When my daughter was four years old, she desperately wanted to learn to ride her bike without training wheels. She begged me to help her develop the skills. She didn’t realize the mastery necessary to keep her balance and propel herself forward on the journey.
However, she had her heart and mind set on discovering what it took to ride.
We spent days at the local school track developing balance to get on the bike. Then we worked on pedaling and balancing, then steering with purpose while pedaling and balancing. Day after day, she made mental notes of how to cycle forward. After each fall, she bounced back up, ready to reengage. Soon she was riding around the track alone.
As she matured, her cycling confidence grew. She ventured down trails, entered cycling races, and continues to be an avid cyclist. The basics of learning to ride a bike remain the same but continuing to ride unleashes new journeys, relationships, and growth opportunities.
Spiritual Disciplines Give Children Balance and Endurance
At a young age, we can support children to develop and practice disciplines that guide them to know God and align their hearts with Him. Sustaining these disciplines allows for a more profound discovery of God, a relationship with Him through prayer and Scripture, and a journey toward His plans and purposes.
Supporting these developing spiritual disciplines as a faith community builds confidence and offers assurance that God meets each of us where we are.
Develop the Basic Spiritual Disciplines
Developing the practices of Bible reading, prayer, and worship offers spiritual balance when a child’s day, family relationships, or friendships feel off-kilter. These disciplines are a power source for knowing God and developing an ongoing relationship with Him.
Children have an innate sense of wonder and exploration that helps them develop these disciplines. When introduced at a young age through modeling, they evolve at a personal level, which builds sustainability when engaged through a faith community.
Hearing and reading God’s Story from a young age informs children of His love and character. As you focus on Bible reading with each age group, consider how you engage the following skills in fresh ways.
- Pondering & Praying shapes God questions before diving into God’s Story. As kids form their own questions, they engage active seeking, learning, and study.
- Listening & Looking encourages kids to encounter truths about God. As they become independent readers, reading Scripture from their Bibles will empower them to see new details.
- Digging & Discussing builds confidence through independent Bible reading and faith community conversation and deepens understanding.
God desires to be in a relationship with each of His children. Prayer introduces children to conversing with God. Talking and listening to one another enhances our relationships. Modeling prayers and inviting children to repeat the prayer, say it with us, or pray alone is only one side of the relationship.
Training to know God’s voice and recognize His response is discovered when we sustain this practice. Scripture reveals God’s responses can be like a whisper, a picture in our mind, or words shared through a friend, parent, or spiritual leader. We develop an awareness of God interacting with our prayers when we engage with a prayer journal and reflect on our prayers over time.
Memorize, Model, Meditate
- Memorize: Introduce praying through simple prayers that can be memorized and said together during meals, bedtime, or when someone is hurt.
- Model: Lead group or independent prayer by focusing children on giving thanks, honoring God, confessing to God, and asking God for help. Once they build up conversational confidence in these areas, lead them through different prayer models.
- Meditate: Listening and seeking God’s voice develops over time through practices that lead to meditating on His Word in silence. Praying through coloring, journaling, or cultivating quiet spaces or moments within your ministry hour helps children to grow comfortable with meditating on God’s Word. Recognizing God’s voice deepens children’s relationships with God and helps them become prayer warriors on behalf of others.
God created everything to praise His name—from wind to waves, birds to babies. Children can honor and offer adoration to God with their whole being. The discipline of worship provides diversity as we can listen, sing, dance, tithe, create, and much more. Engaging in the richness of worship can be corporate with our faith community or individual.
The uniqueness of how each person grows to understand worship will help them sustain this discipline. Worship keeps our focus on a vertical relationship with God. We often begin practicing this discipline in our ministry spaces by singing, dancing, and bringing offerings. When we cultivate spaces to explore artistic expressions as worship, we expand a child to a life of worship with endless creative possibilities like poetry, sculpting, photography, and painting.
We hosted a worship response weekend at my church and invited various artists from the congregation to come and share how they worship. They led our families to participate in their expressions of worship: mosaic art, painting, songwriting, and poetry.
Just as my daughter had to learn balance before moving forward on the bicycle, these three basic spiritual disciplines set one’s eyes toward God.
Explore More Spiritual Disciplines
Just as my daughter had to learn balance before moving forward on the bicycle, the three spiritual disciplines above set one’s eyes toward God. Developing more spiritual disciplines helps us move forward on our journey of knowing God, hearing God’s voice, and obeying God through following His Spirit.
Each of the following practices empower us be spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally disciplined by following in Christ’s footsteps.
Resting on the Sabbath
Sabbath rest is a direct practice modeled by God on the seventh day of creation. The practice of rest is difficult in our active pushed-to-the-margins culture. One of our family’s practices to remind us to rest and thank God is to light a candle on the Sabbath. The glow reminds us to sit and be in the light when we see it.
The vertical relationship we develop with God spills over into our horizontal relationships through acts of service. Offering opportunities to explore serving with our families can help them understand the impact they can have on God’s greater family in their city, state, and the world. As families develop the practice of serving, they may pray and find that God can use this practice in their neighborhood, school, and extracurricular activities.
Jesus’ example of fasting in the wilderness displayed His dependence on God. Children and families can practice the spiritual discipline of fasting by forfeiting food such as desserts or snacks, but they could also give up screen time or other activities and habits that distract from God. Fasting draws our hearts and minds toward God.
Developing and sustaining spiritual disciplines is a lifetime of practicing on a journey that draws us toward God. These practices make the bumpy roads smoother, the falls easier to stand up from, and straightens the winding path of our hearts to run straight toward God.