Last Fall, Danny and I talked with our two oldest kids (5th and 3rd grade) about waking up early and having a devotion time with us before school. We wanted to help them develop a habit of putting God first in their life and create opportunities for conversations about spiritual things.

The way we pitched it to them was that Danny and our oldest son, David, would read through the whole Bible together and at the end of the year they would do something epic to celebrate. Hudson, our younger son, would have the same opportunity the year before he goes into Middle School but in the meantime, he would do a mimimized version with me (Dad is totally the cooler one of the two of us) and we would have our own celebration.

So for the past five months our boys have woken up at 7am and read their Bibles with us before going to school every morning. It has become a fun part of our routine. Listening to them share their hearts has helped us understand them better and it’s opened doors for us to encourage them in areas that weren’t even on our radar. We have been seeking God together but have also been growing closer to each other.

If you want to do something similar with your kids but don’t know where to start or have a hard time motivating them, here are five things that could help you:

1- Model It

The best way to inspire someone isn’t telling them what to do but showing them. Danny and I have started our day by seeking God for years. Long before we asked our kids to join us, they watched us reading our Bibles and journaling. It created a curiousity in them about why this is so important to mom and dad.

If you are just starting to create that habit in your own life, you can still invite your kids to join you but make it optional. Let them see you getting traction before you try to pass it on to them.

2- Don’t Over Spiritualize Things

Kids are trying to figure out the world around them. They are curious about how and why things work the way they do. If every question they ask has a spiritual answer they start to become suspicious.

Our conversations in the morning can easily flow from who won the NBA game last night to what kind of weapons they used in Bible times to how God can be everywhere at the same time. We live in both a natural world that we can see and touch and a spiritual world that affects us in more ways than we understand. You don’t need to feel pressure to make everything a spiritual lesson or answer every question your child asks, you just need to be committed to being on the journey of exploring both worlds with them.

3- Make It Fun

We want our kids to enjoy spending time with God. This isn’t something we do to earn His approval and prove that we are super spiritual, we just want to invest in the relationship that matters most in our lives. They love it when we get special notebooks or highlighters.. Sometimes we make hot cocoa on cold mornings or get donuts to eat while we read. The point is to help them understand that we spend time with God out of love, not duty.

Another way we make it fun is by not being too strict about the details. It’s not the end of the world if we miss a day or if they are struggling to stay on topic one morning. While we continue guiding them back to where we want to go, we also stay flexible and patient

4- Don’t Use This Time To Scold Them

Our kids are normal kids. They struggle with the same things their friends do. Sometimes they make bad decisions, they treat others poorly or don’t do what they are supposed to. This time isn’t about correcting all the behaviors; it is to help them draw close to God and develop their own relationship with Him.

Your kids won’t want to spend time seeking God together if it becomes a time where you point out everything they are doing wrong. Instead, use this time intentionally to help them see themselves the way God sees them. Our words are powerful in shaping our kids lives. They need to hear you telling them that God never gives up on them no matter what decisions they make, that He will always love them and be there to help them.

5- Show Them How It Changes Our Lives

Kids don’t see the big picture, they only see what’s right in front of them. As parents we are constantly trying to get them to understand that ice cream before dinner is a bad plan or staying up late the night before a big test isn’t the best idea. We help them see how their decisions relate to their future health or dysfunction.

One of the things that our boys love about devotion time is that they learn all kinds of dirt about mom and dad (with discretion, of course.) We tell them about mistakes we’ve made in the past and how God helped us overcome them. The point isn’t really to let them know their parents are human but to show them how God has and is changing our lives. Spending time with God isn’t just relating with Someone who loves us and makes us feel better about ourselves; it’s about becoming who we are supposed to be.

Help your kids see how they are growing and getting stronger. Show them how the habits they are forming are creating a future they are going to love being part of.

From our family to yours, we pray that this 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting will launch you into your best year yet!