I grew up Catholic, but to be honest, it was all a blur. It didn’t help that my Mum grew up Anglican and was a devout Anglican for my early childhood years. Maybe my Mum had a formula, but Sundays for me were filled with uncertainty. Would we go to a Catholic Church or an Anglican Church? Which one did I prefer? The churchwardens in the Catholic Church were mean, and the Anglican Church lasted all day. How do you show up 2 hours late, but the service is still 4 hours long? Like I said earlier, it was all a blur.
At some point, my Mum became a practicing Catholic, and that was the game-changer. She enrolled me in Opus Dei Catechism, and my faith started to build. However, marriage switched to me to the Pentecostal denomination, and then when the marriage didn’t work, I came back home to the Catholic Church. My Christian journey story is long, but the summary is I fully understood my relationship with Christ in my 30s. At 35ish, I was a Christian not because my parents said so, or it was the right thing to do, but because I had a beautiful relationship with my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It took me three decades, but I made it.
As a parent, I wanted a different experience for my children because the earlier you connect with your faith, the sooner you are blessed with purpose. Life makes sense. No matter what, you are never alone, you know that God is always with you. You are privy to the wonders of the Holy Spirit and unlimited joy. I wanted my sons to love Jesus not because I said so but because they saw reason to love Him. As I worked to make my sons independent learners in school, I worked to make sure they loved and worshipped God with their own understanding and in their own capacity. So far, so good, and below are some of the steps I recommend to raising Christian children.
- Lead by example. Quit the talking and walk the walk. Set examples in your speech, conduct, service, attitude and life choices. Watching my Mum religiously attend morning mass ministered to me more than any lecture. I desired to have such discipline and consistency in worship.
- Be consistent with attending Mass. Habits are formed by consistent behaviour. Sunday is for church. Everyone should plan around the family church time. We used to be flexible but not anymore. Mass is a priority, and we try our very best to attend Mass every Sunday.
- Provide children with the resources they need to understand their faith. Children should have an age appropriate bible at all times. If they have a phone or an Ipad, they should have the bible app. For fellow Catholics, encourage your children to download the rosary and novena apps. I am not concerned with the frequency they use these resources, but when needed, it’s easily accessible. As they grow in the faith, they will yearn to dig deeper and the resources will come in handy.
- During Bible study, encourage conversations. Be open-minded. Rather than discrediting children’s opinions, try and connect it to the correct answer. Christianity can be overwhelming, but remember it’s not an exam, you can’t fail at it. You can only learn and deepen your faith.
- Christianity is not for perfect people. It is for all people to be perfect in Christ. It is important that children know that even their parents are working out their salvation. Parents are not perfect. My sons know we are in it together. We ALL make mistakes. We repent. We apologise. We move on. We have an accountability circle, and I love it when they remind me of my commitment to Christ, asking me to change my attitude towards certain issues.
- I don’t want to be my sons only source of Christian/Biblical knowledge. I love that they attend youth fellowship and catechism in church. It is essential to attend a church that supports young people. Again, it’s important that (if possible), children attend church more than once a week. Everything else takes up a good chunk of the week, why not God matters?
- It helps to mainstream our faith in our daily lives through music, books, TV shows and games. While there are designated times to praise and worship, every moment we breathe belongs to our creator. So gospel music is not only for Sunday mornings or en route to church.
My oldest son is 18, and my youngest 10. They seem to be growing daily in Christ, and it is not under duress. They are also growing in our Catholic faith. Unlike me at their ages, they fully understand Christianity, Catholicism, and what it means to work out your salvation one day at a time. Yes, I am the parent, and I should take the lead, guiding and navigating them, but in my home, we support each other. No one knows it all, and if we learn something new from the bible, we share it. Even my youngest son can lead a faith-based conversation. Also, we listen to our local Christian radio station, groove to gospel music, and love TD Jakes. The heavenly race is a personal one, but its an honor to do it as a family, cheering each other along the way.