Resource by Paul and Ruth Fast
Nurturing is a Process
When we think of the parental responsibility to nurture our children, Christians have the added one of nurturing the spirit—the soul of the child. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is one of the most important parenting verses in the whole Bible:
“Hear oh Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. and these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them in the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.”
Israel needed this instruction, and we need it just as much. To nurture means to care for and encourage growth and development; it is not a one-time charging up of the battery to then run on infinitely! These verses lay that out well. The instruction to nurture children in God’s word is a daily, natural, intentional but spontaneous teaching and modelling of spiritual life. The words “talk of them in the way… when you lie down… when you rise” remind us to plan for the unplanned.
Planning For the Unplanned
Everyday life is not superscripted. We have an idea of what we want to do, yes, but interruptions come, and we adjust, react, and respond. So it is with nurturing our family’s spiritual life. As parents, we discovered that the best conversations about spiritual things often came when they were least expected (and the most inconvenient!) Parenting in these moments means being so open to the Holy Spirit leading your own life that you learn to recognize those teachable moments.
These Deuteronomy verses are the carpe diem of the Bible; seize the day, seize the moment, the driving in the car, the bedtime routine, the walk, or the situation at school to speak of Jesus and His Word and what it all means. These verses presume spiritual conversations becoming the default language of the home.
Nurturing means doing something regularly, with routine; like growing plants. And yet, while we plant the seed, the Spirit of God grows it. In the parable of the growing seed (Mark 4:26–29), Jesus reminded hearers that a farmer sows seed and then goes to bed, only to eventually see it germinate and grow “he knows not how” (v.27). So it is with your children. So it is with every genuine Christian.
Your children will fidget. They will seem more interested in electronic devices or sports or lego. But keep at it. God did not grow you into a mature Christian in a day, and he may not save and sanctify your children at a particularly young age either. Write the words “patience” and “persistence” over the door of your heart.
Go to the Source
The most important thing in nurturing your family’s spiritual life is praying; pray for your kids, pray for yourself! Our kids don’t come with an instruction manual, but we as Christian parents have a direct line to the Creator. So why don’t we go there first?
I once asked an older grandma who had had many children, “How does a parent know which child needs what, and who’s need is most urgent?” “Oh!” she said, “first you talk to God and he will tell you who needs special attention!”
Do Unto Others
One of the most effective things in nurturing spiritual family life is serving the broader family of God. Serving the church, not just attending—there’s a huge difference! It helps the whole family realize in a practical way that they (the kids) are not the center of the universe. When we take time away from our kids to serve someone else they learn that they are not little gods in the house.
A Day of Rest
Something that we purposed early on in our family life was to make Sunday a day of rest, a day to gather in worship with other believers. And yes we got push back! We had to remind ourselves again and again that this was simply the direction we as a family were going in and since this was priority for God, it would be for us too.
What helped us the most practically was the realization that Sunday morning starts Saturday evening. We asked questions like:
- Where are everyone’s shoes and are the laces untied?
- Are there enough socks to go around for everyone?
- Where are the car keys? Is there gas in the car?
- Is there food for breakfast before we go?
And there is sacrifice involved. It probably means that your Saturday evenings don’t become the late night out in the week. No more thinking “It’s ok if I’m tired tomorrow, it’s only Sunday.” Like the writer to the Hebrews says: “through him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:10). It is a sacrifice, and will most likely feel very much that way in the family dynamic.
I was often discouraged by Sunday; exhausted, irritated, and wondering what the point of it all was. You know when you stand at the top of the steps waiting for prayer to end so you don’t disturb everyone as you walk in late with your tribe? And you look down and you’ve got two completely different shoes on; you look over at your daughter and her dress is on inside out; you’ve got cracker crumbs under your fingernails from digging for your keys in the bottom of the diaper bag.
Friends, your kids (and maybe your neighbours too!) are in the front row seats watching you actively, publicly, privately live your life of faith, and they may be secretly thinking, “I wonder how long they’re going to keep going?” The predictability of gathering with other believers each week provides stability to your teen’s spiritual life. Secretly they are watching to see if it’s worth it following Jesus.
Nurturing is a process. Water faithfully, feed regularly.
The views expressed in our articles are those of the author and not necessarily held by everyone at Christ City Church.