by Alex Hardt, Youth and Young Adult Pastor
“Depending on where you get your numbers, somewhere between 81 percent and 92 percent of New Year’s Resolutions fail.”
It’s not just New Year’s resolutions that are hard, but changing behavior or habits is exceptionally hard. Every day we wake up for most of us our mornings look pretty much the same. When our schedule changes or something new is happening within the week, isn’t true that we feel out of sorts. Our day feels off even if that change is a positive one. We are creatures of routines. Routines are created by doing the same practice over and over. Even if we know that a routine is bad for us we will often continue it out of habit. In high school I developed a bad habit of chewing gum. I would often go through two or three packs in a single day often times chewing three of four pieces of gum at a time. My doctor kept warning me that it was going to affect my jaw and my teeth, but yet I kept chewing despite the warnings. I eventually had to stop chewing gum for a period of time because my jaw was in constant pain. Some habits such as reading our Bibles, praying, or doing daily devotions are beneficial to our development, character, and overall growth as a Christian. If you’ve been following Jesus for a while you probably realize the benefits of spiritual habits like praying before meals, or reading your Bible in the morning, or praying before you go to bed, or listening to a sermon podcast each week. But for many new believers, kids, teens, and young adults those habits aren’t formed.
So how do we help facilitate spiritual habits within our household, church, and community? How do we help new believers, kids, teenagers, and young adults grow spiritually? What should our goals be?
Before we can answer that question, we should probably start by agreeing on how anyone grows spiritually. This is where spiritual habits come in. Spiritual habits are the decisions, behaviors, and rhythms that help us grow spiritually over time.
Spiritual habits that probably first come to mind are: Bible Reading, Prayer, and Worship
But they aren’t the only spiritual habits that matter, there are a whole range of spiritual habits that we wish to cultivate. At Covenant Grove we use the GROWING acronym. God’s Word, Relationships, Offering, Worship, Impact, New Life, and Gifts. I’m going to focus on two particular habits: God’s Word and Impact!
SPEND TIME WITH GOD
This one seems pretty obvious. Everything else comes out of the fruit of this one. After all, if new believers, kids, and teenagers are ever going to make their faith their own, they’ve got to start spending time with God on their own. It means opening the Bible on their own, having conversations with God on their own, and discovering how they best connect with God through worship on their own.
So How Can We Develop the Habit of SPENDING TIME WITH GOD?
Read the Bible- Spending a few minutes in the word everyday transforms our whole day. Ever since my kids were born we have been committed to reading our kids the Bible every night before bed. This is now something they look forward to each night. When one of my friends came to Christ, I would send them a verse a day. Then when we got together we would read the whole chapter. It wasn’t a lot but it was enough to spark the interest.
Help Them Memorize Scripture- My daughter has a lock tight memory. Out of all the verses we read each week I try to get her to memorize just one. When one of my friends was a new believer I challenged him to change his home screen on his phone to the scripture he was attempting to memorize or put the scripture on his visor of his car or mirror in his bathroom. Having the scripture in a place where it’s regularly visible aides in memorization.
Teach Them to Pray- As a family we have found small moments to introduce prayer as part of our rhythm of life such as before meals and before bed. This small practice has provided daily opportunities to pray while also growing our desire to pray. I challenge my kids to pray for one of the meals and yes sometimes the prayers are short and other times its long, but they are learning what it means to pray on their own. Whether we are with our family, or our friends creating opportunities for them to talk to God alongside of you builds one’s confidence in prayer.
This month at Covenant Grove we are talking about the Impact we, as individuals and a church, are having within our community. Our faith should be a catalyst to bringing about change in our community. When I was in High School serving alongside others was one of the things that moved my faith forward the most. Through service I understood what love felt like, compassion looked like, what joy sounded like, and yes what hope tasted like (serving at a food bank).
So How Can We Develop the Habit of IMPACT?
Invite them to Serve- This last week at Covenant Grove we did Fight Hunger where we packed 18,000 meals together as a church community. Many people brought their families or invited their friends to serve alongside them. As families and friends served alongside each other it was hard not to feel the love of Christ flowing out from that room. I heard many people talking about how they could get more involved or other opportunities where they might serve at church or within the community.
Share Experiences of Impact- When you share your stories, and how God used those stories to help you grow spiritually, you give others a model for what it looks like to find God in their stories. Each week we have opportunities to make impact upon those around us and being intentional about seeking them out, sharing them with those around, and giving them an opportunity to share likewise not only furthers your child’s faith or your friends faith but also yours.
Getting Practical about Habits
Start Small- Read one Scripture a week with your child, teenager, or friend. Then move to daily readings. It’s like riding a bike, you don’t go from putting your feet on the pedals to riding without training wheels in a day. Too big, too fast can be a deterrent.
Focus on One Habit at a Time- If you’re hoping to cultivate faith within your family don’t ask your kids to read, pray, and serve all at once. Start by praying first at dinner then as that habit grows add another habit. Overtime you will create a routine of spiritual habits that not only fosters their faith but yours as well.
Remove Barriers- Put it in your schedule and theirs, have everything you need on hand, and make it accessible. Maxwell Gladwell calls it the tipping point, “The tipping point is that tiny change that makes it easy enough to take action that you’ll actually follow through. I like to think of it as removing any barriers that make it easy to not follow through on my habits.”
Stack Habits- One of my favorite ways to build new habits is to stack them onto existing habits. This builds up several habits into a routine, and each habit acts as a trigger for the next one. For example when you drink your morning coffee then read your devotions or send your friend a devotion. Or when you eat breakfast and pray.