by Gina Gardner, Steppes of Faith
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
It may take some time after you come to have faith in Jesus, but we all eventually figure out that we need to lead a godly lifestyle. To be mature believers of faith, we have to make changes to how we live so we can make a positive impact for Christ in this world.
I’m talking about changing the places we go, the activities we engage in, what we watch on television or at the movies, the music we listen to, and, yes, even the people we hang around including some friends. We cannot grow as Christians if we don’t change our lifestyle. This is true for our kids too.
How can we teach our kids to lead a godly lifestyle in a way that’s pleasing to the Lord while they’re still young? What can we do to influence them in the right direction? Here are nine areas where a parent should pay attention.
Television and Movies
It seems common for some parents to allow their kids to watch certain television shows and movies that are not upholding to godly principles. Kids are sponges (which can be a good thing too). They soak up all violence and harsh language until they decide that this is what you’re supposed to do. If they don’t know how to handle a new situation, they will instinctively refer to what they’ve been watching. They do what the guy on the screen did. After all, it worked for him, right?
I know of so many parents, believers and non-believers alike, who allow their young kids (under eight years old) to stay up until 11:00 p.m. to watch TV shows that are not intended for young children. Then I see how these kids behave while Mom is scratching her head wondering what’s going on.
Let’s be strong and resist letting our kids fill their heads with what the world thinks is good entertainment. Instead, let’s steer them toward shows that have good examples of kindness and compassion, proper communication and respect, and conflict resolution. An even better idea is to turn the TV off and spend time as a family, or go to bed.
What kind of music do you have turned on in the car? Is your radio set to the heavy rock-n-roll station? Maybe it’s country or adult contemporary. For many parents, they don’t see the harm in listening to these kinds of music. And, in all fairness, most of it is probably just fine. But there are always exceptions.
Here’s a challenge for you: don’t just hear the music, listen to it. What are the words?
I remember a very danceable song my son and his baseball buddies loved at one time. We all thought, “Hey, that sounds fun!” Then I figured out the words and I stopped in my tracks. The whole song flew in the face of what God promises and commands us to do. Needless to say, that song was banned from our house.
Take the time to know what the words are in the songs your kids like. Better yet, tune your car radio to a Christian music station so you never have to worry about it. Today’s Christian artists know how to rock while still being true to the Gospel. It’s not your grandma’s hymns anymore.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth [or music] but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (My addition)
I urge you to find a station in your area or tune in through an online music service. You’ll feel less guilty about what your kids hear plus feel good that you’re filling their ears with songs of worship to God. And it’s great reinforcement of what they’ve learned.
I hope this one seems super obvious to you and you feel you can skip this part. But if you’re feeling surprised that I would mention video games, read on.
It seems like almost every kid I know plays “Call of Duty” or something like it, or they know someone who does. War-based games are hugely popular. It’s surprising to me that so many parents find nothing wrong with it.
Very few kids understand the brevity of war: the cost of life, the tragedy, and the life-long personal consequences of it. Though war may be a part of reality, it’s nothing we should make a game of. It should not be taken lightly. If you or someone close to you is a veteran, you know what I’m talking about. War really is you-know-what.
Consider restricting war-based video games so your kids don’t become desensitized to its violence and cruelty. Encourage them to play games based on problem-solving, puzzles, or sports. For example, I love playing “Fire Boy and Water Girl” with my boys. Even Minecraft (in creative mode) isn’t too bad. And, one of my twins loves Word Brain where you have to decipher the jumbled words.
Good games that don’t contradict the word of God are out there if you just look for them. If you can’t find them or your kids insist on the war games, take a step they wouldn’t expect and make them turn off the game console completely. There’s nothing wrong with going outside and getting a good, old-fashioned game of kickball going or taking a long bike ride.
You might think that Facebook is only for older kids. The truth is that many kids under 12 are already on it…plus SnapChat, Yellow, Instagram, Twitter, and dozens of others. What’s worse is that you may not even know it.
If you’re okay with letting your kids connect on social media, take the time to consistently monitor the content they see and who is their “friend.” Some apps don’t have a minimum age requirement, and many of them have ways to bypass vigilant parents.
