Five ways to put God first with your kids
The kids had been out of school for several days and too much of their vacation was being spent in front of a screen — TV, YouTube, Netflix. So I took them all away, declared an “electronics free day,” and sent them outside to play.
After dinner, my 9-year-old said to me and my husband, “Every time I walk by, all I see is both of you looking at your phones!” She giggled as she mimicked us seemingly glued to our phones, but my heart sank.
While my words said there are better ways to spend time than on a screen, my actions sent a completely different message. Actions speak louder than words in many areas, but especially when it comes to teaching children.
One of the most important things we can teach our kids is to put God first, and the primary way we do that is by putting God first in our own lives.
Here are five ways we can lead by example in putting God first with our kids:
1. Forgive quickly.
Let’s be real. Kids have an uncanny ability to infuriate their parents. It can be tempting to stay mad and keep our distance as a form of punishment. But that’s not how God treats us, and it’s not how we’re called to love our kids.
Colossians 3:13 tells us to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Extending mercy and forgiving quickly when our children sin is a way we can show them God’s nature.
2. Speak truth.
Teaching our children from a young age to go to the Bible for answers will impact the way they approach the world (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). As our kids navigate friendships, schoolwork, first jobs, heartache, and conflict, we have the opportunity to go straight to the unchanging truth of the Bible. We can find Scripture to encourage them, direct them, even discipline them.
3. Make community a priority.
God exists in community in the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus found community with His disciples. When we make community a priority as parents, it teaches our children that it should be a priority for them as well (Hebrews 10:25).
Going to church regularly shows them that gathering with the people of God is important. Joining a small group sends the message that building relationships with people who love the Lord can create a community of support, encouragement, and love.
4. Serve others.
When we think of others before we think of ourselves, serving becomes a part of life (Philippians 2:4). Buying groceries for an elderly neighbor, fixing a meal for new parents, and giving our children’s friends a ride to and from soccer practice are all ways we can invite our children to be part of serving others.
After all, this is the example Jesus set for us. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
5. Talk about why.
Living a life that shows our kids that we put God first will inevitably set us apart and spark questions from our children. Just like Jesus invited us to come to Him, we should invite our children to come to us with all their questions so we can point them back to the Bible (Matthew 11:28, Matthew 19:14).
Every question is an opportunity to tell our kids why we tithe, why we love difficult people, why we help widows and orphans. Our words help our kids understand the motivation for our actions. They help our kids see the way our God is shaping our hearts to be more like His.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to put my phone down and be present more. I want to show my children that I meant what I said. There are better ways to spend my time than on a screen. I want them to know my words come from personal conviction, even when I’m talking about silly things like Netflix and social media.
My hope is that my children will know how to put God first because they’ve watched their parents put God first. God didn’t just give us a book of instructions to tell us what to do. He sent Jesus into the world to show us how to live and how to love. As parents, we get to model for our kids how to live the same way Jesus modeled that for us.