers seem extra-routine, the hugs too sparse, the whole drawn-out day a smattering of missed opportunities.
It’s hard, isn’t it, showing little ones Jesus? I love Jesus. I know in my heart of hearts He is all that matters. I long for my children to share this love – more than anything I long for this.
But yet I struggle – how do you introduce a child to Jesus, in a way that lasts, in a way their little hearts understand?
It was this angst that led me to write what’s now my most popular post, How To Introduce Your Child To Jesus. People read it, and pinned it, and were still hungry. And so, a year later, I’ve released my first e-book – on this very same topic.
Because it’s hard. Because the answers aren’t clear. Because we moms are holy, but human. Inspired, but imperfect. Because sometimes…we need a little guidance.
I wrote this book not because I’m an expert, not because it comes easy to me, but maybe precisely because it does not. I’ve labored to come up with some answers, with some practical helps, with some very do-able things that all of us parents can do – even on little sleep, even when we’re still learning.
Here are a few of these tips:
1. Let your kids see your Real Faith.
Real Faith is messy. It feels guilty after losing a temper. It worries when kids are sick. It wanders during the day, even forgetting to thank the Giver of all the gifts. So, don’t feel pressure to be “perfect.” Instead, be real with God – in front of your children. Are you worried? Tell them, and pray. Are you exhausted? Tell them, and pray.
2. Apologize often.
How powerful this is, and we forget it! I can still hear my mother’s voice in my head: Mommies make mistakes, too. Do you forgive me? It’s counter-intuitive, but seeing my parents’ humble requests for forgiveness was a powerful statement to me of their character, and their love for me.
3. Find a good kids’ Bible, and read it routinely.
We’re so fortunate today to have access to many excellent children’s Bibles. (Not all on the shelf are good, but many are. I review my favorites in my book.) God’s word, above all, is the source of all truth. It brings hope and light to the darkness! Show them His word.
4. Spend time playing Legos, and combing Barbie’s hair, and giving back scratches.
In other words: If you don’t have a positive relationship with your children, your religious talk might be harder to accept.
5. Replace a some “secular” books, movies, songs, and toys with some high-quality Jesus-centered ones.
If our kids are not hearing about Jesus, they’re probably not thinking about Him much, either. Through Jesus-centered songs, stories, and movies, we can draw their thoughts towards Him. Of course, many “Christian” kids’ books on the market aren’t all that great…but many are. I have a list of my 25 favorite resources in my e-book. Erin also has a great roundup of spiritual gift ideas for kids, as well as Resurrection-themed Easter basket ideas here and here.
6. Spend time on your own with the Lord.
Easier said than done, right? We all instinctively know we need to do this, but it can be hard! Here are a few tips:
- Be gracious to yourself when your quiet times falter (because they will at some point if you are a tired and busy mommy), and don’t let guilt keep you from coming to Jesus, even if it’s been a month since you’ve cracked a Bible. Start now, where you are.
- Be with Jesus during the day, while the kids are there. Pray out loud for your needs. Talk to Jesus when they’re listening. Read a verse out loud. You can learn while they learn.
7. Talk about Jesus often with your kids.
When I started brainstorming for my book, I easily came up with over a dozen ways we can talk about Jesus with our kids – just in normal, everyday conversation. It’s just a matter of being aware of those ways, and doing it!
8. Bring them to church, and let them see a little bit of real church.
I know this is a personal decision for many families: nursery vs. “big church.” And boy, is it hard to have little ones in the pew with you! But we have seen positive rewards with letting our little ones be squirmy next to us. It’s something I recommend, even if it’s just for a small portion of the service. Kids watch us worshiping, see that God is holy, and important, and see that our faith is important to us.
9. Remind your children often, I love you so much, and God loves you, too.
This is something I learned from my very-wise mom, who often gets frustrated with complicated Sunday school curriculum. When they’re so little, she says, they just need to know two things: God made everything, and God loves them. What a relief, huh? Give your little ones a hug, and tell them, God loves you so much, do you know that? This little phrase, with a hug…so powerful!
10. Tailor your teaching to your child’s personality.
In my book, I outline seven common personalities in kids (the defiant child, the fearful child, the difficult child, and others). There are particular ways that each child needs the Gospel. There are no guarantees, unfortunately, that our children will follow Jesus. But it’s helpful for me to think about their own little personalities, and brainstorm how each child needs Jesus.
Interested in learning more? My new e-book, How To Introduce Your Child To Jesus, has more practical tips, including:
- My church survival kit for little ones (the specific items we bring, how we address misbehavior + more)
- My Top 25 favorite Jesus-centered books, movies, and toys for kids
- Everyday scenarios to talk about Jesus with your child
- The seven common personalities in kids, and how to teach each type
- A list of my favorite devotionals for wearied moms
- YOUR questions answered – common questions about teaching a little one about God
What’s your biggest challenge in teaching little ones you love about Jesus?
Jessica Smartt is a former middle-school teacher who lives in beautiful North Carolina. You can find her blogging at www.smarttereachday.com where she enjoys poking fun at the everyday challenges of motherhood, sharing delicious allergy-free recipes, and rejoicing that God still loves her no matter what phobia she has recently developed. She is blessed beyond belief with two Smartt little boys and a husband who can fix anything. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, or her blog.
Great list! I think apologizing often and spending time with your child are especially important. In my church children are welcomed and even expected to be in the pews during sacrament meeting/sermon. Nursery doesn’t begin until AFTER sacrament while the adults go to Sunday school. My daughter loves nursery, and she will randomly sing some children’s hymns, it’s amazing! (My husband sings hymns to her during bedtime).
