“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” —Deuteronomy 6:6-7, ESV
Your calendar is already filling up.
Soon there will be lunches to pack and outfits to coordinate, making each morning feel like an accomplishment when everyone heads out the door. Homework, band, sports practices and dance lessons will consume evenings, barely leaving any time for a family dinner.
While you’re thinking about the school year ahead, you may be wondering “how do we make God our first priority?”
“Many homes today have become little more than dormitories, where members of the family eat and sleep but otherwise have little communication with each other,” Billy Graham once wrote.
Whether you have high schoolers or your first child is entering kindergarten, getting your family in a God-honoring routine can truly be a challenge.
It’s important to keep in mind that as a parent, discipleship is your most important responsibility.
“If our children grow up with no understanding of right or wrong … no desire to live with integrity … no faith in God … their souls will be impoverished and they will miss life’s highest good,” Billy Graham said.
The following are three ways to help instill faith into your children during the school year.
1. Focus on growing your personal relationship with God.
“The greatest thing parents can do is teach their children, by example, a love for God’s Word,” Billy Graham wrote. “Children will learn far more by watching than by just listening.
“When they see their parents drawing wisdom from the Bible, and being obedient to the message of the Bible, it has the potential of making them curious to also know where true joy comes from.”
Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, spent time daily with Christ even while he was traveling. Her mission was to point their five children to Jesus Christ.
“As my father was busy in his worldwide ministry, my mother was equally busy in her version of home missions—raising our family in an atmosphere that was wholesome, fun and God-fearing,” Franklin Graham said. “She taught us children to memorize Scripture, to think for ourselves and to care about others.”
His sister, Anne Graham Lotz, has specific memories of her mother’s dedication to God’s Word: “I would go down to my mother’s room early in the morning. Her light would be on, and I would find her at her big, flat-top desk. She would have about 14 different translations of the Bible spread out. She would be reading and studying her Bible.
“I would go down to her room late at night. I would see the light on underneath the door and I’d go in, and she would be on her knees in prayer.”
It’s the moments when you don’t think your children are watching that they probably are.
The example you set—and your reaction in difficult situations—will stick with them. Taking time to open your Bible instead of scrolling through social media can make a difference.
“Children acquire the characteristics and habits of their parents,” Billy Graham continued. “We should be honest enough to ask if we’re being wise and consistent in what we teach and how we live.”
2. Find creative ways to share Christ with your kids.
If faith doesn’t interest your children, the first thing you can do for your family is pray for God to open their hearts to His love.
Then, find ways to connect your kids to the Gospel. This may include listening to worship music or a Bible-based podcast on the way to school, picking a night to watch a Biblical YouTube sermon, or starting a family devotion time.
For the devotion, strive to find a time each week for the whole family to open God’s Word, discuss what it means and how to apply it, exchange prayer requests and end with prayer.
“One thing that my parents set up early in my life that was very important to me and my family is our morning family devotionals. My mother or father would do it, and they would pick a Scripture, read it and lead in prayer,” Franklin Graham said. “When I got married, Jane and I did the same thing with our children. Prayer in the morning and then prayer in the evening on our knees with our children.”
Those moments together can help kids understand that God is not some faraway being, but Someone who loves them more than they can ever imagine.
If you still find yourself stretched for time or unable to loop in your teenagers due to time constraints, consider lessening an extracurricular activity or two, or cutting back on your work schedule. Your time with them is precious and the years are short.
But if some schedules just can’t be cleared, you may also want to create a group family chat, where you can text a devotion or Scripture and share your thoughts.
3. Make attending a church service together non-negotiable.
It’s in the moments when we don’t feel like we have time for God that we often need Him the most.
Going to church on Sundays—even when you’re exhausted and it feels easier to watch online—is a way to help establish the importance of God in your family. Not only does it confirm you and your children’s need to learn about God, but church surrounds them with other young believers.
>> Looking for a church? Use BGEA’s online church finder.
It also leaves room for a great car ride conversation on the way home, to ask what they’re learning about God or if they have any faith questions.
Taking your kids to church doesn’t ensure they’ll always follow Christ, but it can make a lifelong impact.
“For the rebellious child who wanders away from God, teaching Biblical principles at an early age can greatly enhance the possibility that God will use these truths to bring a wayward child back to the fold,” Billy Graham wrote.