Have you ever heard of the term "gospeling your kids"? When I first heard it, it seemed so strange to me. But, as I really thought about it I realized that's my goal. Every.single.day. To pour the truths of God over my kids, to point them to Jesus in the way I speak, in the way I discipline, in the way we live out our days. But how much do I really do that?
Our church talks about how the home is the primary mission field. When you have kids your goal should be to present the Gospel clearly and effectively to them. No, this doesn't mean you don't live on mission elsewhere but it does mean that we should be careful not to overlook the fact that we have tiny little sinners living in our homes in need of the Gospel. So first, your goal is evangelism. Then, by the Lord's grace, when they accept Jesus as their Savior your goal becomes discipleship.
So here I am knowing that my primary mission field is my home. And here I am actually staying at home with my kids everyday. But am I actually spending my days and my opportunities to speak over them and to them in a way that points them to Jesus? Am I "gospeling" them? Or am I just surviving or raising rule-followers or even raising morally good kids but missing the opportunities to teach them the truth of Jesus. The truth that He loves them no matter what, the truth that He died on a cross for their sins so they would have the chance to spend forever in Heaven with Him, the truth that Mama doesn't get it all right either but that we can be covered by the blood of Jesus when we stand before our holy and just God.
I'll be honest, those conversations can easily get swept to the side in the midst of unloading the dishwasher and potty training a kid (or two) and cooking all the meals (why do these kids need to eat so much?!?) and getting to soccer practice and meeting all the immediate needs of my kids. When in reality, that is exactly when those conversations need to be happening! Not just at night when we read a bible story and not just on Sundays as we talk about what we learned at church. But in the chaos, in the ho-hum of the everyday routine, in the busy of life. THAT'S when my kids need to hear about Jesus. They need to know that He's in it all. That He cares about all of it. That's when we're supposed to be talking about it.
So how do we do that? How do we gospel our kids? There are a million examples. So many ways that I still need to learn. But I think a few things have helped me:
1. Prayer ::: I must pray every day that God would refresh me and give me eyes to see opportunities for pouring Gospel truths into my kids. When I pray for opportunities, they pop up all over the place. Maybe partly because God gives me extra opportunities but also partly because my eyes are opened to all the opportunities that are already there that I've not taken advantage of
2. One-liners ::: There are a few one-liners that are a regular part of conversation around here. They come up in conversation, in discipline, in prayers, in nightly tuck-ins. I know my kids won't remember everything I say to them but I want to have a few things that I say so often that they always remember. That years down the road they'll say "My mama always said...". I know they'll have that handful of things (don't we all?) so I want to be intentional about the ones I get remembered for. I want to hand-pick them. I want them to all be ways that point them to Jesus not just ways that make them "better people" or things that get laughed about around the dinner table in thirty years (although I'm sure there will be some of those too). I'm still curating my list but here are a couple:
- "Did you know there is NOTHING you can do to ever make me love you any more or any less? Did you know that Jesus feels the same way about you? If you make all the wrong decisions or all the right decisions, He still loves you."
*A couple of notes about this: first, my husband will definitely say "that wasn't one line". True...no one ever accused me of not having anything to say... And second, obviously this lesson can't stop here. We don't want our kids believing they can just run around wreaking havoc their whole lives and not be accountable to a holy and just God BUT they must know first that God loves them always, regardless of their choices. And from there we can build the truths of repentance and grace and sanctification. But, when they get to the point(s) in their life when they feel they have messed up too big or that they are unworthy I want them to hear their mama's voice in the back of their head telling them there is nothing they can do to make me love them any more or less and, more importantly, there is nothing they can do that will make God love them any more or less.
- Another one-liner that we use is the one I talked about recently with the builder analogy. I want my kids to know WHY we follow the Bible. Why we trust this God that we cant' see. So this often comes up in discipline or instruction as we train our kids. Here's an example:
"Why is it important that we are kind to our brother? Can you tell me what Psalm 133:1 says?"
They will have to tell us the verse --- yes...we are strategic about the verses we memorize around here, haha)
"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity"
"That's right. We want you and your brothers to live to in unity because God says that's the best way to live. Just like when you build legos, you are the builder and you know the best way they work. God is our builder. He made us and He knows that best way we work. The Bible tells us that the best way to live with our brothers is in unity."
(Another way this often plays out in our house is correcting them when they are disobedient and using Ephesians 6:1-3.)
We only have a few of these worked out at this point but I'm hoping we'll continue to build on them and be able to use biblical truths to correct our kids. If your house is like ours there are a handful of "repeated offenses" in any given season so we work on memorizing verses that combat those offenses and point them to the best way to live. As new common issues arise we'll find verses for those as well. Of course I'd love to say that we do this with every issue but I definitely need to memorize more of the Bible in order to correct by using bible verses every time there is any need for correction!
- "I'm sorry. Mommy messed up." This is the third thing I want my kids to know. That I'm a sinner. That I will never get it all right but that we are in this fight together. We are all sinners in need of the grace of Jesus and that I and continuing to seek after living a holy life that honors God. So when they mess up and when they can't get it right every time they can know that I am not perfect either. They can be repentant for doing wrong without feeling shame because they have a skewed idea that some people can do it all right. They'll know from our lives that even as adults they won't get it all right and that THAT is why Jesus died on a cross.
3. Books (and other entertainment) ::: There are often times when we check out a book from the library and as we read it I'm excited by how easily it sets up a conversation about Jesus. It's not because I've planned it. But, as I'm reading it to the kids I realize how these truths point our kids to the real Truth even when the author may not have even intended it. A friend of mine does the same thing with her girls about Disney movies! She sees the Gospel message in so many of them and points it out to her girls. We recently had this happen in a book called, "A Bad Case of the Stripes". The whole book is about a little girl, Camilla Cream, who likes lima beans but doesn't want to like them because then she won't fit in. So she ends up coming down with a case of the "stripes" and her skin (and eventually body) continually changes into different colors and patterns as she tries to fit in and be like everyone else. In the end (spoiler alert!) a woman comes and offers her lima beans and she refuses because she doesn't want to be different and stand out. But just as the woman starts to leave, Camilla changes her mind. She decides to eat the lima beans and she is restored back to her normal shape and skin. We got to talk to the boys about how God had created each of them uniquely. How He designed us not to fit in but to look different and even how Jesus offers us "lima beans" in the form of abundant, eternal life. That we will look different but we were created to look different. Such a simple example and yet my kids are DRAWN TO IT, Y'ALL. It's like they can't get enough of those truths. It quickly became the favorite in the library stack and it's all because they are hearing the Truth their little hearts were created to long for.
I think one of the most important parts about this is how we can weave the Gospel into ordinary parts of our day. It's not a specific time that we sit our kids down and talk about the Bible so they know "okay, here it comes...here's the part of the day where Mom is going to talk about Jesus even though earlier today she was yelling at us and was mad at Dad for getting home late from work and was worried about keeping the house clean". Instead it's training them throughout the day. It's providing them with a biblical worldview. A filter through which to process life. A lens that will allow them to see God's glory and truth and grace and redemption through all the little pieces of their day. Because isn't that what we all long for? For life to make sense in light of the Gospel. For us to live our lives not segmented with religion as just another compartment of our lives but rather for our whole lives to be a place where we see Jesus and live for His glory?
I'm praying for each of you to find ways that apply to your kids. Ways that allow you to speak Truth into their little hearts in the day-in-day-out rhythms of life. That they would be pointed to Jesus all along the way and that they would learn to delight in Him alone.
Here's to gospeling our kids, y'all.