In planning for an intentional life with our children, it helps to think through what sort of framework might be necessary in order to build what we envision in our homes.
In Matthew 7:9-12, Jesus pictures God as a good father. A child who asks for a fish knows he will receive a fish, not a snake. A child who asks for bread knows he will receive bread, not a stone. Your children are asking you to give them a taste of real spiritual life—the same life of the Spirit that they see at work in your own heart. They want to learn from you not just how to live for Christ, but also how they can have the life of Christ they see in you in their own lives. If you are not actively imparting that life to them, then your passivity is the same as a snake or a stone to your child. Decide what you will give them and then determine to provide it. Like the five loaves and the two fishes offered in simple faith by a young boy, God will take what you have to give and multiply it to spiritually feed your children.
LifeGIFTS: A Model for Home Nurture
There is a tendency to view nurture as a kind of home version of “Random Acts of Kindness.” It’s not often viewed as something that necessarily needs to be planned for ahead of time, but rather as the spontaneous, by-the-Spirit acting out of life-giving love and good deeds. Spiritual spontaneity is a commendable characteristic for any Christian home, but a full expression of home nurture requires more. If nurture is about feeding your children’s spirits so they will grow in their longing for God, then you need to approach that task with the same forethought that you would a garden. If you want to nurture something to grow, you have to go about it thoughtfully and deliberately.
When we were starting our family, we realized early on that we wanted a simple model to help us give to our children gifts of life—gifts that would enable them to become life-givers to a world of life-seekers. That thought gave birth to LifeGIFTS, an acronym reminder of the five gifts of life we wanted to be sure we were passing on to our children—Grace, Inspiration, Faith, Training, and Service. LifeGIFTS became a simple model to help us actively nurture and disciple our children. The illustration below visualizes the balance of the five priorities among head (knowledge), heart (faith), and hands (actions), with one side fostering desire, the other ability. The result is that LifeGIFTS instill desireability in your children.
The gift of grace is the desire and ability to relate personally and purposefully to God and people. The gift of grace prepares your children to become channels of God’s grace and love to other people. A person who cannot relate personally and purposefully to God or to people will, without fail, be handicapped or even hindered in life and ministry. A faithful message and a fruitful ministry are effective and powerful only to the degree that they are characterized by grace in the messenger and minister. In order to be channels of grace, your children must not only know how to receive grace from God, but they also must know how to give God’s grace to others. The quality of graciousness (being a grace giver) will make your children equally at home with both commoners and kings and will make others they come in contact with feel accepted and valuable. Even simple courtesies become powerful tools of God’s grace. Graciousness removes barriers and builds bridges. It affirms the worth and value of another person. It opens the channel by which the light of God’s grace and truth can flow into a darkened world through your children.
Read more about LifeGifts in Educating the Wholehearted Child!