As I interview families I am struck by the influence of children upon their parents. Children often can be the most effective agents of accountability. They are alert to the inconsistencies between what we say and what we do, both in reference to parents and those who lead them in the church. They can usually spot hypocrisy, but they also are sensitive to the areas where we are consistent in our expressions of faith and life. They tend to emulate what we do, rather than what we say they should do. Sometimes this is a good thing. At other times it isn’t. It ought to drive us to the cross.
While I wholeheartedly embrace the notion that parents should be the spiritual leaders in the home, I encourage us to consider the role that children can play in a nurturing environment. They model for us childlike faith, for indeed they are children, doing what comes naturally. Given a safe place to express themselves, they teach us to worship without inhibition because they tend to have tender hearts toward God. They ask questions which are birthed in the crucible of their curiosity. Questions filled with wonder. Yet they also can grow calloused as they move into adolescence, as they emulate the callousness they might observe in their homes or in the lives of their peers.
The spirituality of children is a precious, tender trust which God has given adults, parents in particular and spiritual leaders as well, the responsibility of shepherding. We celebrate their joyous explorations of godly curiosity. We humbly seek God on our knees, asking him to protect them and guide them. We struggle to yield to the Holy Spirit as he refines our character, our will. We in turn live our lives out before our children, admitting our fraility and sinfulness, while also taking ownership of our spiritual authority in their lives, especially as parents. It is an authority which gains its credibility through love, integrity, consistency, humility and prayer.
The time we have to nurture their spirituality is brief. Yet as we do so with childlike faith, I suspect that not only will they benefit from the loving attention, so also will we grow in our relationships with God.