As a mom, I desperately want my children to have a deep, real, full, abiding relationship with Jesus. I want them to love, serve and honor him all the days of their lives. My heart’s cry is that their faith is personal and life-changing.
I don’t want them to have a secondhand, “I’m a believer in Jesus because my parents are believers in Jesus” story.
I don’t want them to live in the shallow faith of what they’ve seen or heard.
My prayer for my girls is that each day, their faith would deepen and grow as they walk with Jesus all on their own.
But, the reality is that their faith must start somewhere.
Their belief must have an example to follow.
Before they can jump into their own thriving, personal relationship with their Creator, they must see it in action through me.
In this way, a secondhand faith becomes incredibly valuable. Not only for our children, but also for our neighbors, local friends, and those we hope to disciple in their journey with Jesus.
A secondhand story, a heard miracle, a quiet testimony, a precious rescue, a needed provision … these are ways secondhand faith translates to a personal, real, deep foundation in the life of someone else.
The Bible tells us from beginning to end that our stories of faith are gateways to the next generation of believers.
The early chapters of Deuteronomy express over and over how important it is to share these things with our children, to bind them on our hearts, to write them on the doors of our homes, to talk about them in our coming and going.
Psalm 78 is an example of repeating the wonderful acts of God, recounting the ways he’s proven faithful from generation to generation, in good times and in bad times.
Lead by example, follow the path of the righteous, do not forsake gathering together, bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord … these are common themes found throughout scripture.
The goal is that secondhand faith deepens to personal faith that is then shared, repeating the process again and again from one person to another.
Early in our years of pastoring in the States, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of young moms. I used the letters of the verb “mothering” to lay out how we can be stewards of our stories and allow these valuable secondhand lessons to impact our children.
Whether in your home with your children or in your work and ministry overseas, these mothering principles are ways God can use your story to encourage the next generation of believers.
M – Model
Be a model of who you want your children to be. Model love, patience, forgiveness, compassion, and other godly attributes that you want to instill in your children. Even in your failures, you can model godly behavior and responses to your children. As a mom, you can’t model perfection but you can model growth, faith and hope on a daily basis.
O – Open
Openness is a beautiful part of sharing secondhand faith. Transparency as you live out real relationship with Jesus at home, work or play. It means being open about your struggles, frustrations and pain, giving honest truths that shine Jesus in each situation. You can share how God is working through each challenge in real, tangible ways. In addition, you can encourage your children or those you work with to be open in return. Let them share their mistakes and triumphs. Each day be open to who God is creating them to be as they grow in the ways of Him.
T – Teach
This principle goes beyond modeling and reminds you to speak. It reminds you to take the time for teaching the lessons that you want your children to learn. Teach your children why forgiveness matters. Teach your kids how to love others. Teach them how to study the Word and read it for themselves. Teach them about friendship and manners and finances and health and how to engage with Jesus in each of those areas of life. Every moment of the day is an opportunity for learning, growing, guiding, helping and living out real faith.
H – Help
This principle requires digging in and getting your hands dirty. Helping your children as they learn to maneuver the ins and outs of life can be messy, frustrating and time-consuming. Yet, it’s important, valuable work. Before you help, pray for the wisdom to know how to help. Parents need wisdom because you don’t want to help in a way that takes over for your children. You want to help in a way that equips your children for the many new tasks they face every day.
E – Encourage
Intentionally speak in ways that encourage your children in their personal walk with Jesus. Sometimes all your children need is an encouraging word to lift their spirits for the day.
R – Reach
Reach out to your children. You have a role in your child’s life that no one else on earth holds. Use that role to reach out to your children and meet them where they are so that you can impact them for the Kingdom. Again, pray for wisdom. If your child seems to be pushing you away, ask God to show you ways to reach them that will be positive and helpful in their faith walk.
I – Inspire
Do you know what inspires your children? Do you know how to find things that will inspire them to grow, push them through challenges, guide them through struggles, or motivate them to work hard? Get creative and seek inspiration that will give them tools to develop their faith. Inspire real relationship through sharing real relationship.
N – Nurture
There is something very powerful about family love. Snuggles on the couch, movie nights with pizza, a cold cloth when they are sick: these simple nurturing moments mean the world to your children. Slow down and take the time for nurturing. Have you hugged them today? Have you prayed for them today? Have you smiled and cheered them on?
G – Give
The entire process is about giving. Being willing to give time, love, gifts, abilities, stories, conversations, and life. It’s about giving those around us the gift of our experience, example and a path to follow.
These are important principles to think through and pray over as we endeavor to help our children or those we work with move from secondhand faith to real, personal relationship with Jesus.
There is value in sharing our secondhand stories with our children and with those we disciple and lead, using the mothering principle to grow, challenge and develop the faith of the next generation.
How have you seen these principles at work in your family? Do you have a story of how God used your faith to challenge and encourage someone else?