Bob was a church member that I spoke with several years ago. He came into my office very bothered that his two adult children (in their 20’s) had essentially left their faith and didn’t want anything to do with the church.
As we talked, he explained that he had his children at church “every time the door was open,” restricted them from school dances, wouldn’t allow them to go to most movies, guarded them as to who they could have as friends and did all he could do to protect them from bad influences in the world. Bob had good intentions but was missing the most important part of raising his children. When I asked him about his children he could tell me general facts about them, but he couldn’t tell me intimate details about them personally. He did not know their passions, their dreams, what was important to them, their favorite ice cream, who they admired, what they loved about life, etc… Bob had rules but he did not have a relationship with his children. And as James Dobson has said for years, “rules without relationship equals rebellion.”
Spiritually nurturing children is done in the context of relationships. I tell parents constantly to slow their families down. Take walks with your children, camp out in your living room, tell stories, go on daddy-daughter dates, laugh with children late at night, go on family adventures (not vacations), play with your children every day, splash in the rain, do ministry projects together, put notes in their lunch boxes or backpacks, ask them questions and listen closely to their answers, and don’t buy them lots of things but give them yourself.
Then and only then will you have the right to nurture them spiritually. Then will the family devotions make sense to them, then going to church will be something they will see in your heart and not a rule to be followed, and then you can model what a loving relationship with a parent who has a healthy authority looks like (the ultimate father, God the father).
Children and Family Pastor