Saturday, July 12, 2008

Practical Ways to Cultivate Spirituality in a Child: Part 1

In a previous post, I spoke briefly about cultivating the spiritual life in a child. I agree with Miss Mason that this is a delicate issue that must be handled with kid gloves. Children (and adults) respond to loving guidance in this area, not forced religion.

A wise parent will not rule with a rod of iron; neither will she leave a child to himself to do as he pleases. Instead, she lays down the rules, consistently guiding and correcting when needed. That same parent will also want to draw a child closer to his Creator. She will probably begin by trying to be a good example in front of her children. But she will fail and her children will see this and note it mentally. Being the wise mother that she is, she will have expected this and understand that she must also have a plan of action other than her own imperfect model that will help her child see the invisible with eyes of faith in a world where the material alone tries to woo the heart. At the same time, she will never cease to work on her own spiritual life, always aiming to be that positive example to her dear children.

I want to share some of the practical ways we are cultivating heavenly-minded children in our home. These ideas are only a very small part of our plan, but I believe they have been very helpful for our children's spirituality and it may give you some fresh ideas.

When one of our children reaches the age of six, we give a small, handsome, thin, blank book and write on it MY PRAYER JOURNAL. We communicate from the beginning that this book is special. We don't scribble in it and we try to keep it clean and neat because we're writing to God in this book and He deserves our best. For the first few weeks, I wake that child up and bring him to the kitchen table or my bedroom so that we are alone. I write in my prayer journal and read my Bible while he sits beside me. I tell him that I am writing to God, would he like to do the same.

My child replies, "I can't write."

I say, "That's okay. You can draw a picture for Him and I will help you label it."

We brainstorm together thinking about what picture the Lord may like to receive from him and he begins. Other times, he draws a prayer to God- something he is thankful for or someone he wants to pray for, etc... I don't allow much talking. This is a quiet time. After a week or two of this, I start having him do this on his own in his bedroom as soon as he is dressed but before school begins. (I stress that this is NOT schoolwork. It's more important that that.) That is why we do it first thing in the morning. This should only last five to ten minutes. He brings it to me at breakfast and I check it. I help him spell words if he wishes but I am not picky about misspelled words. This should be an enjoyable experience. Over time, there will be days when he doesn't feel like doing it, but I don't let him live by his feelings and still require it regularly. However, it is always short and sweet. Don't be surprised if he draws the same picture over and over for several days. This is normal. Gradually, as his confidence grows (because his momma doesn't correct every misspelled word ) he begins to add more words and less pictures.

I also teach my children at six years of age to begin to take notes in church from the sermons they hear. (Before this age, they also sit in church with me but have Bible story coloring books or blank pages, a pencil and a few crayons) This keeps them busy and attentive. I always have my youngest child sit closest to me. He has his PRAYER JOURNAL open and draws something he hears from the sermon gradually adding misspelled phrases. I sometimes help him by drawing stick figures in his journal illustrating what the pastor is saying. This is very, very simple. I got this idea years ago from Edith Schaeffer in her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking- a book I highly recommend, by the way.

Here are a few examples from my children's Prayer Journals when they were 6 years of age.

Now, during school hours, after breakfast, I read aloud from a classic illustrated Bible story book to my six and seven year old children. We take two years to read through the entire Bible. I let them color a picture of the story while I read. Then they narrate aloud. I DO NOT like most Bible story books and must forewarn you that I am very picky about this. I think that cartoon figures of Bible characters trivialize the sacred, robbing a child of a sense of awe that I want them to feel when they are reading the greatest book every written. There have never been and never will be Veggie Tales in our home. That said, I recommend an illustrated Bible Story book that is chronological and has realistic paintings. My favorite is out of print but easily found in used book stores. The text uses rich vocabulary. No twaddle here. It is called The Children's Bible.

Another highly recommended one by others is The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos.

In my next post, we will move onto the next age group and I will share specific books and activities we have done to cultivate a personal devotional life.

one step at a time...


  1. Thank you for the post. I love your idea to teach your children to take notes at the sermons - that is a great idea that I am going to use.

    I will also look into your book list. I have a book that I love...

    "This Bible Talks!" by Pamela Fischer. Narrated by Michael David McGuire. This is such a great tool to introduce pre-readers to the Bible...I highly recommend it.

    Thank you again for the great ideas!!

    Here is where I found the book...if anyone is interested... - it is where I ordered it online. Thanks!

  2. Lindafay, have you ever thought about writing a book? Your writing is lovely as well as thoughtful and practical.

  3. Anonymous12.7.08

    Oh thankyou! This is soooo what I need right now. This has been a heavy issue on my heart for a long time. I actually own the Bible Story book you mentioned first. It is the one I grew up with. I will start with that one. By the way, where do you get the coloring pictures?


  4. Many thanks for sharing on this topic. My son is almost 4, and looks forward to reading his Bible story at breakfast...but I was feeling a little lost on where to go from here. This gives me some ideas. I'm looking forward to your next posts. (And I agree with Katie - I'd buy your book! :) )

  5. Thank you for this!


  6. Thank you so much for this! I'm eager to read your next entry as well. My children are just getting to the age of starting the prayer journal you mentioned and I believe I'm going to start that with my children. I also went back and read the entry you linked to about cultivating the spiritual in our children. Beautiful, simply beautiful. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!!

  7. Great post! Thank you so much! I love the idea of a prayer journal for the little ones.

  8. OH this is GOOD! *THANK YOU!* (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  9. sharron14.7.08

    What timing you have!! I had just been talking to my husband about this very thing. Thank you for the practical suggestions. Many times I know what I want the end result to be, I'm just not sure how to get there.

  10. Wow! What a great post! I feel so "uneducated" in the arena of training my children, in Godly ways, and in general to lead them to Christ. If I think I want to serve Him "out there" in some ministry, how will I ever (He is proving to me) if I can't or won't my own children first.

    The first step He has begun in just turning my heart towards these souls He's entrusted to me. Some of what you've written He's already been leading me in...taking my young children (they are 3 and 5 and we sit in a quiet area in the back of our church) to church with me. I bring them blank books with pencil and a children's Bible to look through. I haven't had much success yet in getting them to draw something they hear being preached. But maybe they're a bit young for that yet. Maybe just the time of being with them quietly listening is enough.

    I like your thoughts Bible story books. I also haven't found one that communicates the awe of God very well either, so I'm picking through what I find.

    Thanks so much for posting this!

  11. Lorri16.7.08

    Do you have your young child (and your olders) have their quiet time daily (meaning weekends too)? Thanks for all that you share with us.

  12. Linda
    thank you for this wonderful article. Please post part 2!

  13. You all are so encouraging! Don't I sound southern now? Can't quite bring myself to say 'ya'll' yet.

    Usually on Saturdays, the kids read from the NT (usually the Psalms but some children beg for certain passages and I, of course, agree) and write in their prayer journals. Sundays are reserved for special books that are only to be read on that day. Each child has her own. You can find these titles posted by year on my curriculum booklists. I'll probably mention them in a post soon.

  14. NO Veggie Tales!
    Makes me daughter was so disappointed at Sunday School they made the class watch it. She is a no nonsense type of child!

  15. We are praying about the possiblity of my daughter returning to homeschool so I went to your blog to see what was new. We have both these story Bibles and love both! Memoria Press and Louisville's Highlands Latin School use the "Children's Bible" in their "Christian Studies" program.