Your Child’s Relationship with Christ: The Early Years
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
As Christian parents, we are entrusted by God to be the first educators of faith and morals for our children. As a family of families, our church is a place where we seek support, resources, and ideas for how to accomplish this great task, which can often feel so daunting. Here are the first three steps for you as a parent to be thinking about in the early years of your child’s life to help to build their relationship with Christ.
The Sacrament of Baptism
In our Anglican tradition, one of the first steps on this road of spiritual growth is the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is the Sacrament of new birth, and we believe those who receive it are grafted into the Body of Christ. In baptism, “the promises of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed” (Book of Common Prayer, 872). Parents and godparents recite vows before God and their church family that they will, by their prayer and witness, help their child to grow up into the full stature of Christ (Book of Common Prayer, 302). This is not done by a sheer effort of the will, but with God’s help, and the help of our church family. You are not alone.
Of course, following Jesus is not a one-step process. Conversion is an ongoing, lifelong process. And the fundamental context for spiritual growth is not actually the church but your own home. We see this in the book of Deuteronomy: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up” (Dt. 6:6–7). As a church, it is our goal to partner with all of our families for the spiritual formation of our children. Our message is the same as Home Depot: You can do it; we can help. As a church, we are a family of families who are striving to live out our faith in our daily lives and to pass this faith on to the next generation.
Learning to Pray
The second step in the journey is regular participation in the Holy Eucharist at church and family prayer at home. This can be challenging to accomplish. However, as you take your child to meet God firsthand in both public and private prayer, you are communicating the importance of God in your daily life. You are developing rhythms and habits during the most significant developmental years in your child’s life, habits that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Prayer is fundamental to our relationship with God simply because communication is the heart of any relationship. Whether through the words of the Eucharistic Prayer in church, a blessing of the food at dinner, the Lord’s Prayer before bed, or a moment of contemplative silence in the car before carpool, these organic examples of daily and weekly prayer lay a strong foundation for a child’s relationship with Jesus. Do not over complicate it. Prayers are simple conversations with the Lord. They can be written down or made up on the spot. The more often we speak to Him the easier and more natural it becomes. The recitation of prayers at meals or bedtime offers the family a moment to pause and reflect on God’s blessings for your family. And allowing moments of quiet reflection to punctuate your day can greatly benefit your child’s spiritual and emotional health.
Our children need to grow to discover that the story of the Bible is their own story. The first step toward this goal is simply teaching them the stories. Read to them from a children’s Bible, and take them to Sunday School each week. Studying the Bible with your child at home demonstrates the importance of learning about God and His love for all that He has created. It will strengthen your family relationships, provide interesting conversations, and encourage your child’s friendship with Jesus. And remember that parents cannot “outsource” the spiritual formation of their children to others, even clergy and school chaplains. It is your example that will be far and away the most influential thing upon your child’s spiritual life.
What Does the Future Hold?
There are, of course, many additional steps as well. These steps are outlined in our other materials and programs here at church, such as First Communion (1st or 2nd Grade), Godly Play (our Sunday School program for Pre-K through 2nd grade), 3rd Grade Connections, I-45 (our Sunday School program for 4th and 5th graders), Confirmation, and Youth Group. FaithPath is the name of our strategy to resource parents on their children’s birthdays with age-appropriate material for spiritual growth. We will be with you every step of the way for your child’s spiritual journey. God has the whole world in His hands, and our children, too. You can do it! We can help. We can do it together.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 828
For the Care of Children
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 829
For Young Persons
God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance to learn true humility, without which they cannot see you. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 829 with additions
- View other Bringing Faith Home resources
• Preparing for Baby’s Arrival
• Intentional Parenting
• Preparing Your Child for Adolescence
- Visit the Incarnation Bookstore
The bookstore has children’s Bibles and picture-books to help develop daily and weekly rituals at home. The Marmion Library located in the South Campus near the Church is also a great resource!
- Raise Happy Children: Raise Them Saints! By Mary Ann Budnik
A step-by-step guide to developing your child’s character through the Sacraments.
This site celebrates motherhood and family faith traditions. CatholicMom.com
This is a site that offers ideas to create a Christian culture in your home. Domestic-Church.com
- Children & Family Ministry
Incarnation has a thriving Children & Family Ministry. There are many opportunities to connect with other parents and families in the same season of life as you. For more information, visit Children & Family Ministry.
- Learn about Baptism Preparation Class for parents.
- Need information about First Communion?
- Learn about Confirmation.
- Get Connected.
Join with other parents and families from our church who are meeting together to study and connect and pray. Go to the Growth Groups web page for more information.
- Get Involved.
Use your gifts! Take our Spiritual Gifts Assessment to discern ways to get plugged into the life of Incarnation.
- Serve the Poor Together.
Visit our local outreach page to find out how your gifts can change lives.
- Talk with a priest.
If you would like to talk about anything related to parenting and the spiritual formation of children, feel free to schedule a meeting with one of our clergy. Any of the priests on staff at Incarnation are happy to meet with you for direction, counsel, or simply just to talk. Email a priest to set up a meeting. Or call the parish office at 214-521-5101.