I’m a sucker for New Year’s resolutions. When Christmas passes and I see the end of my yearly calendar, a wave of excitement washes over me and I bust out my computer to start planning for a new and improved year.
Whether you enjoy making resolutions or not, there are probably areas in your family’s spiritual life you’d like to better develop. There’s no time like a new year to take a good look at what those things are. In fact, I’d suggest there are (at least) 7 resolutions every Christian parent should have. Use this list as a springboard for reflection on what you’d like to see happen in your family’s spiritual growth this year.
And don’t miss number 3, where there’s a special announcement!
1. Read the Bible and pray daily.
Yes, I know. This first one is pretty predictable. We all know that Christians should be doing these basic spiritual disciplines on a daily basis. But let’s face it: It’s really easy to get off track. In the midst of getting our kids through the school year, we tend to prioritize what we view as necessities—like packing lunches—over things that are “optional.” As Christians, however, we should hardly see the time spent with God as optional. Need a good motivator? Require yourself to pray the following at the end of every day you don’t make time for Bible study and (deeper) prayer: “Dear God, I didn’t need to read the Bible or pray today. Amen.” I say that lightheartedly, but it’s a good way to remind ourselves how absurd it is to see spiritual disciplines as optional.
Resolving to read the Bible and pray daily requires that we answer two basic questions: when and what. For when, pick a time when you’re alert and can look forward to it. For me, this means the morning. I love snuggling up with the Bible at night before bed, but frankly I just fall asleep in the middle too often. I’m just not a night person. In the new year, I’m going to set my morning alarm 30 minutes early to create this time.
What is how you’ll use the time. For Bible reading, I’m going to start a new “through the Bible in a year” plan, which requires 3-4 chapters each day. I recently received a gift book called My Year in the Bible: A Memory Journal, which I’m going to use with my reading. I’m not a journaling kind of person, but this is a great little book that tells you what chapters to read each day and gives you space to write a few notes with each reading. I’m using it to jot down any interesting points or questions. Whether you want to read through the whole Bible next year or study individual books in depth, have a plan that you’ll look forward to.
2. Make God your family’s actual top priority.
If you’re a Christian parent, I’m sure you would say that God is your family’s top priority. We know nothing is more important than knowing and loving our Creator. But is God your family’s actual top priority? In other words, does your family live like God is your top priority? Here’s a convicting way to answer that: Ask your kids the question. You may be shocked to hear how they respond. Make changes accordingly.
3. Read at least one book each month that will better equip you as a Christian parent.
I will never forget a Facebook post I saw a mom write a couple of years ago about being “intellectually lazy” (her own term). She wondered if any other Christian parent in the group similarly hated reading, had no desire to keep learning “intellectual stuff,” and just had more fun in general “making fart sounds with the kids.”
Let’s state this important fact up front: There’s nothing wrong with appreciating fart sounds! But that fine appreciation shouldn’t eclipse your desire for intellectual growth as a Christian. The more we understand our faith, the more we are prepared to disciple our kids and raise them to love God. Today more than ever, our kids need us to understand why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true so we can prepare them for the challenges they’ll face. Frankly, if you’re a Christian, it doesn’t matter if you enjoy flatulence more than intellectual stimulation. This is about what you need spiritually and what your kids need from you.
To that end, commit this year to reading at least one book each month that will better equip you for your role. If you haven’t already read my newest book, Talking with Your Kids about God, it makes a perfect starting point for the year. You’ll learn how to talk with your kids about the evidence for God’s existence, how to discuss questions about the relationship between God and science, how to give your kids a balanced and thorough understanding of God’s nature as revealed in the Bible, how the answers to life’s greatest questions differ from an atheistic and Christian worldview, and much more.
When the book was released in October, I started a private Facebook read along group, where over 200 people signed up to read the book together over 8 weeks. I’m excited to announce that there was so much interest in a new group for a new year that I’m starting another one on January 15th! This time, we’ll go at a slower pace—two chapters per week over 16 weeks—to allow for deeper study. To sign up, click here and submit the form (more details at this link). With the read along, you’ll gain accountability for continued reading and applying your learning at home. You’ll meet like-minded parents and transform the conversations in your family. Don’t miss this opportunity…and invite some friends! It’s a great way to do a virtual study with real life friends you can’t necessarily meet with in person.
4. Schedule family “spiritual space.”
I’ve done a lot of interviews in the last couple of months with the release of my book. Interviewers often ask with some degree of incredulity, “So when can busy parents actually have all these conversations with their kids?” The answer is simple. If you don’t schedule time each week to grow together spiritually as a family, you won’t ever have most of these critical conversations!
The average American family engages in less than 15 minutes of direct parent-child conversation each day. That’s hardly enough time to have casual conversation about the day, much less engage in deeper conversations about faith. Another study of 11,000 teenagers from 561 congregations found that only 12 percent of youth have a regular dialogue with their mom on faith or life issues…and just 5 percent have regular faith conversations with their dads. For the vast majority of families, faith conversations aren’t casually getting worked into the day. It has to be intentional. Start by identifying a 30-minute window in your week when the whole family can be together. Let it grow from there.
What should you do with the time? Work on the next three resolutions.
5. Use your “spiritual space” to study the Bible as a family.
Research shows that fewer than 10 percent of parents who regularly attend church with their kids read the Bible together in a given week. This is a spiritual tragedy in our country. There is an epidemic of biblical illiteracy and we can’t expect our kids to have a confident faith in the midst of a secular world when they don’t even know God’s Word firsthand. Studying the Bible together as a family:
- demonstrates the importance of Bible reading in the life of a Christian (you’re not just telling your kids to care about the Bible, you’re showing them you do);
- teaches kids how to study and grow spiritually from reading the Bible (it’s not just a collection of memory verses); and
- creates opportunities to address your kids’ questions.
If you’ve never done this and aren’t sure where to start, a simple way to do so is to pick one of Paul’s shorter letters (for example, Philippians, Galatians, Ephesians, or Colossians). Picking a short book as your first one makes it a manageable “project” to start with—everyone will have the satisfaction of having completed a whole book in a reasonable timeframe. You can simply read a chapter each week together and discuss what it means or buy a small group guide to help you facilitate conversation. I give my kids a notebook and ask them to write down three things each week they want to remember from the chapter.
6. Use your “spiritual space” to study apologetics as a family.
In addition to Bible study, every family should study apologetics—why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true. Our family is currently doing a rhythm of six weeks Bible study, six weeks apologetics. If you plan to use Talking with Your Kids about God for studying apologetics, this works well because the book is divided into five sections of six conversations. We did a six-week study on the book of James and are now doing the first six chapters in Talking with Your Kids about God, which cover the evidence for God’s existence. We’ll then go on to another Bible study for a few weeks, then return to the second section of six chapters. Every chapter in the book has a step-by-step conversation guide, which makes it easy to facilitate the conversations.
Of course, there are many other excellent apologetics books available as well (you can find many recommendations on my Resources page). I mention my own book here because it’s uniquely and specifically written to be a family resource.
7. Use your “spiritual space” to have regular questions nights.
One of the easiest and most effective things you can do with your spiritual space is to have regular questions nights, where you simply open the floor for your kids to ask any questions they have about God, Jesus, the Bible, or faith. For more on why this is important and how to do it, check out my post, How to Get Your Kids to Ask More Questions about Their Faith.
Which of these resolutions do you most need to make? What others are you making? I’d love to hear! Drop a comment below. (Note that some people are getting error messages after hitting submit, but the comment will go through after moderation. I’m working on a fix for this).