Early Spiritual Development: Milk
For the first six months of his life, I exclusively breastfed my son. For the first four of those months, he rarely took a bottle, so feedings were my sole responsibility. Thomas liked to eat. A lot. So we nursed frequently. Every 2 hours at minimum during the day. He rewarded me at night by usually only waking up once and sleeping until 8:30 or so.
This may be a familiar picture for you, or perhaps your babies took bottles or drank formula. Whatever the method, milk in some form is the main source of nourishment for infants for the first 4-6 months of life. They must be given this nourishment by a caregiver in order to thrive. An infant cannot get up and fetch his milk himself.
So it is with an infant’s spiritual development–yes you read that right. I wrote an infant’s spiritual development. It starts that early.
As with their physical nourishment, infants and small children need their parents to give them spiritual nourishment.
We have a unique opportunity as parents to lay a foundation of faith for our children. <—Click to Tweet!
The Lord is faithful to use these foundational truths and habits established in early childhood to prepare a child’s heart to accept Him as Lord and Savior.
How do you feed an infant or toddler spiritually?
- Pray over them while they eat (both out loud and silently)
- Read Bible stories to them (See suggestions at bottom of post)
- Talk about Bible truths as you go about your daily life–Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (i.e. Do you see the rain? God sends the rain to help the plants grow. God gives us what we need!)
- Live the Christian life in front of them–Let them see you studying the Bible, attending church, praying, etc.
- Read Scripture over them
Childhood Spiritual Development: Finger Foods
From birth, Thomas always “sat” with us at the table while we ate. His highchair reclined, so he could lay in it even as an infant. At first, he showed more interest in the toys attached to his seat than what we were doing at the table. Gradually though, as he became more aware of his surroundings, he took an interest in our habit of eating. He would watch intently as we ate our dinner.
Finally, the day came when he got to eat some table food! He was beyond excited. Of course, he ended up wearing more than he ate, but he had fun. He was figuring it out. Over time, he learned how to pick up his own food, put it in his mouth, chew, and swallow. He’s not yet old enough to fix his own meal, but if I put it in front of him, he can certainly feed himself.
So it is with your child’s spiritual development. A young child has picked up some skills that will help her in developing spiritually. She can read, write, sing, play, and talk. She may not choose to use those skills towards spiritual development on her own, but as parents we can foster those activities.
How do you help a young child begin to feed herself spiritually?
- Provide developmentally appropriate devotional materials and sit down with your child to read them
- Encourage your child to pray throughout the day and in various circumstances (thanking God, praying for others, asking God for help, etc.)
- Have your child write letters to God, draw pictures about Bible truths, etc.
- Memorize Scripture together
- Sing songs about God’s truth with your children (great tool for Scripture memorization)
- Continue to discuss Bible truths as you go about your daily life but ask questions and elicit thoughts from your children–engage them in the conversation (i.e. What do you see that God made? How has God taken care of us today?) The book Shift (see bottom of page) talks more about how to do this. He calls them “faith talks“.
- Act out Bible stories or scenarios in which the characters choose to obey God or show a Godly quality
By engaging your children in these activities we are helping to train them to think Biblically about their world and cultivate a habit of developing their relationship with Christ–even before they have one.
Please read what I am NOT SAYING: I am NOT saying that establishing spiritual habits early guarantees that your child will accept Christ as Lord as Savior at an early age OR AT ALL.
What I AM saying is that fostering such habits establishes an environment where the Gospel is heard often and a heart ripe and ready to hear the Gospel. However, the choice is the child’s alone.
A KEY COMPONENT: This is not a check-list. Please don’t force these activities on your children. Just slowly incorporate the ones that fit your family into how you do life. Some days are great. Some days, you just survive. There is GRACE in all of it.
Continual Spiritual Development: Self-Feeder
Eventually, Thomas will be all grown up. He will make his own choices about what he eats. I hope he makes wise choices.
I know I have modeled good choices, but I also know I’ve modeled poor ones.
So it continues with his spiritual development. One day, Thomas will be presented with a choice–He can choose to accept Christ as Lord and Savior or reject Him. I pray he makes wise choices.
Even as a Christian, Thomas will have the choice to be diligent in his walk with the Lord or to neglect it. I pray he makes wise choices.
I know I have modeled good choices, but I also know I’ve modeled poor ones. I’m thankful God finds a way to use them all.
How do you foster your child’s spiritual development? Have you thought about doing so as early as infancy?
Let’s chat in the comments!
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