In 2 Peter 3:18 we are reminded, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Unfortunately, some people make spiritual growth errors and then don’t experience the most benefit from what God has to offer. Here are common mistakes that often cause families who want to grow in God’s grace to miss the mark.
On the other hand, those who are intentional about spiritual growth in their family reap huge rewards. Kids learn how to think biblically, wrestle with godly values constructively, and experience God tangibly. As you evaluate your own faith and the faith that you’re passing on to your kids, be careful to avoid these mistakes.
Mistake #1: Measuring spirituality by feelings.
Growing in faith has to do with being connected to God and trusting him to work in and through your lives. It involved head knowledge, heart experience, and behavior change. Faith also then affects what we believe and how we feel about life challenges.
Interestingly, when you ask a person how they are doing spiritually, they often answer as if you asked the question, “How are you feeling?” That’s because people often equate spiritual health with positive feelings. Although that is partly true, it’s not always the case. And, feelings are not the basis for determining one’s spiritual health.
Emotions are valuable but they can be tricky. Those who are led by emotions often experience passion and excitement. But when things don’t feel good, they can enter dark areas of their heart. Feelings may or may not follow doing the right thing. Be sure that your spirituality and that of your kids has more depth than emotional highs.
Mistake #2: Viewing the church as your source of spiritual growth.
The church is an arena where spiritual growth is practiced and where opportunities exist for growth to take place. The church is God’s tool for strengthening families and for being the family to those who don’t have families.
The church is a great support but it isn’t the source of spiritual growth for your children, you are. Children will learn a lot by going to church, spending time with God’s people and enjoying worship and service. But it’s at home that children learn what faith means in practical terms. Kids learn how to handle emotions, money, and conflict at home as they watch their parents integrate biblical truths into the practical aspects of life. They learn how to make Godly decisions and how to trust God in the good and the bad times. They learn about humility and pride, trust and betrayal. God works out his truth at home in ways that kids catch for the rest of their lives.
It’s important to find a good church. You don’t need a perfect church but rather you need a church that is scripturally sound, is reasonably stable and loving, has godly, moral leadership, and is doing their best to exalt Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
The church and home working together can provide young people with the spiritual input they need to develop and strengthen their own faith.
Mistake #3: Blaming your lack of spiritual vitality on others like your mate, friends, or even your kids.
Life is busy. Kids have needs. Spouses need nurture. Those are real issues associated with family life. But the responses of family members don’t determine the strength of your spiritual life. In fact the opposite is true. When you take your challenges to the Lord, he provides you with even more strength to address life.
When you genuinely take your heart to the Lord for his nurture and grace, you not only will have God’s strength and wisdom, but you’ll also be a light to others in your home. Even if children are resistant to God, your continued reliance on him can model faith in powerful ways.
Mistake #4: Measuring spiritual growth in terms of good things happening to you.
Those who view faith as simply a religion instead of a relationship end up in challenging places. Their motivation to believe is to get something from God. They often believe that their acceptance is based on their performance. And, when things go wrong they become angry at God or themselves since they believe that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
Understanding faith as a relationship with God is completely different. You know that you’re accepted and are motivated to obey in order to please and enjoy God. When things go wrong, you don’t engage in self-punishment because Christ took the guilt on the cross. God then is viewed as someone who cares and empowers us to do right. You don’t view yourself a good person deserving good things, but rather all good things are a result of God’s grace and mercy.
Consider These 5 tips for Family Spiritual Growth
In the same way that physical exercise increases one’s health, these exercises can build one’s faith and allow them to grow in God’s grace.
Talk to God and listen to what he wants to say to you. Also share prayer requests in your home and answers to those requests. Let other family members know that you are praying for them. When possible, pray with family members to increase your spiritual connectedness.
2) Read the Bible.
The Bible is an engaging book that allows God to speak directly to you. As you read, look for practical applications that God offers for you and each member of your household. Then share what you’re learning with others. Ask the other people in your home what they are learning from God’s Word so that you too can learn from them.
Watch God work through you and your family as you serve him. The tasks you do are more than just busy work, they contribute to the bigger picture of God’s work in the world. When children serve the Lord it helps them get a bigger perspective on life and God’s activity in the world.
4) Join with others who are growing spiritually.
Find or start a small group that allows you and your family to experience encouragement spiritually. It’s encouraging to know that others are going through similar things and that the values you hold as a family are shared by others.
5) Consider creating a family journal about spiritual growth.
Sometimes we feel as if we’re not growing or that God isn’t speaking but when we go back to our journal entries, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and direction.
Spiritual growth doesn’t happen by accident. It also doesn’t happen because Christians live in the same home. That’s why Peter is instructing people to take action. Growth is intentional and has a lasting impact. Parents are the primary spiritual trainers in their homes. Just remember that you’re doing the right thing and serving God not simply to gain approval of your children or mate. You’re serving God because you love him and looking to him for your reward.
Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN are the founders of the National Center for Biblical Parenting. They are committed to helping parents understand a heart-based approach to parenting and equipping churches with tools to develop parent discipleship programs. You can learn more about them at biblicalparenting.org.