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup
This post is spot on! My children are teens now, but I wholeheartedly agree with what you have written. My Pastor often says, “It’s not what’s taught, but what is caught”. Our children are watching us. They need to see and hear our love for Christ in our everyday living, not just our church attendance. We need to show them real faith, not the movie version of faith. Thank you for this post. Your book sounds wonderful!
I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for the insight and encouragement. Introducing our children to Jesus is truly such a privilege. I would say my biggest challenge is making sure they develop an accurate perception of Him.
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
First, can I just say that the first picture is incredibly adorable?!
Second, I really enjoyed all your ideas on introducing our children to Jesus. I think that if we ourselves are talking about Jesus and spending time with Him in His word, then the outcome will be a natural overflow into our conversations with our children.
I will second your suggestion to let your children be a part of church with you. We attend a family integrated church so nursery isn’t even an option (!!). As hard as it can be sometimes, I have learned that a season of training and consistent practice can lead to children who are able to sit and participate in church. One of the biggest things is just to not give up after a couple of difficult services. It is such an encouragement and a blessing to see my sons listening to their dad (and others) preach and to hear them repeating back words and phrases that they hear. This has already led to discussions about the Bible and they are just 4 and 2. I also have a little baby girl who spends part of the service napping in a baby-carrier and part of the time playing with quiet toys on the floor.
I could go on…This is an awesome topic! I look forward to checking out your book 🙂
So happy to have found this blog! I have a 5 year old boy who has big feelings, sometimes reactive behaviors, but is very smart and starting to talk about more about Jesus during these hard times for him, but more of in a skeptic/fearful way. So excited to check out this e-book, so thank you for this!
I’m so glad you were encouraged by this post!
Iam a grandmother to twin 2yr old girls,iam teaching them to pray for meals and try to pray with them.I need to do mo with the girls.thanks for good info. Gid bless
Great article.learned alot of good info to help my twin grandaughters.
Waw loves this article
May God bless you more
I just want to add this
Our kids will follow Jesus because thier is no other choice at all !!!!
Oh…this article is so awesome…and i really love it
What is a good bible for a 7 year old. Like thru the bible in a year. All I’ve are bible stiries
would like to buy the e-book, but link doesn’t work. any suggestions?
Oh no! Try this link–>http://amzn.to/2wFomrq
Casey M Shane
I grew up in a Christian home and I want to teach my son about Jesus. How do I start teaching a 5 yr old?? Start with a Childrens Bible? Dvds? Pictures? Any help? Tips? And …my 5 year old has Autism.
One of my most favorite resources ever is the Jesus Storybook Bible. I would start there! The What’s in the Bible DVDs are also very good!
This is such a great post. I really like your first point about letting your kid see real faith. Thank you for sharing this!
I’m so glad you found it encouraging!
Thanks so much, children learn most by doing it’s very important that we read God’s word and pray with them at all times. Iam a Nursary school teacher, want to know more about teaching children of 3-6 years Jesus. Thanks
Great post! Super helpful for this first time mama!
Wonderful post Erin. Looking forward to sharing with my grandchildren and other’s. We are all still children…really. This could apply to all I think. God bless you.
I hope they enjoy it!
I was just skimming through, looking for some insights on teaching my grand daughter about Jesus… and I came across your sight. I noticed this page dates back to 2014… so I”m thinking. ok… the last baby is four years old now:). I love what I see here, however I do not have the time at this moment to discover what else is here, so I’ll come back, in the meantime I hope that you are doing well, I am truly inspired because you have done what I have dreamed to do , but found it difficult to pursue… (writing books. blogging ect). You see I was and still am a stay at home Mom I was a military wife (my husband has now retired) who raised 10 children, six of which are young adults, So I just wanted to say , do not be weary in well doing for in due season, you shall reap if you do not faint.
I love this article. it’s so true! I love the response I read from Lisa about “if we ourselves spend time with Jesus, in His word, then the outcome will be a natural overflow into our conversations with our children”. I REMEMBER A FEW YEARS AGO, MY LANDLORD HAD A 2YR OLD GIRL AT THE TIME WHO LOVED ME SO MUCH AS A TENANT LIVING IN THEIR HOUSE. EACH TIME I RETURNED FROM WORK, AS SOON AS SHE SAW MY CAR, SHE WOULD COME OUT AND START TO JUMP IN THE FRONT OF THE CAR. THE MOMENT I CAME OUT OF THE CAR, SHE WOULD RUN AHEAD OF ME UPSTAIRS WHERE MY ROOM WAS, SHE WOULD OPEN THE DOOR AND SIT IN MY BED. USUALLY, I WOULD KNEEL DOWN BY MY BEDSIDE TO PRAY AND THANK GOD FOR THE DAY; SHE WOULD PATIENTLY WAIT FOR ME TO FINISH PRAYING. THIS WENT ON EVERY DAY. SO, ONE DAY, AS SOON AS WE BOTH GOT TO MY ROOM UPSTAIRS AFTER I RETURNED FROM WORK, SHE IMMEDIATELY KNELT DOWN BY MY BEDSIDE AND SHE WAS IN THE SAME POSITION AS I WAS, PRAYING. EVEN THOUGH SHE COULD NOT PRAY AT THE TIME, SHE WOULD ALWAYS DO WHAT I WOULD DO (kneeling by the bedside and shutting her eyes). If there is any consistency in our practice as we spend time with Jesus both in prayer and in His words, it will be a natural flow indeed for our kids.