I am not a perfect parent. And I don’t have perfect kids! If you have any doubts about either of these facts, I’ll let you tag along with my family any day of the week and you’ll see that we struggle with the same kinds of problems that other families do.
But from the very beginning of our parenting journey, Catherine and I have made some very deliberate and intentional choices in how we raise our kids, with the goal of helping them to see Jesus as the One at the very center of their lives – and our family’s life too.
At any point in your kids’ life – whether the leash is short with young kids/infants, or the leash is longer with teenagers – you can do things to help exalt Jesus in their eyes. I’ll get to some ways you can do this with music and worship, but first here are some important foundational ways you can help your kids see and savor Jesus Christ.
Jesus as the solution to every problem
There are a wide variety of problems that our kids and families face. From little-kid problems, to big-kid problems, to family problems, and to world problems, parents are constantly helping their kids navigate and respond to problems. As parents, we can see problems as an opportunity to gently, simply, non-dogmatically, yet consistently point them to seeing Jesus as the solution.
Jesus as the protector/defender
There are imagined fears (are there monsters in the closet?). There are real fears (could that tornado I heard about on the radio hit our house?). There are potential fears (what if this happens?, what if that happens?, etc.). My job as a parent is to show my kids that Jesus is Lord, Protector, Defender, and Sovereign over all things. Our security isn’t in a special blanket, or my earthly strength. It’s in Jesus’ hands.
Jesus as really real
Kids can sniff out when you’re telling them something that isn’t true. When I say to one of my daughters “you’re the most beautiful girl in the world”, they know that I haven’t seen all the girls in the world. But when I tell them the truest thing of all – that Jesus is with them, he loves them, and they can trust him – the Holy Spirit preaches to them “that’s true!” Never stop telling your kids how real and relevant King Jesus is in their lives.
Jesus as the greatest kind of love
Shower your kids with love, affection, and blessing. And make sure they know where it comes from. It comes from Jesus, whose love for us is secured, eternal, unearned, and unchanging. Articulate a gospel-love for your kids: that won’t ever change, that is always abundant, and is unaffected by their performance. And tell them Jesus loves them more than even you do.
Jesus as the quick forgiver
Jesus doesn’t make us sit in time-out and stew over our rotten sinfulness before he finally offers us forgiveness. He’s quick to forgive, and eager to restore. Consequences of sin are one thing, but the shame from sin is another. Jesus doesn’t shame us, so neither should we shame our kids. Be quick to forgive your kids, and insist that they be quick to forgive one another. We like to use the phrase in our house (after someone has been forgiven) “now it’s like it never happened”. That’s how it is in Christ, and that’s how it should be in our homes.
Jesus as the invisible presence
He’s with you in your room, kitchen, minivan, school, airplane, and doctor’s office. Jesus is present with us by his Spirit at all times. Remind your kids that Jesus isn’t some dude they hear about on Sundays. He’s alive! He’s really real! And he’s present in their lives at all times and in all places.
Jesus as the Lion
I wrote a post a few months ago on the powerful story of Jesus as the Lion from C.S. Lewis’ The Horse And His Boy. I encourage you to read that article if you haven’t before.
I want my kids to see Jesus as the Lion! Always with them, defending them, protecting them, loving them, hearing their cries, and at work in the events of their lives even when they feel all alone.
I’ve taught my kids that “Jesus is like a Lion who lives inside of us. And when we worship Him, He roars”. So when my oldest daughter is scared of going downstairs to get her shoes, I encourage her to just say/sing the name of Jesus. And she does! It’s a wonderful demonstration of the power of the name of Jesus.
And with those foundations laid, now a few quick words about how to encourage an atmosphere of worship in our homes:
Encouraging Worship in Our Homes
First, even though this post is a few years old (and was written before we had our third child), it lays out our routine in our home, and what we’ve found to be effective. I encourage you to read it.
Second, let me just say how powerful setting up a routine with your kids can be. Whether it’s a morning or an evening routine doesn’t matter. All of us have different families, with different bedtimes, different demands, and different personalities. But none of us are the Lord of our families. Jesus is. We must prioritize training our families to stop – every day – and acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and to take time to praise/thank him, and pray to him. When a child knows a routine, they will hold their parents (and even babysitters!) accountable to stick to it.
Third, don’t allow your lack of musical giftedness to be an excuse for not leading your kids in worship. Buy/stream worship music and have it on in your house or car. Put it on in the house when the atmosphere is tense. Sing some simple songs before bedtime. It doesn’t have to be awesome. You’re just planting seeds. You are giving your kids what they’re not getting many other places: Jesus.
Final Crucial Concepts
1. Make Jesus central to everything. Every pain, joy, routine, and activity is an opportunity to point your kids to Jesus. They start to get the idea after a while.
2. Allow Jesus to take the pressure off of you: to be perfect in all things, protect your kids from all dangers, provide for your family in all ways, and carry everything on your shoulders. Your kids need to know that you need Jesus too.
3. Shower your blessing and the cross of Christ on your kids. Every night, your final word to your kids should be Jesus’ final word to us: His great love, His blessing, and His delight.
I say to each of my girls something really close to this every night:
“May Jesus bless you, refresh you, fill you with His Spirit, guard you, guide you, and protect you all the days of your life. May He use you in powerful ways. May you grow to love Him, worship Him, and be faithful to Him and His word. (During this next part I make the sign of the cross on their foreheads.) In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Then I wrap my arms around them and tell them over and over again how much I love them.
The amazing thing is that the next day they want to hear it all over again. And I want to say it all over again.
Our job is not to be perfect parents raising perfect kids perfectly. Our job is to raise our kids in an atmosphere of God’s abundant love, centered at all times on Jesus, so that one day (in the blink of an eye) when we let the leash out all the way, they will still be tied to the One who loves them more than their parents do.
6 thoughts on “Making Jesus Central in Your Family’s Life”
Nicely written, Jamie. I will send this on to our own children, who now have little ones of their own. …………and so the story continues!
Any thoughts on how this changes for a 3 year old vs. a 13 year old?
What about how this changes for a child you don’t think is a believer vs. one who is?
I’ve not had the experience of parenting teenagers yet, but as someone whose teenage years were filled with turmoil, upheaval, and all the normal stuff of teenagerhood, my quick answer is that the simple truths of the gospel become even more important in the complicated life of a teenager. The more a parent can point simply and consistently to Jesus, even when that pointing is met with resistance and/or eye rolling, the better. Teenagers are assaulted from every angle by a changing world, a compromising culture, a barrage of messages, etc. The message from parents can’t be complicated in response. The message from parents has to be simple: the good news of the gospel. Hold up Jesus. Exalt Jesus in your teenager’s eyes.
And I think this applies equally to a child who is not a believer. The longing they feel strongly every day is pointing them to Jesus, whether they realize it or not.
Great post. I’m wondering if it might be helpful to some readers if you cited Bible verses to support your points. (Not meant to sound negative.)