When does spiritual growth begin?

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When does spiritual growth begin?

When Sikunye surveyed 74 church leaders about God’s heart for young children, everyone agreed: God’s loves young children. When we asked, however, what church practices were in place to care for and support these young lives, less than half had activities aimed at this age group. And those that did have something, was typically inconsistent. There was a gap between what we know of God’s heart for children and the regular, planned and intentional activities that would serve them.

A helpful question is: at what point in a child’s life is God involved with them?

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13,16

We can see in Psalm 139 that God is involved from the start. God does not wait until a child can read, pray, understand the gospel message before being active in his or her life. God is at work from the beginning. It raises the important question: what can adult caregivers be doing to join in with what God is doing to support spiritual development in this young life?

Some tips for parents

What you can do to grow the faith and spirituality in their children, from conception:

  1. Parents love the Lord your God (Deut 6:4-9). This is an instruction to parents, adults, church leaders, to first love God with all their heart. Children’s faith will be nurtured by following how parents live out and pass on their love relationship with God.
  2. Modeling – Children learning about God through watching parents – how they pray, worship, read their bible, and how they talk about God and live their daily lives. Model what you want your children to learn about God – as they copy everything you do as parents.
  3. Pray out loud over your children during pregnancy – lay hands on the tummy – they can hear it and sense the spirit
  4. Pray a blessing over your children – Numbers 6:24-26 / Ephesians 3:14-21
  5. Sing a song of praise and worship out loud, repeatedly during pregnancy over your child – sing truth over children, it sinks into them. There is a familiarity for children after birth and singing this song will calm them and they can sense Jesus’ presence.
  6. Teach children to pray from the beginning, when they are very young through routines like saying grace at mealtimes and bedtime prayers.
  7. Speak truth over babies and let them learn to repeat this as they learn to talk e.g., “Jesus loves me” and repeat it – it lays the neural pathways – and the more they say it the more they believe it too.

Sikunye hosted a practical workshop, with guest speakers from Petra Institute and Superbook – see the recording here to find very practical ways you can be caring for and supporting spiritual development in the First Thousand Days.

Tips for churches

Within the church community, we can be part of encouraging, supporting and inspiring parents to play this important role. Here are some ideas of how you can do that:

  • Pray for and with pregnant mothers and expectant fathers.
  • Create a safe, welcoming space for young families – in turn children can feel that church is a safe space and where they encounter God.
  • Journey with parents through the challenges and difficulties that they may be facing – so they can see God in their situation and grow in their faith.
  • Equip parents about the role they play in nurturing the faith of their children and investing in their own walk with God.
  • Involve young children in the holistic life of the church – allow children to be active participant for example: having the children in church during worship (we model to children what worship is), toddlers tend to have a freedom in worship to dance and use their whole body to worship that some adults do not have – this can be instructive to adults.
  • Ask a 2-year-old to pray – it will be simple and filled with faith and will inspire faith in the adults.
  • Have moments to commit children to God – this includes the whole church and children.
  • Include the babies and toddlers in nativity plays or other moments in church and let them wonder around, allow for some messy moments it do not need to be perfect – there is a lot of life that can come from having babies and toddlers in church.

Looking for some resources?

If you have good examples of how churches can develop the faith and spirituality of children under 2 years, please do share it with us.

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