As parents of four busy children ranging in age from kindergarten to high school, my wife and I find that we spend a lot of time in the car shuttling our active crew from soccer practice to rehearsal to baseball to the library, school activities and church functions — just like the parents of the kids in your ministry.
The great command in Deuteronomy 6 instructs us to teach God’s words to our kids when we sit in our houses and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up. I believe the principle here is for parents to talk to their kids about the Lord as they interact along their way throughout the day. While few of us spend time walking along the road anymore, most of us find ourselves in close proximity with our kids for hours each week driving along the highways and byways of our lives.
As we seek to have meaningful interactions with our kids, I am aware that this travel time is prime time for spiritual conversations, but they don’t happen automatically. We need to be intentional to redeem our car time. Here are some tips you can use with your kids, and share with the parents of the kids in your ministry to help them connect with their children along the road.
1) Disconnect to connect.
The first key to achieving meaningful car talk is to disconnect everyone in the vehicle from their own bubbles of isolation. This may mean instituting some road rules that set the expectation of communication. Instead of tuning each other out by getting involved in a video, hiding inside headphones or disappearing into devices, encourage interaction. If you are accustomed to vehicular “device-olation” this may be a hard habit to break, so take is slowly at first. Don’t expect instant change; it will take time to build a new pattern of interaction. Choose a short trip across town and begin the practice of connecting by disconnecting.
2) Get the ball rolling.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to have deep spiritual conversations right away. Start by talking about anything. This may be harder than you think, so it’s wise to come prepared with a few questions you can ask to break the ice and get things going. Ask your kids questions that encourage them to talk. Avoid anything that can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Good conversation starters include open-ended questions like, “What do you think about…?” “What do you like/dislike about…?” and “Would you rather…?”
3) Listen first.
Great conversations with your kids involve a lot of listening on your part. The goal isn’t for you to preach a sermon, or impart great wisdom in every conversation, but to begin to have regular, natural, meaningful conversations with your kids. The best way to engage your kids in meaningful conversation is to show them that you are truly interested in what they have to say.
4) Point to God.
As conversations begin to be a regular part of your routine, teachable moments will surely present themselves. Look for natural ways to connect your conversations and the events of your kids’ lives to the timeless truths found in God’s Word, and to point your kids to The Lord. Help your kids look for God’s presence and action in their days.
Don’t be discouraged if your first attempts at engaging your kids in car talk fall flat. Keep trying, and don’t give up. It may be hard to get them started, but once they start talking, your kids may not stop. Take active steps to begin to engage your kids in conversation as you are on your way throughout your day.
Chuck Peters is Manager of Marketing & Media Production for Lifeway Kids. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck, and his wife, Cris, have served vocationally & voluntarily in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years. They have four amazing children ranging in age from 5-15.