Make sure you know who your child is connecting with online and where. Make it a concrete rule that you will be given every password for every app they use. You can check the content they’re engaging with through a variety of apps designed for parents who want to keep tabs on their kids’ habits. And, don’t forget that you can set up a password-protected family monitoring plan in the settings of their phone where you can customize what’s okay and what’s not, like in-app purchases or the permitted level of content (be safe and choose rated G).
You can’t be too careful with social media. There are a lot of ill-intentioned trolls out there who have no regard for you child or respect for your family (or God for that matter), including their classmates who enjoy cyberbullying.
Keep tabs on your kids’ online activity or restrict it completely. It’s not worth the risk of pulling away from God’s truth, and it’s not worth jeopardizing their safety.
Other Areas of Focus You May Not Have Considered
The Books They Read. We can’t read every word our kids read. That’s impossible. But you can learn about the stories they’re reading through a simple online search. Then ask yourself if it’s something Jesus wouldn’t mind them reading. Would God be okay with it? Start early and steer your kids toward books that would get God’s approval.
The Language We Use. Our kids can’t learn how to live a godly lifestyle if we don’t model it. We parents have to be careful how we present ourselves to our kids. It doesn’t matter that we’re “the boss.” We can’t ascribe to “do as I say, not as I do.”
Be sure you’re setting an appropriate example of godly living in your family, most importantly through your use of language. Avoid cursing, criticizing, and gossiping. Remember, kids are sponges and they have bigger ears than you think. They will copy you, which is why it’s so crucial to pay attention to the words you choose.
A Word About Friends
If your child is still in elementary school, be thankful that they are still gender and color blind. Kids of this age group have zero interest in stereotypes, racial profiling, or cynicism (wouldn’t it be great if more people were like that?). Let them have the friends they want for now, but encourage them to look for the kids who have family values and godly principles similar to yours.
For older kids, especially middle schoolers, continue guiding them toward others who are rooted in the Lord. Middle school is cruel enough, and if we don’t have our kids standing on the firm foundation of Christ, life is going to be rough for a while. Talk to your pre-teen and teen about looking for kids who show a heart for a godly lifestyle.
1 Corinthians 15:33 warns us that, “Evil company ruins good habits.” Set your kids on the right path every chance you get so they can one day reap the rewards of making good choices.
Other Ways to Encourage a Godly Lifestyle
Bible Discussions. Spend time with your kids on a regular basis reading and discussing Scripture. Place God’s truth in their hearts, then talk about how it applies to their lifestyle. Teaching them to base their decisions on the word of God will always bless them- and keep them out of trouble.
Serving Others. Establish a heart of service in your kids by including them in community-based projects such as environmental cleanups, or volunteering at orphanages or schools. Even better, volunteer in your church. Encourage your kids to help in the nursery, or café, or during Vacation Bible School.
My church has community outreach every Saturday morning where some of us might help a single mom move or clean up an overgrown yard. Others go to nursing and veterans homes to visit, or pack boxes for the church’s soup kitchen. And some simply stay at the church and clean. There’s always a way to plug in at your church. Encourage your child (and you too!) to sign up.
A Godly Lifestyle is a Blessing
The lifestyle we live isn’t a short-term action. Your lifestyle is the way you live day in and day out. It influences the choices you make and the way you respond to life. God knew that living outside of His will would cause us harm, so He warns us to have a godly character so that His full blessings would be available to us.
You can help your child have a godly lifestyle by simply paying attention to their activities, talking with them, and serving others with them. Let God transform their mind and their choices. Then watch how it will transform your family’s lives.
It’s so important to pay attention to what our kids are filling their heads with. How are you teaching your kids to lead a godly lifestyle? I talked about several areas of focus. Can you think of any others? Let’s share our ideas so we can better help our kids to be godly.
Over at InTouch Ministries, Dr. Charles Stanley recently talked about developing a godly lifestyle and focusing on what is important to the Lord. We can’t give in to compromise with the world. You can read the devotion in its entirety here.
And last week, I talked about how we can help our kids make the decision to put on the armor of God every day. When we’re ready for battle against Satan’s attacks, like through TV and social media, we’ll have the victory every time. Learn about the armor of God and how you can help here.