How to Encourage Your Children Spiritually
an interview with Katherine Whitman by Gretchen Miller Basso
Many parents seek to establish a strong Christian faith in the hearts of their children. It is a significant responsibility and at times can be overwhelming. Have you ever wondered, “Am I doing enough?” “Am I setting a good example of faith?”
You are not alone! At The Christ School (TCS), our teachers take this responsibility seriously and partner with our families to share their knowledge and experiences. Kathy Whitman, 5th grade Bible teacher at TCS, was happy to discuss ways parents can encourage their child’s spiritual growth. Reflecting on her own childhood, Kathy says, “I was raised in a Christian home, and my father was an Elder at our church. In our home, we valued and welcomed the Lord in every conversation and decision, in our actions and in our words.” She continues, “We studied the scripture and valued the Word knowing the organization of it, the overall theme of redemption and how each person can relate to the scriptures.”
Q: What are some things that you do in your classroom to encourage your students’ spiritual growth?
KW: I try very hard to make the Bible come alive for my students. We do a lot of acting, role-playing, storytelling, and imagining. I try to elevate their understanding by helping to produce an image in their heads. For example, we were studying Psalm 8, written by David, who was a shepherd. I asked my students to imagine themselves in the middle of a pasture; to look up and see a star that is magnified, and to ask God, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Creating an image in their minds is key to having them truly learn and love the scripture. I remind my students that in the Bible, everyone can find someone that they can relate to. Other than Jesus, no one was perfect. Peter was like us; he struggled with sin. Judas, who was chosen to be an apostle, struggled with greed. No one is perfect, which is why our Savior had to come.
Q: What are some ways that parents can incorporate faith into their child’s everyday life?
KW: Include faith in your everyday conversations. Commit to a time each day to read and talk together. A schedule of readings is helpful, but don’t make it too tight, and don’t worry if you are not keeping up with the readings on the schedule. Do not lose depth to pace. What it’s really about is studying and reflecting on what you have read, more than just getting through it.
Be honest with your children about the struggles that you have. You will find people in the Bible who have similar struggles. The Psalms have anger, fear, vengeance, frustration, love, peace, rejoicing, curiosity, wonder, and more. They articulate the human emotion that each of us experiences. You can use the Psalms to pray; use them as a family prayer.
Q: What are some things that you can do to help your child grow up with a strong Christian faith?
KW: Help your child spend time in the scripture. Help them to understand that it is a living, current document, not ancient history, and that it gives us all we need to know who God is, why we are here, and where He wants us to be for eternity. Have fun with it! Learn the books of the Bible through games and songs. Have a game to see who can locate a selected scripture first.
Live the example of the type of Christian you want your children to be. Find service opportunities that work for you, whether it is cooking meals, writing cards, or donating time and energy to help in a larger organization. Involve children in the cooking and deliveries, with creating get-well or thinking-of-you cards, or serving together with a group. If parents want children who serve, parents must be the examples of service. The same principle applies to study of the Word, prayer life, and being joyful through good times and bad.
God should be a part of our lives. He should be alive and welcome and a part of our day through the good and the bad. I encourage parents to be an example. Let your children see you pray. Let them see you worship, and that you are honored to be a child of God. Let them see you serve. Those little eyes watch everything and they will imitate you. If you are excited for worship and service, they will be, too.
Practice “Whatever” (Philippians 4:8): Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. If you fill yourself up with all good things, there will not be room or interest for the bad. Good things in brings good things out in our words and actions.
Q: How can you address those difficult questions?
KW: Indeed, there are many difficult questions and there isn’t always an answer. Look at the Book of Job. Job asked God, “why?” and God told Job that he is not in charge. Our faith is based on trust. We must trust the scriptures and know that they are the word of God. One thing that is important to note is that everything in the scripture is true, but not everything is approved by God. The scriptures are accurate, and to give us an accurate picture, they were recorded, but it doesn’t mean that God approves of the sins that were recorded. Cain killing Abel is an example that there is sin in the world, and that is why we needed Jesus.Let your child know that not all questions have answers; that you just have to trust in God.
Kathy Whitman (pictured at left) is celebrating her 11th year as a teacher at The Christ School and her 20th year of teaching. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at Florida State University and has earned a Florida Professional Certification in Elementary Education and Gifted Education Endorsement for grades K-12. She is a published writer of a Bible workbook, The Sermon on the Mount, a 13-week study for grades 5-6, and has written two additional study series, The Beginning of Things, a study of Genesis, and Evidences for Faith, a study of apologetics for youth.