Does your life ever feel overwhelming? Do I even need to ask? I’m guessing the answer is yes!
Sometimes, it seems my life is an ever-growing list of expectations and things I should be doing – be a “good” Christian with a growing faith, participate in a fulfilling marriage, teach my children to be functional human beings, be a good friend, take care of my own physical and emotional health, serve other people, keep our house from descending into a pit of laundry and dishes… it’s never-ending.
And when it comes to passing faith down to my children, it seems no different… I’m supposed to help them memorize Scripture, go to church, do family devotions, volunteer at church, play worship music, take them to Sunday school, do service projects…
I just don’t know how to do it all! And I’m not sure that we should be doing it all.
I want to get back to the basics of faith-building, and I want to invite you to join me! Rather than having a list of expectations that can never possibly be fulfilled, I want to choose just a few simple things to do consistently to focus on Christ in our home.
Today I’m beginning a monthly challenge to simplify our daily faith-building to just three things:
- Read the Bible.
- Pray for each other.
- Connect together.
How It Works:
You commit to trying to read the Bible, pray, and connect with the young people in your life each day. That’s it.
No other expectations, except as they fit into that framework. (Read below to see how church fits in, since I do believe participating in church is important!)
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with all those other faith-building things… it’s just that I’d rather do a few things well, rather than try to do 10 things, and not do any of them because it’s too overwhelming.
Each month I’ll share a post about Read-Pray-Connect… in the future, I’ll post before the 1st of the month (not nine days into the month, like today!) See? Life is overwhelming!
You’ll be able to download a calendar for the month with spots to check off Read-Pray-Connect each day. There will also be a reminder image that you can use as a phone lock screen, or print out and tuck in your planner, refrigerator, or car dashboard.
What do these three terms mean?
Read = Read the Bible aloud with your children/teenagers.
You can choose a children’s Bible story book or the “real” Bible. You can read one verse or an entire chapter… whatever works for you! You can even listen to an audio Bible together.
The only stipulations…
- do the Bible reading with your children (not just a personal devotion time for you).
- read aloud. There is value, even for adults and teenagers, in reading aloud together. If you really, really, really can’t do it aloud, you could read your own Bible silently side-by-side your older children/teenagers.
Pray = Pray for each other, together, aloud.
You can say the whole prayer, or your young people can pray too. (If you are saying the whole prayer, go ahead and pray for your own needs for yourself).
The length or time of day doesn’t matter. This can be a short two-sentence prayer before dinner, or a lengthy prayer time at the beginning of the day.
You can ask your children for requests, pray a general blessing over them, or use a prayer guide for a new topic each day. Here’s a free printable How to Pray for Your Children calendar from Inspired to Action, if you want some ideas.
Alternatively, The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian has daily prayers on 31 different topics, and the prayers are already all typed and ready to go, so you don’t even really have to think about it… just read the prayers. (There are even fill-in-the-blank spots for your child’s name.)
It may feel awkward praying aloud… it certainly feels that way to me sometimes. I encourage you to just go for it!
I find that praying before meals or at bedtime seems more natural/easier for me than just saying, “Okay, we’re going to pray now!!” I can take the mealtime prayer, thank God for our food, then pray for a few moments for each member of my family, and it doesn’t seem so weird. So you might try one of those time slots first.
Connect = Connect together with your children in a meaningful way.
Sometimes I get to the end of the day and realize that while I spent much of my day with my children, we didn’t really connect much. The day can fill up with activities, running errands, doing chores, or watching TV, and there’s not much connection time.
I want to spend at least a few minutes every day “connecting” with my kids in some meaningful way… but I know it doesn’t need to be complicated, doesn’t necessarily require any advanced planning, and doesn’t have to cost money or take up much time.
Here are some ideas for ways to connect:
- Read a book together.
- Play a board game.
- Sit down together and have an after-school snack.
- Print out a “grown-up coloring page” and color alongside your child.
- Bake brownies together.
- Go on a walk around the neighborhood after dinner.
- Linger for awhile longer than usual at bedtime, talking, scratching backs, or reading stories.
- Enjoy a family movie night together (though I do encourage you not just to default to TV/movie time as your “connecting time” every day… it’s so tempting!)
- Go to church together.
- Play catch with a football or baseball.
- Respond with “yes” when your child says, “Will you play with me?”
- Get out art supplies and make a craft together.
- Take your teenager out for a coffee shop drink or a smoothie.
- Participate in a service project together.
- Attend an event together, whether a church activity, library storytime, or an art show at school. Stick with your child and participate together.
- Go play at the park together.
- As you are doing jobs around the house, teach your child to do the chore with you.
- Eat a leisurely dinner together as a family.
- Tell your child, “I’d like to spend some time with you tonight. What would you like to do?”
If you have more than one child, your connection time may happen individually (like reading a book with one particular child) or it may happen as a family (like playing Frisbee in the backyard all together.) If you are married, your spouse can certainly join you, or not… anything works!
What if my child refuses to participate in Read-Pray-Connect?
If you’re feeling discouraged because your child refuses to read the Bible with you or doesn’t want to spend time together… I’m so sorry.
I want you to know that it’s normal for children and teenagers to feel contrary to whatever we want to do! Also, sometimes when we set out to do God’s purposes, and encounter resistance, there are spiritual forces at play, trying to prevent us from serving Him.
