Practically Parenting our Equals: Religious Observance

Child walking by a church

This is the last of a series on egalitarian parenting that started here. If you are just “tuning in” it might help you to read the introduction to this series and also the posts on discipline and self control.

We parent based on the premise that our children are equal to us before God and are on their own individual walks with Him. Because of this, we do not make them participate in religious observances. This means that we don’t ask them to pray or sit in our Silent Waiting Worship or sing songs about Jesus or any of this. We do ask that they not disrupt anyone else’s observance – that is part of respecting each other and God. But we don’t make them hold our hands when we’re all praying or anything like that.

The Holy Spirit works within us. The idea of making my children look on the outside like they are communing with or worshiping God when they are not doing so in Spirit and in Truth is very uncomfortable to us.

We do model spiritual disciplines. We invite them to join us – and sometimes they do. We talk with them regularly about Who God is and What He did and Why. But we do it as the situations come up. We do not, at this time, have any regular family devotions. But when we are rejoicing, the children know that we are praising and thanking God. When we are struggling, they know we are asking God to take care of us and trusting that He will. When they are scared, we remind them Who is always with them. When they feel slighted by other children we remind them Whose they are and Who loves them and How valuable they are, no matter what other people think. We love the Jesus Storybook Bible and read through it together regularly.

When something bad happens in the world, we talk about sin and love and forgiveness. We talk about hugging monsters and what might help monsters want to be funny monsters instead of scary ones. When we watch movies (like Rise of the Guardians) we talk about how consistent those themes are with how God made the world. When we see beauty we talk about how wonderful it is that God made such wonderful creatures or plants or light.

Our goal is not to teach our children Precepts and Doctrines. Our prayer is that they will Experience God as a Person who Loves them beyond all measure. And our goal is to create a home where they they can do that. We hope to help them learn to listen and watch for Him. And to recognize Him when He reveals Himself. Our goal is to help them learn to follow His Light to a deep and loving relationship with Him, one which will fill them to overflowing with His Love for the people around them.

When they pray, I hope it is because the Holy Spirit is leading them to pray, even if those prayers are read from a Book of Prayer or repeated after another person. When they sing, I hope it is because the Holy Spirit is filling them with the joy of song, or teaching them that singing His Truth or Praise is a beautiful salve to a hurting soul. When they read His Bible, I hope it is because the Holy Spirit is filling them with curiosity and hunger for His Words. When they sit with us in a meeting for worship, I hope it is because they want to learn to Listen for Him in congregation or because the Holy Spirit is beckoning to them to Be Still and Know that He is God.

I must never teach my children to worship Him in outer form rather than in Spirit and in Truth.

When they go off to college, I don’t want to watch them leave and be praying desperately that they will remember all the rules and knowledge about God that we’ve taught them. I want to watch them leave and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have met and experienced Almighty and Beautiful Love. I don’t want to hope that they won’t encounter any ideas in college that will make them question their beliefs. I want to know that WHEN they encounter these ideas, they will be able to wrestle with them grounded in a deep friendship with God – that they will take these questions as opportunities to further seek His Truth as He transforms their hearts and minds in Him.

This deepest hope that I have for them — I cannot do that! Only He can. And I trust confidently that He who began a good work in them will carry it on to completion on the Day of Christ Jesus.

Published by Nikki Holland

I am a Quaker wife, mother, pastor, and writer. I work as the country branch director of a fabulous NGO in Belize City and I recently graduated with an MDiv from Earlham School of Religion. I love my family, and I love my community.

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