Teaching Kids to Trust In God In an Uncertain World
Steve and Denise Olsen
Steve & Denise Olsen are 2002 graduates of Rhema Bible Training Center, where Denise worked full-time for many years in the children’s department of Rhema Bible Church, and taught children’s ministry courses at RBTC. Meanwhile Steve maintained his career in software development. Denise has been in children’s ministry for over 3 decades, and Steve joined her in ministry 18 years ago. Together they led the Sunday morning children’s services at Rhema Bible Church for several years.
Their heart in children’s ministry is for kids to form a close, trusting relationship with their Heavenly Father early, so that they’ll be well-established in their faith as they begin their teen years.
Steve & Denise founded Snow Shack Media to create Spirit-filled, faith-based children’s church curriculum focused on kids’ relationships with God. They’ve partnered with some great teaching and worship video artists and producers and released FAITHkids curriculum for elementary-aged Sunday School classes and children’s church services. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the eyes of our children, this world can be a scary place. They see and hear news about earthquakes, volcano eruptions, floods and school shootings. They have friends whose parents are getting divorced or are dying of cancer. In the rural area of the Rocky Mountains where we live, every summer brings the threat of wildland fires. But our family’s perspective is markedly different than that of our neighbors. As believers in Jesus, our children need to see that we’re not limited to accepting whatever circumstances show up in our lives.
The foundation for kids’ courage in their journey through life needs to be a close, trusting relationship with their Heavenly Father. Kids need to know, that regardless of their age, stature, or heredity, God knows and loves them deeply; and stands ready to walk with them through the darkest times. Psalm 23:4 says, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me” (NLT). Is it really possible to walk through the valleys in life without being afraid? If not, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have inspired David to write that. It was clearly intended to remind us that we have a Shepherd that we can absolutely depend on to always be with us, to never leave us nor forsake us, and to get us through and lift us out of the toughest of times. Kids need to know and believe that—just as much, or more, than adults do. With that in mind, here are some things that we can do as parents to foster a close relationship between our kids and our Heavenly Father.
Lead Your Kids to Jesus
Coming to Jesus isn’t limited to walking down the aisle at church. As a parent, you know when your child is able to comprehend what it means to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. When you believe they’re ready, sit down and read Romans 10:9 with them, and talk about what it means to be saved. Then pray with them. Explain about the rights and privileges you have as a son or daughter of the Most High God. Psalm 23 is a great place to start. What an amazing legacy to be the one to bring your child into the kingdom of God. My mom was the first person in my family to come to come to know Jesus. I still vividly remember the conversations she had with me about how much Jesus loved me. She spent many hours with me, positioning me to receive Jesus as my own Lord and Savior when I was ready. Once I did, I made my commitment public by being water baptized.
Make Sure Your Kids know You Love Them
Our kids largely derive their interpretation of God from their parents. If you don’t already, assure your children, both in word and deed, that you love them—consistently—even when they misbehave. That translates to confidence that their Heavenly Father loves them—even when they misbehave. In our years of children’s ministry, we observed a pattern: that kids who had distant relationships with their parents—especially with their dads—had difficulty grasping the reality of a personal, loving God. It’s not surprising, the Amplified Bible expounds on “provoking your children to anger” in Ephesians 6:4 to include showing indifference.
Ephesians 6:4 [AMP]
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with lovingkindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
But having difficulty grasping this truth doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, there are plenty of testimonies from spiritually successful people who emerged from very difficult upbringings.
Let your Faith Show
Take time to point out specific instances when God has been faithful to your family. Even in difficult trials, God is faithful and your kids need to know that. If your child is aware of a problem that your family is going through, assure them that God is faithful, and that you know that He will get you through because you’ve prayed and you believe God will keep His word. If they’re old enough to understand, you can even show them the scriptures that you’re standing on. There are lots of teachable moments in life—don’t miss them. Modeling faith and showing strength and courage based on your relationship with God in the midst of challenging times instills that same faith in your children. Let your kids see you pray and believe God for His wisdom. They need to see that going through difficult times doesn’t indicate a lack of faith in God; but that those are times for holding onto God tightly and depending on Him.
Psalm 112:7 (NLT)
They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
And even though devastating things happen around us, there’s nothing that can nullify.
Psalm 91:1-2 (AMP)
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand]. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!”
If we’re dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, trusting in Him, then His protection reigns.
In the good times, be sure to point out the wonderful, miraculous works that God does. And don’t pretend to be perfect! Let them know it’s okay to be imperfect, and we can go to 1 John 1:8-9 when we mess up.
1 John 1:8-9 (NLT)
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
It’s important for your kids to see that even though you’re not perfect God still honors your faith.
Teach Your Kids to Approach the Throne of God
Teach them they can be bold in their requests to God.
Hebrews 4:16 (AMP)
Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].
I really like how this verse is rendered in the Amplified Bible. As His sons and daughters, we have privilege—just as our own kids and grandkids have with my wife and me. When our oldest grandson is at our house, he refers to everything as “ours” rather than “yours.” It’s “our house,” “our pickup truck,” “our dogs,” etc. He’s got the right idea. He helps himself to popsicles and freely picks raspberries from “our garden.” It’s great for kids to learn at an early age that God has a wealth of mercy and grace at His throne, and it’s “ours” to go to boldly—any time. Whether in good times our tough times, God always expects to see us at His throne.
See Jeremiah 3:19 for a glimpse of God’s desire for His people. In this case, it was at a time when Israel was disobedient.
Jeremiah 3:19 (NLT)
“I thought to myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’ I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land—the finest possession in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me.
Just like God, you and I wouldn’t give something to our kids that isn’t beneficial to them, but we sure enjoy it when they ask for something we’ve been wanting to give them. So does God.
Focus on Courage, Based on a Relationship
We can tell kids all day long to be strong and have courage. We can quote Joshua 1:9, Deuteronomy 20:3, or any number of scriptures on courage. In fact, these are vitally important. But at the end of the day, our children, just like us, need Someone to lean on and depend on. The focus needs to be our children’s relationship with their Heavenly Father.
In all our years of children’s ministry, our foundation scripture has always been from Hebrews 13.
Hebrews 13:5b (NKJV)
For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Kids in our classes had that verse drilled into their minds and hearts from day one, because we believe that’s the essence of what children need—from us as parents, but also to know that their God is always with them—no matter what. He never leaves us, and He never abandons us. Trials will come, as Jesus asserted in John 16:33, but they don’t have the power to devastate us when God is with us because He has overcome the world! When we truly depend on God to lead us through life and we teach our kids to do the same, we can expect to watch them grow in their relationship and confidence in God. And God will never, ever let them down.