If you’re encountering trouble with your children participating, here are some ideas:
- Keep going. Don’t be swayed just because one day he didn’t want to play with you, or because your baby screamed through your whole bedtime prayer yesterday. I encourage you to try to Read-Pray-Connect every day for a month. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the month, it’s much easier as you’ve established a habit.
- Explain your motivation to your child. Share why you want to Read-Pray-Connect with them. Explain your heart.
- If your older child is not interested in Jesus, emphasize the “connect” part first. You may just want to focus on “connecting” before trying to do the other two steps.
- Pray for your child silently. If your child is resistant to being prayed for, just commit to praying each day on your own.
What if I don’t Read-Pray-Connect every day?
Of course, there are going to be unusual days where Read-Pray-Connect doesn’t happen… that’s totally normal. Don’t be discouraged! Just cross that day off the calendar and start fresh the next day.
I do want to encourage you to be creative, though!
- On a business trip? “Connect” via FaceTime or send a greeting card in the mail (or by email).
- Busy day of soccer practice and piano lessons? Pray together as you drive in the car.
- House is a mess and you can’t find your kids’ Bible? Tell your own version of the story of David and Goliath instead.
- Does your teenager have tons of homework to do? Make some hot cocoa for both of you and spread out on the dining room table together… while he does his homework, you can work on a project too. Pray for him silently as he works.
What if I’m an adult mentor, not a parent?
If you’re an adult mentor – perhaps a youth ministry volunteer, a grandparent, or a family friend – I encourage you to adapt Read-Pray-Connect for your own situation!
I suggest that you commit to Read-Pray-Connect only on days when you see your young person.
- Are you a teacher at a Christian school? Commit to read the Bible, pray as a class, and connect personally with some of your students… but only on school days. Obviously, it would be too tricky to do this on the weekends.
- Do you lead a weekly small group for high school girls? Commit to Read-Pray-Connect just on Wednesday nights when you get together. Perhaps it seems obvious that you would do these three things at your small group meeting, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are times when small groups get together and don’t read the Bible or pray… so make a commitment to do it every time!
- Are you a grandparent? Whenever you see your grandchildren, make an effort to Read-Pray-Connect with them. You could read the Bible together during an after-school snack, play a game together to connect, and then pray for them before they leave your home.
This seems pretty basic… I already do these 3 things every day.
Great! Perhaps, then, this challenge just isn’t for you.
Or, perhaps, you’d like to grow in these particular areas.
For example, in our family, we do actually pray before practically every meal, and usually that includes at least a brief mention of each other’s needs. So, technically, I’m already doing “Pray” each day. But, I realized I’d like to either download that prayer calendar or get the Power of a Praying Parent book, and be more specific with my prayers beyond just, “Help Elle obey and help Ava sleep well today!” 🙂
Perhaps you already read the Bible together each day, but you’d like to read it more systematically (like a Bible in a Year plan), or you want to not just read it but discuss it afterwards.
Or, maybe you play lots with your kids (Connect), but you want to read aloud more together, too.
As you can see in the photo above, at the top of each Read-Pray-Connect calendar, there will always be a little section to record your goals for the month, so if you want to “increase” your goal, you can write it down there (if you print it out).
Didn’t you just spend the past month telling us we need to do global missions with our kids? How does that fit in? And what about all the other things… memorizing Scripture, going to church, family devotions, singing worship music, taking them to youth group or Sunday school, doing service projects… that I’m supposed to do with my kids?
I did! In fact, writing the Global Missions with Kids series is one of the things that inspired me to simplify part of my Faith Passed Down message. Because, yes, I think Global Missions with Kids is absolutely vital!
But, I don’t think it’s going to happen if we’re frazzled or have exceptionally high expectations of our family faith-building. Plus, the concepts of “Read-Pray-Connect” are pretty foundational before we can do any of the other stuff.
As far as Global Missions with Kids, I encourage you to see how that fits into Read-Pray-Connect. As you read a Bible story, talk about how it shows God’s love for the world. Or as you pray for your own family, pray for your sponsored children as well. As you consider a connect time for the weekend, keep in mind a project like packing an Operation Christmas Child box.
As for the other activities, first, see how they fit in to Read-Pray-Connect. For example, going to church can easily be a “connect” time as a family for that day.
Then, consider whether those activities stress you out or not, and if they’re worth trying to continue.
For a long time, I had this vision of doing a weekly family worship night after dinner, with songs, Bible reading, prayers, and activities. However, it rarely happened. It just didn’t work with our schedule and it wasn’t very meaningful when we did do it.
Instead, I switched to just doing a morning Bible reading with my kids (Morning Time). We can do it anytime during the morning, rather than trying to squeeze it into a small, stressful window between dinner and bedtime.
If you have too high of expectations, they’re never going to happen, and you’ll just feel discouraged. If you’re having trouble getting all the faith-building time you hoped, I encourage you to step back and focus on Read-Pray-Connect for a month or two, then see how you can fit in some of those other activities.
Click here to download the November Read Pray Connect calendar.
Click on the image below to download a lock screen for your phone or print and tuck into your planner, stick on your refrigerator, set on your car dashboard...
Will you join me to Read-Pray-Connect?
Leave a comment below if you want to participate.
Also, I would love to see photos of you participating in Read-Pray-Connect. Share a photo of you reading the Bible with your kids, praying, or connecting in a fun way and use #ReadPrayConnect. Next month I’ll share your photo in the December Read-Pray-Connect post!