I count it a blessing that my children come from a family of faith, with grandparents and great-grandparents who have followed Christ for many years.
My husband, John, and I want our children to understand their spiritual heritage and to know that faith isn’t just a Mom and Dad thing. So over the years, we’ve created opportunities for them to connect with extended family and to learn about their relatives’ testimonies of faith.
Here are a few ways you can do the same:
Encourage your children to write e-mails or call family members to share prayer needs. Use webcams and Skype or Zoom with your children to pray with long-distance family members. Also, choose monthly prayer pals.
For example, one month your child may be praying for Grandma and the next month an uncle. Create a special e-mail address for your child for the purpose of sharing prayers, using a free service such as Gmail or Yahoo. If your child can’t write, have him or her draw the request to mail to family members.
Find new ways to make Jesus the focus of your extended family’s celebrations. For Valentine’s Day, my mother sends valentines to my kids with special Scripture verses for them. And a few years ago my father-in-law led a Passover celebration in our home. In addition to showing our children how the Jews have celebrated for thousands of years, he also pointed out how Jesus’ life and death was a fulfillment of the Passover.
Consider creating a holiday journal to pass around at gatherings. Write down special memories or thoughts. During Thanksgiving have each person write something he or she is thankful for. At Christmastime have your family members jot down the words of a favorite Christmas hymn. For the New Year, have relatives note how the Lord blessed their family in the previous year.
Ask family members for special books or Bibles. My maternal grandfather died in 1999, and my husband’s grandfather passed away a few years earlier. In both cases, we asked for special mementos—our grandfathers’ Bibles. There’s something special about looking in the pages and seeing underlined passages or handwritten notes. This is a great way to show your children their spiritual heritage.
I’ve also collected old sermons from my paternal grandfather. If you have a family member who writes in journals, get permission to make a copy of it for your children.
Personalize your thoughts. Give kids fabric markers to create their own quilt squares. Have them write their favorite Scripture or memory of God’s faithfulness. Then ask extended family to do the same. At a gathering, collect the squares to sew together to form a quilt. This could become a family heirloom for passing to the next generation. Or buy a ceramic plate and permanent markers and ask family members to write down a personal prayer or Scripture for your child.
Map your ancestry. If you have family members living around the country, mount a map on your wall and tack family photos to it. Also include photos and dates for places that family members visit during mission trips. This will show your children how your family is sharing their faith in different regions of the world.
Or go deeper and research with your children your family’s ancestry and heritage and share your findings with extended family at reunions or through the Web. Post videos on YouTube or utilize digital scrapbooking services to share with loved ones.
Start a circle letter. Begin by writing a letter and including it in large manila envelope. Send it to a family member, who will add his or her own letter. Pass it on through as many family members as you’d like to include. When it returns to you, remove your letter and add a new one, then send it on again.
You can photocopy the other letters, too. You’ll not only get to read what’s happening with everyone, you’ll also have a stack of letters for a keepsake. Having these treasures, and reading them over, will not only lift your faith, but it will also connect hearts through generations.