The Formative Influence of Families

Sixteen years ago, when I held my firstborn child in my arms, I suddenly felt the very real and heavy weight of the responsibility of raising her. I prayed, asking the Lord to give me wisdom in raising her, in pointing her toward Jesus. I knew that she would have many hours in our home, hours that we could use not only to show her how to read, cook and make friends, but also intentionally to teach her to pray, to love Jesus and to seek God’s wisdom on her own.


My husband and I were both raised by Christian parents. Church was at the center of our lives, but at home our parents also consistently pointed us to the good news of the gospel. No matter how many hours I attended church each week, I was at home with my family many more hours. My parents read the Bible with us, helped us memorize scripture and talked about Jesus.

The church community is vital. We call it a family because we believe that all members bear responsibility for one another, for practical care and for sharing the gospel with one another, including with the children. But we also recognize that what the church can do is limited. What happens in the home is formative. Parents and guardians can do so much. I often talk to parents who feel overwhelmed, believing that they have to leave spiritual formation to “experts” like Sunday school teachers or the pastor at their church. Sunday school teachers and sermons are great, but they don’t replace the hours of time families spend together, time that parents can use with intention.

There are lots of simple things parents and guardians can do to lead their children toward Jesus. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pray: Pray daily as a family, praying FOR your children when they are little, praying WITH them as they get older.
  • Read: Gather as a family and read the Bible daily, starting with a storybook Bible and moving toward reading a book in the Bible.
  • Talk: Talk about Jesus as you move throughout your day, simple things like, “God created so many good things. Look at that flower!”

These simple things can build as children grow, become more confident readers and begin building their own faith foundations. Families can study a book of the Bible together or gather together to pray for the needs of their friends and neighbors. They can even find ways to serve together. Our family loves serving together, making meals for other families, welcoming people into our homes and volunteering with our church. I have very fond memories of all four of us sitting together on our bed reading the Bible before bed time when our children were younger.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses writes, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Parents do not need a degree from seminary to connect their children to the Bible and to the love of Jesus. They simply need to have God’s word in their own hearts, to feed their own spirits with prayer and scripture, have fellowship with other believers and talk with their own children about the things they are learning, sharing when in the car or around the dinner table.

Grown-ups, God knew what he was doing when he placed your children in your home! He will equip you to do the good work he intends for you to do in their lives. Just ask him for discernment and wisdom. Give the Holy Spirit space to do his work in your life and in the lives of your children.

Tracie Meadow
Associate Director of Family Ministry
Third Church
Richmond, Virginia

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