I mentioned that I would publish a blog with some suggested resources for families as they seek to engage their kids in spiritual conversations. I cannot tell you how much I believe that the primary place for the spiritual formation of children and teens should be the home. The church is here to assist what the home is already doing. This is God’s design, and the only way it will work. So if the idea of having family devotions and discussions is a new idea, the best place to begin is by using resources designed for this. I have either read or used most of these, but not all of them. A few of the resources below I recommend based on thoughts from others I respect. You should be able to find most of these books at Amazon.com. Also, all of these resources should be designed to lead you to read the Scriptures and look to Jesus, not replace them. And of course, there are many other options. I cannot read or recommend everything, so if you have found a good resource to help families with devotions, or lead families to talk about God and the things of God, post a reply so we can check it out.
Parents of kids of various ages
The resource we use right now is a devotion book Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade. The book is based on the questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which is a series of questions designed to help parents and churches teach children the basic beliefs of the Christian faith. This book is deep, but will do a terrific job of asking big life questions and giving Biblical answers.
FaithTraining by Joe White does two things for parents. The first half of the book teaches parents strategies for engaging their children in conversations. The book has some great ideas and coaches parents in this area. The second half of the book contains actual devotions and discussions for parents to have with kids.
For an idea to teach children how to pray, Pilgrim Prayers for Mealtime provides a Bible verse and a short prayer. These prayers will help families move from “bless me and mine” prayers to praying for great things and looking to a great God.
Parents of Toddlers and Preschoolers
The best way to begin is to use a children’s Bible that contains the stories of the Bible in simple form. There are several options, many of them good. The best one, in my opinion is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones. Using a good preschoolers story Bible can give parents ways to teach their children the great stories of God’s work among people. It is a great tool for parents who do not have a religious background to learn the stories of the Bible along with their kids. I prefer The Jesus Storybook Bible because the author does such a good job of connecting each individual story with the overarching story of God and the coming of Jesus.
The book Big Truths for Little Kids uses a story format to teach the beliefs taught in the Bible to preschoolers and younger elementary aged kids.
Parents with Elementary Kids
The Big Book of Questions & Answers and The Big Book of Questions & Answers About Jesus by Sinclair Ferguson are terrific devotion books for elementary aged kids. Each devotion contains a key question for discussion, Bible verses to read and memorize, and a project for kids to do. These books are so good because they give a good balance of things for the kids to do on their own, and questions and projects for parents and kids to do together.
Parents of Teens
Also, for parents of teens, I suggest parents to read some great Christian books along with their kids, having discussions with them. Right now, Andy and I are reading Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. A few other good books that you might read with your teens include:
the Reason for God by Tim Keller
Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan
Knowing God by J. I Packer
Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
I could go on an on with ideas. The resources are not the issue, but parents getting involved in the spiritual formation of their children is a must. Over the years, there have been multiple ad campaigns highlighting the need for parents to talk to their children about drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, and a myriad of other things. These are important, but not nearly as important as talking about God and the things of God. So I want to encourage you. Pass your faith on to your kids. Let me know know you love Jesus deeply enough to talk about him. Remember, your children will become missionaries for the God or gods you silently serve.