Tweens today face an enormous amount of pressure to adapt their identities to the current culture: to dress a certain way, to engage in the same behaviors as the people around them, to consume particular types of media. But the truth is, God made them to live out their new identity in Christ, one that looks quite different from who the world is telling them to be.
Here are three practical ways to use Bible verses and prayer to help your kids cultivate their own faith in God and grow into their identities as they walk out the Christian life.
Godly parenting isn’t just teaching our children what we believe about God; it’s teaching what God believes about them.
My youngest son is, well, we call it ‘passionate’—about everything.
Once, he frantically called us to his bedroom before a big soccer game and said, “I don’t know what I will do. My nose is stuffed! How will I smell the victory tomorrow?!”
He was dead serious. Winning the big game was on his shoulders, and now that he’d lost his sense of smell, he was apparently worthless. This was a pattern we began to notice in him. If he couldn’t do something perfectly, he saw himself as insignificant. If he got nine out of ten correct on a math test, he was “terrible at math.” There was no gray area for our sweet boy.
He measured himself based on performance. Admittedly, I struggle with this, too. You don’t have to be a tween to hear Satan’s lies. The enemy wants us to focus on what we can or cannot do instead of our identity in Christ. But this begs the bigger question: Do our kids really know who they are?
I began to pray over how to approach this with my son. God revealed that although it’s holy and essential that we raise our children to know God, it’s equally important that we teach them what God knows about them.
This revelation changed everything in our home. I asked God to show me where to start, and He gave me three principles I hope will encourage you too.
TEACH THEM SCRIPTURES ABOUT THEIR IDENTITY IN CHRIST: CHILD, GOD PURPOSED YOU
When was the last time you told your kids that God knew their names before He created the Earth? Have you ever showed them the verse that proves it? I wasn’t sure if I had done those two things together. God led me to some prompts that I’d love to share:
SAY: “Did you know that God knew your name before He laid the foundations of the world? Before He said, ‘Let there be light,’ He said, ‘Let there be you.’”
SHOW: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:4-5a).
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5a).
SAY: “Did you know God created you with His very hands?”
SHOW: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14a).
SAY: “Do you know that God took the time to write a book about your life before you were born?”
SHOW: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16).
SAY: “God cares about everything you do and say.”
SHOW: “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:1-4).
PERSONALIZE THE GOSPEL: CHILD, HE IS FOR YOU.
Do your kids know that all history weaves around the story of God pursuing them, crying out from a manger, and later crying out from a cross?
It was all for them. It can be challenging, however, for kids to relate to an all-inclusive statement such as, “God so loved the world.” If we personalize the gospel for our children, it comes alive and becomes more powerful to them. Try choosing Scripture verses based on what your child is going through and personalize the verses with his or her name.
“For God so loved [Jake] that he gave his one and only son” (Inspired by John 3:16).
“For [Jake] is his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that he should walk in them” (Inspired by 1 Corinthians 2:10).
“For I know the plans I have for [Jake], declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give him a future and a hope” (Inspired by Jeremiah 29:11).
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [Jake] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Inspired by Romans 8:38-39).
“Fear not, for I am with you, [Jake]; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Inspired by Isaiah 41:10).
SAY AN IDENTITY PRAYER: CHILD, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?
Sometimes we forget that Jesus was a kid once, too. We focus on His adulthood because it’s when the majority of His ministry occurred. But it’s incredible to remind our kids that Jesus had a brother who thought He was crazy, and parents who joined a caravan without realizing they’d left without Him. To top it all, Jesus knew He was born to suffer and die.
The point is: Jesus gets it. He knows what our kids are going through. And when they pray at night, they can ask Him what He did to overcome these obstacles when He was their age.
How did Jesus endure childhood on Earth? It’s pretty simple:
1. He was fully man and fully God.
2. He knew exactly who He was.
3. He willingly depended on the Holy Spirit to guide Him.
I want my children to know precisely who they are, like Jesus. Below is a prayer I wrote for my kids to read out loud or repeat after me. I know that praying aloud can be uncomfortable, but I wholeheartedly encourage you to give this a try. For one thing, the enemy cannot read our thoughts, but he can hear what we say. Proclaiming these truths with our mouth is like putting a hedge of protection over our children.
“I believe you—
I believe you—
think of me,
died for me,
fight for me,
cry with me,
sing over me,
whisper to me,
run after me.
work through me,
have good plans for me.
I believe you are—
Prince of Peace,
My prayer is that our children understand that Jesus came not only for the salvation of the world as a global truth but also:
Jesus came down to Earth as a baby—for them.
Jesus suffered and hung on a cross—for them.
Jesus rose again and is coming back—for them.
This great love is not dependent on how many soccer games they win, or if they can create a masterpiece in art class, but because they are His masterpiece. My prayer is that our kids find their worth in His workmanship, not their own.