parents

Rarely do spiritual conversations with your child go the way you envision, especially when they are little! This is one I wrote down several years ago when my daughter was three.

“Daddy, don’t let the giant get me.”

“Sweetie, the giant isn’t going to get you. It was just a dream…”

I had already come in to comfort my daughter several times that night, but feeling suddenly inspired I decided to seize the “gospel” moment.

“…and besides sweetheart, Jesus is stronger than giants and everything else that’s scary. He defeated all our enemies on the cross, so when you feel scared, you can pray and ask him for help.”

I quietly congratulated myself on my applied spiritual insight in parenting as I watched my three-year-old process this.

“Daddy, is Jesus going to put me in a boat?”

“…?”

I floundered for a moment then realized she was remembering the picture of Jesus in the boat with His disciples from her storybook Bible.

“Yes honey, Jesus is always with us. Even in the boat.”

“Will He push me in the boat?”

“Um… Jesus loves the little children, sweetie. I think He’d give you a push.”

“Daddy, is Jesus going to wear a swim suit?”

“Goodnight Elly. Go back to sleep.”

A child’s short attention span and limited comprehension can make these parent-child interactions slightly comical, but I’m convinced the effort is worth it. Sooner or later, ideas will start to stick. The conversations we have today will form a framework for understanding later on.

Any Christian parent who wants to learn to talk naturally with their children about Jesus can start by identifying teachable moments in their daily routine. Over the years, I’ve found the following activities to be golden opportunities for leading children to Christ. It’s hardly exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start.

1. When You Sing Together

Kids love to sing. Shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood revolutionized children’s programming with this insight. So why not be intentional about the music you play and the songs you sing at home and in the car?

I grew up in the 80s listening to Psalty the Singing Song Book. But today there are many more options to choose from. One album that’s recently crossed my desk and has become a fixture in our car stereo came from Adam Wright with The Corner Room in an album called Remember & Proclaim: Scripture Songs for little ones.

I’m constantly amazed at how quickly kids memorize the words to songs. Kind of scary when you think about it. Which is all the more reason to make sure it’s God’s Word they are hiding in their hearts!

2. When You Read Together

Educators keep telling us there is nothing better to prepare kids for future academic success than reading to them when they’re little. Why not take advantage of story time by reading books that will teach your kids about Jesus?

Our girls LOVE The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. I don’t know if it’s a common experience for other parents, but after we finish reading a story to them, our girls like to flip back to the beginning and retell it in their own words.

And when we turn out the light, the Bible story we just read is a great place to start our prayer time.

“God, thank you for sending your Son as a baby…”
“Jesus, thank you that even the wind and the waves obey you…”
“Jesus, thank you that you rose from the grave and are alive today…”
 

3. When You Pray Together

Many Christian families pray before meals and at bedtime. Prayer time is an easy opportunity to teach your children to pray and, in the process, teach them priceless truths about God.

Our three-year-old is now at the point of wanting to pray at meals, but she doesn’t know what to say. So my wife or I will pray and, phrase-by-phrase, she repeats our words. Most days it sounds something like this:

“Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us this food. Thank you for Daddy, and Mommy, and baby Hannah. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for sending Jesus to save us from our sins. Amen.”
 

4. When Your Child is Scared

Most kids get scared when they wake up in the night. When they call out your name for comfort you have an opportunity to talk to them about “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

  • When they’re afraid of the dark, you can remind them that Jesus is the light of the world and a light for us when we’re in the dark.
  • When they’re afraid of monsters (or giants in my daughter’s case), you can remind them that Jesus is bigger and stronger than anything scary. In fact, everything evil is afraid of Jesus, because they know He’s in charge.
  • When they just want Daddy or Mommy you have a chance to talk to them about God the Father, who loves them even more than Daddy and Mommy do.

Any scenario like this gives you the chance to pray with them and over them!

5. When Your Child Does Something Wrong

Discipline is one of the most stressful aspects of parenting. And our parental reactions when a child does something wrong reveals a lot about our own assumptions.

When I hear myself say, “Why would you do something like that?” or, “I just don’t understand where this behavior is coming from!” it’s an indicator that I’m forgetting the core of the gospel.

According to God’s Word, she’s not inherently good. She knows how to lie, be sneaky, impatient, mean, and more without having to learn it from others. It comes naturally because, like every person on earth, she was born sinful. She’s sinning because she’s a sinner, just like me. (Ephesians 2:3)

Rather than being surprised by our kids’ sin, we should expect it and have a game plan for addressing it with gospel truth. When your child sins it can be a God-ordained moment to talk with them about how much they need Jesus. That only by His death and resurrection can they have God’s forgiveness, the ability to run from sin, and to desire to do what pleases Him.

6. When Your Child is Wronged by Someone Else

Much of our parental energy in discipline goes into addressing the sinful behavior of the offending child, but we also have an opportunity with the child who was wronged.

This can be your chance to help them understand what it truly means to forgive—that it’s not easy, that the person who wronged them needs their forgiveness, and, most importantly, that we forgive because, through Jesus, God has forgiven us too.

Conclusion

It’s worth the time for you and your spouse to talk through each of these six daily opportunities to point your child to Jesus. Decide what you want to convey ahead of time.

Of course, it will never go exactly according to script, but over time it will pay off as your child learns the vocabulary of grace and spiritual conversations become a natural part of family life.


About the Author

Appointed President of Haven Ministries in November 2023, David Wollen is thrilled to gradually assume the role of host for Haven Today in 2024. He resides in the greater Chicago area with his wife, Marci, and their three children. They are active leaders in their church, where David serves as an elder and part of the preaching team, and Marci leads women’s ministries. With a degree in Biblical Studies from Biola University, David is passionate about teaching God’s Word with God’s heart. He sees this as synonymous with Haven’s longtime tagline: “Telling the Great Story … it’s all about Jesus!”


Remember and Proclaim: Scripture Songs for Little Ones

Remember and Proclaim is a new collection of Scripture songs designed to help families know and sing truth to themselves and to each other.

As a husband and father of two, Adam Wright––singer and composer behind The Corner Room––is constantly looking for resources on how to incorporate the Bible into his family’s daily life. He wants his family to know it, treasure it, and sing it! This new project, Remember and Proclaim, is a collection of Scripture songs designed to help them redirect their hearts back to God’s love and what is true.

Amidst a wide range of emotions, Adam’s family finds themselves singing together as they remember God’s faithful words to them. May this be an effective tool to help families proclaim what is true!