Many religions today are struggling to keep their children in their faith. Young people are becoming increasingly secular. Parents have to compete with school, friends, the media, and the world in general for belief systems. However, religious education should always begin in the home. The parents have the greatest opportunity to reach their children because they can teach the gospel every day in an unchanging pattern of faith. Nothing can guarantee a child won’t stray, but parents must do all they can to prevent it and they have the primary responsibility for this, not the churches.
From the time a child is very small, Jesus Christ should be a major part of a child’s life. Pictures of Jesus should be part of the décor of a child’s bedroom and should also adorn the home. Many families collect nativity scenes and there is no reason these sets should be packed away most of the year. Consider displaying a few of your favorites all year long. This tells your children Jesus Christ is not just for Christmas and Easter, but for every day.
Include the stories of the Bible in your daily storytimes. Make sure your children know these stories, unlike the fairy tales and novels, are real. Most of the stories can easily be adapted to the level of a young child and then can be gradually increased in complexity as the child gets older. There are many ways to tell a Bible story. Read directly from the scriptures every day so the children become familiar with the language of scripture. Although they won’t understand it all, they will be listening and storing away the vocabulary, style, and lessons of the Bible. Read from a children’s version as well. Some families first read a story in the King James translation of the Bible and then read, or have the children read, the same story again in their children’s version.
Have you ever told a flannel board or stick puppet story? These are methods commonly used to tell stories to children in church classes and can be easily and inexpensively done at home as well. Coloring book pages are available on many online sites that can be printed out on cardstock. Put pellon or felt on the back and you have a flannel board picture. Spray glue and pellon on a board,cardboard, or any other other surface make a flannel board, or you can put a piece of flannel on a magnetic white board with magnets for a temporary board. You can also skip the flannel and put magnets on back of the pictures instead. Craft sticks turn the same pictures into stick puppets.
Tell the story to your children several times. You can use the puppets and pictures to hold their attention or you can tell the story several times and let your children tell the stories themselves with the pictures and puppets. Make sure they portray Jesus respectfully.
Let your children see what role the Savior plays in your own life. When you make a decision because of the example Jesus set or the teachings He gave us, say so. “You know, I love the stories of Jesus taking care of the poor. I want to be more like Him. Who wants to go to the food bank and volunteer with me today?”
Share your testimony with your children. We can’t presume our children know how we feel about the Savior—we have to tell them openly how we feel. We also have to make certain our actions line up with our words. Our own lives are our greatest testimony of Jesus Christ.
Following is one of a series of videos for children taken from the New Testament:
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.