I wasn’t raised in a God-filled home. It’s a heritage I wished I had, but it also meant that when I encountered Christ for the first time it wasn’t murky.

One day I didn’t know God. The next day I did. And that changed everything.

I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about Christ. I loaded them up in my Mustang. I also made huge mistakes in front of them, and they had the opportunity to see me fall, fail, and climb back in God’s presence.

Maybe, like me, that completely changed for your children. They have been raised in church. They know about God.

But that clear line of “before God” and “after God” is murky for them. It’s all tangled up with church, plays, outreaches, camp, and lessons taught from a young age. All amazing gifts, but at some point their relationship with God either becomes personal or just another family tradition.

How do we encourage our children to pursue God’s individual call on their life?

To find their mission field?

What can we do to help them discover for themselves what God can and will do as they yield their heart and future to Him?

As parents, we can do a few very tangible things. We can:

Live it out in front of them

What do you children see when you hit a roadblock? When you have a fight with a loved one? When someone treats you unjustly?

Do they see you listening to God as you pray, as you study His word, as you take steps out of your comfort zone?

Words are rarely adequate to explain what it means to know and love and follow God, but when you respond with prayer, or forgiveness, or work it out with a heart to resolve conflict; when you trust God in the midst of the hard places; when you are filled with joy in a dark place; when you see your own life as part of God’s overall plan¬†— that’s the most powerful sermon of all.

Expand their world

Even if the bills are piling up and the pantry is almost bare, we are richer than 90% of the world.

Expand your child’s world to see the needs of others. Let them serve in a local soup kitchen, with you at their side. Read to them stories where missionaries or ordinary people are building water wells in Africa, or how a family can sacrifice a little each month and it change the life of a child forever.

It’s not to burden them with problems they cannot fix, but to show them opportunities where small acts of service can make a difference.

One child recently asked her mom if the excess of toys she received on her birthday could go to a local shelter. This came as a result of seeing the needs of others. She had learned how blessed she was, and out of that blessing wanted to give to others.

Another child raised funds through his artwork to buy clothing for children in a Haitian village. He was only 6 at the time. At a young age, he’s become others-centered, rare for our culture.

Join with them in the adventure.

Don’t be afraid of the questions about faith that drive you to your knees. It simply means they are questioning, and God is big enough to answer their questions.

I faced this with one of my children, and the result of time on my knees was a book for teens asking those same questions, titled Making It Real: Whose Faith Is It Anyway.

Encourage then as they raise funds for mission trips. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, they might experience obstacles. Yes, they might gain a perspective of a life beyond their own. But that might be the moment God speaks to them, that He leads them out of their comfort zone, that He shows them where they fit in His plan for the lost, for the hungry, for changing lives w/God’s power and love.

All of this begins at a young age, but it’s never too late. God has a plan for you, but your child’s name is also etched on His palm. What an amazing gift to be able to join with our Heavenly Father to unfold God’s calling on your son or daughter’s life.