Nikki Hamalainen: Feeding Family Faith
I remember having a moment in a season of ministering to the youth group in Brisbane, teaching them about Jesus, preparing busily all week for a place for teenagers to encounter God whilst having little ones of my own on my hip. One day, I had this funny pang in my heart: “Will you go to this kind of effort for your own kids, Nikki?”
It was the Holy Spirit.
He's always doing that – asking those agitating questions. It was a similar time that I remember reading and being completely moved and encouraged in Psalms 78:2-7 which instructs:
"...We will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
He ... established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they, in turn, would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands."
Can you feel the ancient inheritance and responsibility? There’s weight in that. You can’t unread that. Feeding the faith of our families matters.
This season lead me to the simple, solid realisation that our calling as parents are to teach our children two things: 1.God’s Word and 2.God’s work. If my own kids can see a pattern of God at work in their little lives, in our lives as their parents, in the years before they were born, even in the stories and experiences we pass on from their grandparents and all the way back to these Biblical records, then they can have trust and hope that the same God will be faithful in their future.
Teaching a 2, 5, and 8-year-old anything at the same time is tricky (hello COVID-homeschooling-parents!) but not impossible. So we decided to institute a Monday night ‘Family Night’ to deliberately carve out space for that precise mandate, and to not neglect this responsibility.
Does if flop sometimes? Yes.
Do we have to change the night or cancel it altogether if something else comes up? Sometimes.
Do the kids always share deep theological revelation from God’s Word? Nope.
Does it encourage me to know and be on the front foot of what God’s trying to speak to our family? Sure does.
Is it a space to encourage and declare God’s truth and promises over my kids’ life? Yeah! What a privilege.
Are they slowly, steadily, year by year learning to hear and apply God’s word to their own lives and to just enjoy the company of their family? I really hope so and trust so.
The good news is a ‘Family Night’ can look and feel however you like (with or even without kids) and however, it fits with your schedule! Pray and ask God to direct you with what your family needs at the age and stage you’re in and just be obedient to that.
There’s no magic formula but a few staples that we include are:
1. God’s Word.
Often we will come up with our own fun, age-appropriate devotional thought to share (an object lesson, a short video, from a devotional book) but we make it our own for our kids and where they’re at. This can be tricky with different age groups but Google, YouTube and the app store have got hundreds of ideas and options. Go for it. Try. Try again. Sharing your testimony never gets old.
2. Prayer and praise.
We say out loud and list the things we want to praise God for. Teaching them to see God at work in their lives, even in the tiniest things, trains them to live with eyes open to God’s goodness, mercy and kindness following them. And we teach them the power of prayer, to cast their cares and worries on God rather than carry them on their own. We go back to those prayers and look to see how God has answered the things we have been believing for.
We have our usual dinner around the table followed by a solid sugar hit. It’s the one night of the school week that we have dessert and they choose a favourite treat. The calories on Family Night don’t count.
4. A game.
Truth is I’m not super-good at ‘playing’ so this forces me into the fun-zone, when the to-do list is long, to just switch off and be very present. We just play something that makes us belly-laugh (as opposed to something that can lead to competitive tears!). Card games, board games, make your own Kahoot games, whatever it is that gets them together in the one spot with a smile on their faces.
5. Make it regular.
Having something to look forward to, a (generally) reliable and consistent moment in the week brings about the stability kids crave and allows traditions to be formed.
However it lands for you, ladies, make it fun, make it yum, make it consistent and make it whatever you’re hearing from God to lead your family in. Can’t go wrong with that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ps Nikki, along with her husband Dave, are the iSEE CHURCH Adelaide campus pastors. Lover of words and specifically the Word, teacher, mother, and pastor that lives a life passionate about people, Nikki always has time for a cup of tea and encouraging chat (that usually oozes wisdom). Lead by faith and leading with intentionality, she is a universal favourite!