Teach kids spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible, prayer, worship, service and fasting to help them grow in faith.
Discipline is a word we often don’t like for many reasons. Unless we’re wired with an inner sense of compliance and regulation, we often find it hard to discipline ourselves in areas such as eating well and exercising. For kids who are still growing in maturity, discipline can be even harder. But even if we struggle to be disciplined ourselves, it’s our sacred responsibility as parents to model commitment and routine for our children. And the beautiful thing is. . .as we work to develop good habits with our kids, we can grow in discipline ourselves.
The term spiritual discipline can induce a weight of responsibility when God actually intends for our practice of these good habits to bring a lightness and joy to our lives. Matthew 11:28-30 paints a powerful picture of the rhythm we experience when we walk with God and develop regular spiritual practices.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
It may take our children years to fully understand the value of God’s rhythms of grace but teaching them to develop good spiritual practices now will set them up for beautiful growth in the years to come.
How to Teach Kids Spiritual Disciplines (Practices)
Read the following explanations and ideas to teach kids about spiritual disciplines. You can call them “practices” if you feel that word is more inviting. Think of ways to put these practices in place in your family life. Challenge each other to choose one discipline to focus on each week or month.
Reading the Bible
Understand: The Bible is our guidebook for life. God’s Word is our story – from the very beginning and beyond Jesus’ arrival, which provided our salvation and a divine example of how to live our lives. Reading the Bible helps us understand God’s great love for us and how we can be a part of HIStory.
Practice: It’s important to read the Bible on a regular basis. (The ICB Bible is my favorite Bible translation for kids.) It’s a wonderful habit to read it daily but that isn’t always possible. The more we practice reading the Bible, the more our heart and mind will crave the truth. Start small, by reading a Psalm or a chapter a few times a week, then try to develop the practice of reading God’s Word every day. Use a children’s storybook Bible if you aren’t quite ready for the full text. (affiliate links)
Understand: Prayer is simply talking to God, like we would talk to a friend. God is always listening and longs for us to talk with him through prayer. When we pray, we grow closer to God. Prayer isn’t just a way to ask God for what we need or want. It’s important to first, thank God for all the good things he’s given us; his love, his son, our salvation, our family and every little thing that blesses our life.
Practice: There is no right or wrong way to pray. And in fact, the more honest you are in prayer, the better. God wants to talk to the real you. You can do this by saying quick prayers throughout the day as you think of things to be thankful for or to ask him about. Or you can spend time lingering in prayer – start with thanksgiving, then ask God about the concerns of others and finally, share your own needs. It’s important to be quiet and listen for what God has to say back. This can seem uncomfortable at first and you may never actually hear God’s voice. But don’t worry, as you wait for him to respond, he’ll speak to your heart and you’ll know when it’s him.
Understand: Worship is something we do every single day without even knowing it. When we focus a lot of our attention on someone or something, we are basically worshiping them. But God is the only one who deserves our worship and we must be careful to not put anything else above him in our lives. We can worship God in many ways but the most practical way is through music. The Bible talks a lot about worshiping God with songs. Colossians 3:16 says, “. . .sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.“
Practice: Worship is very personal and we are blessed to have many beautiful types of worship music available to us. Make a playlist of your favorite worship songs. You can choose a mix of fun, upbeat songs of praise and a few slower songs of reflection. Spend time daily (or a few times a week) listening and singing along to these songs that offer thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. Try to quiet your heart and mind and really listen to the words. Even if you aren’t comfortable singing out loud, try to go deeper in worship each time you spend these sweet moments with God. (affiliate link)
Understand: Fasting is the sacrifice of something (usually food or drink) for a period of time (a meal, a day, a week, etc) in order to focus more on God. Fasting can also mean unplugging from technology to clear the clutter in our minds. When we give up something we enjoy, sometimes it can be hard. But it’s our opportunity to become closer to God through prayer and reliance on him. Jesus gave us an example of fasting in Matthew 4. As he prepared for public ministry, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert where he was tempted by Satan. His response to that temptation is the truth we can hold onto for strength when we fast ourselves, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 NLT
Practice: Fasting is not only about food or drinks, though that’s a good place to start. You can also fast media and technology as an opportunity to spend more time with God or simply get your focus off the things of the world and onto good things. Choose something to give up daily for a week. Maybe treats/sugar or TV time after school. It’s not about how much or how little you give up, but your willingness to alter your life in an effort to grow in faith. Once you begin the practice of fasting, consider taking it a step further and completely unplugging every now and then. You’ll be amazed at how God meets you when you sacrifice worldly things to focus on him.
Understand: Serving is an incredible way to grow in faith. Any time we put others before ourselves we give God glory and give him room to do his work. Opening our eyes to the needs of others is the first step in figuring out how God would have us serve the world around us. Service can happen right where we are (in our church, school or community) or at some point, God may call us to go somewhere outside our comfort zone to help meet the needs of others.
Practice: Be on the lookout for ways you can serve your family and friends. Always be ready to lend a helping hand, no matter how small or large the task. Consider planning a local family service project to take this practice to the next level. Pray about joining a larger project or mission trip when you are ready. Cultivate a heart of service by practicing this discipline regularly. You will experience so much joy when you help others.
Understand: Journaling is a practice that involves writing or drawing our thoughts and feelings as we learn about faith. This discipline is fun because it allows us to be completely honest and creative. Keeping a journal is a very personal thing that you may or may not want to share with others. At first it can be good to share with parents so they can help you understand what you are thinking and feeling.
Practice: Journaling is a wonderful way to express ourselves as we grow in faith. And there are so many amazing, creative tools out there now to make it fun! You can start journaling with a simple piece of paper and writing utensil. But eventually if you move to a journal or notebook, you can keep an ongoing record of your faith journey. It might be fun to keep a mommy/daddy and me journal where you write back and forth to ask questions and share thoughts on what you are learning about faith. Consider using a journaling Bible or Illustrated Faith materials to create beautiful artwork that expresses your growth. (affiliate links)
Understand: The discipline of rest can be the most challenging even though it’s an inactive discipline (meaning it doesn’t actually require us to do anything – because that’s the point!). Rest is hard because we’re always so busy. But finding time to relax and do nothing is just as important to our growth as any of the other practices.
Practice: Try to observe the Sabbath as a family. Set aside a day (whether it’s Saturday or Sunday) during the weekend to plan little to no activity. Give yourselves time to breathe, relax and even be spontaneous with fun family bonding time. Rest may also look like saying “no” to a commitment for a season in order to have more down time. Ask God to show you where he wants you to find room and don’t be afraid to leave space for rest.
How are you teaching your kids about spiritual disciplines or practices? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!
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