If you were to ask me what is most important to me, I would tell you things like my family, faith, and friends. You know. All the things that are supposed to be the most important. There are countless mugs, T-shirts, memes, and so on that jest about coffee being on that list. I always kind of roll my eyes at such things. And yet, if you were to observe my daily routines, you would see that I pretty consistently make an effort to ingest that caffeinated beverage nearly every day.
The small things we make an effort to do on a regular basis are a reflection of what we value. I don’t have to tell my husband or children that I like to drink coffee in the morning. It’s obvious just by watching me do it each day.
These routines or patterns for living are also a teaching tool for what it means to live out faith as a Christian. You can tell your child that praying is good, but if he doesn’t ever see you praying, will he believe it? You can tell your child that it’s important to go to church, but if you only attend when it doesn’t conflict with something else, that sends a pretty strong message of what you truly value.
Religious research shows one of the keys to passing on the faith in families is through the patterns of regular rituals and traditions. It’s in the routines of mundane, everyday life that faith is lived out, communicated, and passed on. My goal with this post is to help you (and me) to be intentional about these routines and to think about what our life rituals actually do communicate about our values and our relationship with God.
These rituals take place daily and weekly. They take place in the cycle of the year—throughout seasons and during holidays. And they take place during special occasions like weddings and funerals or graduations and vacations as well.
- Mealtimes: Many family rituals take place during meals; meals are a significant time when values are reflected and passed on. How do you work together to get the meal ready? Do you always pray at mealtimes? Do you have loving conversations that reflect godly values? These are all ways that family rituals are built. Be encouraged. God is at work through these daily practices.
- Bedtime: How can you reflect God’s love and teaching before bed? Read Bible stories. Sing songs. Recite prayers and add personal prayers.
- Devotions: Do you have a time that is set aside for Bible reading and prayers? Perhaps in the morning before everyone disperses or after the evening meal? This doesn’t have to be a perfect yes; for many families, it helps to tack this on to an already existing bedtime or mealtime routine.
- Weekly Worship: Are you going to church? It takes effort to get to church every week with small children. Don’t give up. It is worth it! God’s Word is always at work. And when something takes effort, your children do see it. They can’t fully understand it from your perspective, but they notice that if effort is made to attend church every week, it must be valuable.
Holiday Traditions & Special Occasions
Traditions build your family’s history and reflect your family values too. Include worship in your holiday celebrations. Read special devotions together. Sing songs and say prayers together. This doesn’t mean do away with current traditions but do make an effort to praise God amid what you are already doing. As you and your children reflect on the past, those traditions will help build your story.
Graduations, weddings, funerals: how you go about observing these significant occasions also builds your family story. As you gather with friends and family, take time for prayer, even if it’s just an extended mealtime prayer. Let your children see God reflected in the center of your gatherings.
Train Up a Child
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
When I think of this proverb, I think of a friend that used to be in a Bible study group with me. She would laughingly say, “I just have to remind myself that the proverb says ‘and when they are old they will not turn from it.’” Then she would add, “I just always wonder, but how old?!”
Friends, all we can do is train our children the best we can and leave the rest to God. So, I encourage you to keep at it! You are doing the Lord’s work when you make an effort to do small things consistently that have an eternally lasting effect.
I pray that you are able to continue this work with joy and love. God be with you as you raise your children in the one true faith, one small step at a time.
Create a devotional ritual for your children and watch their faith grow!