Spiritual Parenting

by Donna J. Habenicht, Ed.D.
Professor Emerita, Andrews University
General Suggestions
  • Traditions create family bonds that last a lifetime. Develop the tradition of “God Time” together with your kids every day. Those traditions will draw them back to God and family in difficult times.
  • “God Time” is not the time for scolding, arguing, or remonstrating. It is a special time to worship God and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • Gathering your family together to worship God gives a strong message about your priorities, and establishes you as the spiritual head of the family. You are modeling spiritual interest and involvement. Family “God Time” provides a way to nurture your children spiritually and to connect with them every day.
  • “God Time” can be brief, as described in Worshiping God at Home, or more leisurely, especially on weekends or days when the family is not so pressed for time. See the Resources section for books with ideas for exciting and different worship times.
  • Gather what you need for the family’s worship time - Bibles, paper, pencils or pens, crayons, markers, song books, and Bible Study Guides for each child. Keep everything in a plastic box or basket, easy to grab at the appropriate time.
  • Remember, keep it simple, short, sweet, and spiritual.
Babies and Toddlers
  • Rock your baby gently while you sing a soft religious song. End with a short prayer asking God’s blessing for your baby.
  • By nine months of age most babies are interested in looking at pictures in books. Sing a short religious song (perhaps one your baby hears in Sabbath school). Look at a colorful Bible story book and read a page or two. Gradually lengthen the Bible story time as your baby shows more interest. Hug your baby and say a short simple two- or three-sentence prayer using “baby language”.
  • Routines are very important. Always sing the same song to begin. Help your baby begin to fold her hands for prayer. Look at the same story every day. Do these things every time and soon she will eagerly welcome “God time” with you.
  • An older child two to four years old will enjoy joining in this experience.
  • The Beginner’s Bible Study Guide, with its beautiful illustrations and stories written for babies, toddlers, and two-year-olds, attracts kids. It also has many additional activities to make “God time” at home a special time for bonding between you and your children.
  • Additional resources: Religious bookstores have small, very sturdy religious books that toddlers can handle without damaging them. Toddlers and Twos love having their very own books.
Preschool Children
  • Fours and Fives love to act out Bible stories - pretend they are David slaying Goliath or Noah building the ark.
  • They also love to snuggle in your lap while you read a Bible story from their Bible Study Guide, or other sources. See the resource section at the end for ideas.
  • Sing a lively song or two. Kids love to move to the music.
  • Many of the activities in the Kindergarten Bible Study Guide are wonderful for family “God Time.”
  • Learning to pay attention during family worship time is good practice for going to church. Keep it short and simple and the kids will love it.
School-age Children
  • As children learn to read fluently and can or want to study their Bible Study Guide from Sabbath school on their own, be sure to remain involved. While they can read, they still need your spiritual guidance.
  • If you have more than one school-age child who can read, consider alternating their Bible Study Guide topics/stories for the family’s evening “God Time.” The overall focus is the same for all ages, but each division has a different Bible story and a different specific focus for the week. Many of the suggested activities are great for family “God Times”.
  • Older children can be in charge of the family’s “God Time” once a week. They will enjoy choosing worship activities, Bible passages, and songs.
  • Enrich the Bible story for the week by reading the story from the writings of Ellen White one day (for older children). Other days read it from The Bible Story (Maxwell), listen to a dramatized version from Your Story Hour or other source (if available), or encourage the kids to dramatize the story.
  • Sing the Bible verse for the week. It’s a great way to learn Scripture effortlessly. If you don’t have a written tune, make up one. Check at the Adventist Book Center for Scripture songs.
Teenagers
  • Hopefully, your teenagers have developed the desire to have personal devotions and regularly have their own private time with God. This does not, however, take the place of the family’s worship time together. Expect your teenagers to be part of the family’s “God Time” together.
  • Choose a time that best fits with your teenagers schedules - maybe 10:00 pm, when everyone gets home, or immediately following the evening meal before everyone scatters for individual pursuits
  • The Earliteen Bible study guide comes in a different format, a separate guide each week. They include topics of interest to earliteens and discussion questions. Listen to your kids and dialog with them. Don’t be the “you-listen-don’t-talk” type of parent. You’ll never get to know what they’re thinking unless you let them talk and do a lot of listening yourself. Ask questions that get your teens to think about their religious life. This is part of being a spiritual mentor for your teens.
  • For older teenagers, you might consider reading a religious book together, round robin, a couple of pages each day.
  • Teenagers are quite capable of being in charge of the family’s worship time. Encourage this at least once a week.
Resources
  • 100 Quick & Easy Worship Ideas for Kids (Karen Holford, Pacific Press, 2004). Includes worship ideas for special times, favorite Bible stories, instant games, God made the world, God made my body, and God loves me. Lively ideas for worship time. (Local ABC or www.adventistbookcenter.com)
  • Family Faith Walks (Kelly J. Haack, Concordia Publishing House, 2002). Month-by-month, on-the-go faith activities for families that can be worked into a busy lifestyle. A great resource for new ideas for active worship times. (Available at www.amazon.com.)
  • Materials by John and Millie Youngberg:
    Rebuilding the Family Altar - Meeting End-time Challenges (English book)
    Corazones en sintonía con Dios: Guía para mejorar el culto familiar (Spanish book)
    Enriching Family Devotions (English video series, 7 tapes, reduced price)
    These materials are excellent and very reasonably priced. All of the Youngberg’s materials are available at AIM (1-800-467-6442). The above materials are part of their program called “WIN!”. Check their website also: www.winwellness.org.
  • Bible story books for younger children (ages 2-8). All of these sets and the ones for older children have exceptionally beautiful art. They are family treasures. Currently complete used sets are available at www.amazon.com. Sometimes they are available at other used book stores or on E-bay.
    • Forever Stories (Carolyn Byers, 1990). The Great Controversy story for young children in 5 volumes.
    • My Bible Friends (Etta B. Degering). Stories about favorite Bible friends. A beautifully illustrated classic children’s favorite.
    • A Child’s Steps to Jesus (Linda Porter Carlyle, 1994). Twelve modern-day stories that explain the steps in coming to Jesus. Each story has teaching ideas for parents.
  • Bible story books for older children (ages 5-12).
    • The Bible Story (Maxwell). The main stories of the entire Bible in ten volumes. A beautifully illustrated classic set children love. Reading the entire set to your children will give them a solid foundation of Bible stories. (Currently used sets are available at www.amazon.com.).
    • The War of the Ages (Dillon, 2000-2003). The Great Controversy story for older children in 5 volumes. Well illustrated and interesting to today’s children. Available at the local ABC.
  • Check at religious book stores, online and locally, for other Bible story books for all ages.