The most important thing any parent who wants their kid to love Jesus can do for their kids is to love Jesus themselves. Do you truly love Jesus? I don’t mean warm and fuzzy, get goose bumps, sing love songs kind of love. I mean the kind of love that is devoted, committed, and certain. It may make you feel warm and fuzzy sometimes, but it isn’t based on feelings. It may give you goose bumps from time to time, but it’s unwavering even in the valleys of life. And it doesn’t mean there is no absence of doubt, but it does mean that when in doubt, you run to Jesus.
Your kid is watching you. How you live your life is important. They are probably going to grow up to be very much like you, and they won’t even have to try. I sit like my dad, hold my coffee cup like my dad, and get mad at injustice like my dad. I also love Jesus like my dad. Your student is watching to see whether or not you actively love Jesus and how you live out that love.
So how do you love him? The most important thing any student ministry needs is parents who love Jesus themselves. How do you model this for your own kids so that they learn to love Jesus, too?
Make Jesus a Priority
You may think I’m about to make a plea that you show up for church. And I am…but not under this point. You don’t make Jesus a priority by showing up for church. Jesus being central to your life has very little to do with church attendance. In fact, you can show up for church every week and never really let Jesus reign over your family.
When I say make Jesus a priority, I mean what Deuteronomy 6 says: love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Talk about Jesus when you wake up, when you go on your way, when you are sitting around, and when you lie down. Make him a priority in your decision making, in your thoughts, and in how you discipline your kids.
Make Jesus a priority by talking about Jesus to your daughter or son. Do it sitting around the breakfast table. Do it by chatting them up in the car. Set aside time that is screen-free (no phones, t.v.’s, or computers) and talk about spiritual things.
Make Jesus a priority by pointing to him in daily life. Talk about what he’s done in your life. Share your testimony with your kids. Ask questions about him. When your kid does something wrong, don’t speak on your own authority–ask them how they think Jesus feels about their decision.
Be Involved in Jesus’ Church
If you want to teach your kids to love Jesus, that means valuing the things Jesus values. Jesus laid down his life for his sheep (John 10) and loves the church by giving himself up for her (Ephesians 5). If the church meant enough to Jesus that he would die for the church, don’t you think it should be important to us, too?
What kind of priority do you make in your family to worship with your church family? Do you make sure your student has time to attend student ministry events? Are you willing to spend hundreds of dollars to buy them electronics and send them to sports camps but when it’s time to pay for church camp you don’t send them because money is tight and you “just can’t make it work.”
What do you skip church to do?
Your kids can sense how much you love the church, and chances are they’ll love the church very similarly to how you do. Make a point to value the church if you want to be a parent who loves Jesus, because Jesus valued the church.
Do the Right Things
Raising kids cannot be a “do as I say, not as I do” proposition. If you want to show your kids that you love Jesus, you need to live a life that is surrendered to him. Think about all the ways that you show love for Jesus through your behavior. It is Jesus who said, “if you love me, you’ll obey my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Is your speech God-honoring? Is your work-ethic one you can be proud of? Are you being honest in your daily life? How do you treat your spouse? Where do you spend your money? What are you doing to help the poor? What are your standards for media intake in your home? In your free time what do you do?
Your kids are watching you and will model your behavior. You can demonstrate a love for Jesus by doing the right things.
You may think your teenager is too busy staring at their cell phone to notice, but let me repeat myself: your students are watching to see if and how you love Jesus. By making Jesus a priority, being involved in the church, and living out your faith by doing the right things, you can demonstrate a love for him that inspires your students to do the same. It’s not a quick fix, but over time your son or daughter will grow to do as you have done.