by Carolyn Lawrence.
Anyone who has spent any time with me will have heard me regaling you with stories of my three grandchildren! Becoming a grandparent has been a wonderful and profound experience and has made me reflect on the kind of world in which they will be growing up and the legacy they will inherit.
I wonder what kind of legacy you want to leave for the children amongst your own family and friends and the young people connected with our churches? Does it involve just leaving them some money in your will or a functioning (and warm!) church building or does it go deeper than that? Whether we intend to or not, we will still leave a legacy of some kind to the next generation.
I believe that the most valuable legacy we can pass to our children, is that of faith in Christ. Even though each of us must make their own decision to follow Jesus, there are some things we can do to help create an atmosphere where faith can grow and thrive.
In Psalm 78 we read the following:
‘My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.’
What can we do to leave a spiritual legacy and encourage a relationship with God in the lives of the children and young people that we know, as well as those young in the faith in our churches? Here are a few suggestions:
- Look at your own life – the best way to prove to our children the value and relevance of faith in Christ is to be a living demonstration of that truth. Children learn more from watching us than they do from what we say. If our children see that our walk doesn’t match our talk, behaving and speaking in one way at church but living and speaking differently at home or work, they will see through our lack of integrity and perceive that Jesus doesn’t make a real difference in our lives. Try to live out your faith in an authentic and relevant way. Let them see that even though you make mistakes and life gets messy that you can overcome these difficulties with God’s help.
- Share God’s Word – from a young age we can teach our children to know and love God’s Word in an intentional way. The first place a child learns about God’s word is in the home with their families. Let them see you reading and studying God’s word regularly, have family devotions, read Bible stories at bedtime, play worship music, let them see the relevance of God’s word in your everyday lives and they will grow to love God’s word and value its importance.
- Pray with them – don’t just turn prayer into a shopping list at bedtime but ask them what they would like God’s help with and pray together about those things. Then talk together about the answers to prayer as they come.
- Value the church – I know of parents whose children have heard them speaking critically about people at the church and their church leadership and then been surprised when they have grown up not wanting anything to do with the church. I have also known parents who have allowed other priorities to take the place of worship such as sports and other leisure activities and then wondered why worship is not a priority to them as they grow older and been disappointed that their grown up children don’t remain in the church. Make sure your children understand that the church, though far from perfect and made of all kinds of people, are the family of God and that they appreciate the importance of meeting together in worship and fellowship – even if it is on Zoom!
- Be outward looking – allow your children to see you being generous with your time, money, home and resources. Encourage them to value all people and to treat people with compassion, kindness and mercy just as Jesus did. Find ways of helping others and try to engage with your community as well as teaching them to have a global view of the world.
- Look to the future – teach the children that God has a good plan for their lives and encourage them to seek God’s will for their future. Help them so see that the goal of life for a Christian is to walk in obedience to the Lord rather than be dragged along by the goals that the world says is important.
Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and friends: you will impact the next generation. What kind of legacy will you leave?