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Holly Melton says it’s never too early (or late) for a parent to begin talking to their children about faith in God. She encourages parents to be intentional about praying with their kids before school.
Bob: After you’ve done your morning routine—you’ve gotten the kids ready for school, you’ve had breakfast, whatever goes on at your house—Holly Melton says there’s an additional activity you need to incorporate. You need to be praying together with your kids to start the day.
Holly: What I try to encourage people—this is five minutes of your day—but it can be the most crucial five minutes; because when we start our day with God, our perspective on everything we’re going to experience that day could change. I encourage parents: “Wake up five or ten minutes earlier, even if you’re not a morning person, and pray that you’re filled with the Spirit as you try to do this with your children. He will give you the strength to have the patience to be able to do this.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 31st. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Back to school probably looks a lot different for all of this year, but there are some things that ought not be different. We’re going to talk about those today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think just about every mom I’ve ever known, who’s got kids at home, has in her a desire to want to plant deep in the heart of her kids spiritual truth. It’s just: “How do I do that?”—that is the obstacle.
You had that passion.
Dave: Oh boy, she had that passion.
Ann: But I didn’t grow up in a Christian home; I had never seen it done—but in my heart, I’m like, “I want to do this! I want to do this! How do I do this?” I had no idea.
I think you’re right, Bob—I think women: when you love Jesus, you want to impart that into your kids. But you’re not always sure how. It’s crazy; you don’t have a plan, so I think we’re looking for that plan.
Bob: This is one of those times of the year when—I think beginning of the new year and the beginning of the school year—are the two times in the year where we all look and go, “Okay, we can start some new patterns, some new habits, some new disciplines.” Of course, this is the weirdest back-to-school time ever; but you can establish some new rhythms/some new patterns. That’s part of what we want to talk about today.
Dave: We need somebody to help us!
Bob: So you have somebody in mind?
Dave: I think somebody; she’s sitting across the table. Holly Melton is here—written a book called Praying with Your Kids Before School.
Ann: Holly, welcome.
Holly: Thank you; thanks for having me.
Dave: She’s been on Cru® staff—I don’t even know how many years.
Holly: Twenty-one years.
Dave: And what have you done on Cru staff?
Holly: Oh, I have gotten to travel the world to help missionaries that are in team conflict around the world. I have been to actually 30 countries—got to serve in East Asia, saw a revival happen there; served up at UC Berkley; I’ve been a national director with Cru; but now I am happily on a staff team, quietly in Phoenix, Arizona, while I’m raising my kids, and continuing to write and speak on the side.
Bob: Your kids are what ages?
Holly: Five and six.
Bob: So you’re right at the beginning edge of this journey. God’s put a burden in your heart to want to plant truth in their hearts and to point them to Jesus every day.
Holly: Yes; it’s always been my passion. My background is marriage and family therapy; but then I went into college ministry after I saw a vampire come to Christ, which is a whole other story.
Bob: Whoa, whoa, whoa. [Laughter]
Dave: You can’t just drop that one in. [Laughter]
Ann: There are real vampires?—and you led someone to Christ?
Holly: Okay; well, I was just a college student; and I was on my first summer mission. We were out singing songs on the boardwalk. This girl approached me very awkwardly and uncomfortably. She said, “I’m a vampire. Are you afraid of me?” I thought, “Who thinks that they’re a vampire?!”—like—“Really?!” This is way before Twilight and Vampire Diaries. I’m like, “This is really weird.” I’m like, “Sure; I’ll talk with a vampire.” [Laughter]
I sit down with her; she says nothing. This is when I start to pray; I’m like, “God, You’ve got to show me”; because my training is: you share your testimony or the “Knowing God Personally” tract booklet that Cru has. “Does that work with a vampire?” [Laughter] So I felt like the Holy Spirit was saying, “Why don’t you ask her why she’s a vampire?” She said, “I have tried to kill myself three times, and I haven’t been able to die.” She says, “I actually drink blood of animals I sacrifice, and I believe that’s what makes me clean.”
So then, I said, “God, what’s another question?” The question that came to my mind is: “What brings you purpose or significance in life?” She said, “I’ve actually brought 12 women into being vampires with me that had no home, no community, no friends; and so we have a family.” I thought, “Okay; that is one little thing I can connect with—is caring for women in community”; because even in college, I was doing a women’s Bible study, discipling some women.
I felt like the Holy Spirit gave me a contrary idea than how I was raised; because I was raised in the apologetics generation, where you defend the truth. I felt like the Holy Spirit’s idea was, “Affirm partial truths to create common ground.” I said to her/I said, “Christy, in a sense, I think you’re right. We are immortal; there is life after death. Blood is necessary; sacrifice is essential. And we were made for community. You are right. But I don’t think you know the whole story. Do I have permission to share with you the whole story?” She said, “Yes.”
I thought, “Now what do I say?” I felt like I was watching myself as God was speaking through me. All of a sudden, I’m sharing how Jesus is the Lamb of God, and He is the final sacrifice that will take away the sins of the world. No more animals need to be sacrificed. I got to share how He wants communion with us and community with us.
I go through the whole gospel; and I am so convinced she is going to say, “Yes.” She goes, “No, I don’t need Jesus in my life right now.” She then says—it’s now two in the morning—she goes, “But the buses have stopped working. Can you give me a ride home?” I’m thinking, “Who wants to give a vampire a ride home at two in the morning?—not me!” [Laughter]
Dave: It’s dark out!
Holly: So I figured I should bring a friend. He was driving; I’m in the front seat; she’s in the back. We are driving on a deserted highway; and all of a sudden, in the back, she starts knocking on the window, like this [knocking sound]—constant eerie knock. Again, I asked a question; I said, “Christy, why are you knocking on the window?” She said, “I feel like something is knocking at my heart, but I don’t know what it is.”
Dave: No way!
Holly: “That’s Revelation 3:20: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’ Jesus is saying: ‘Anyone who opens the door, I will come in I will dine with him; I will be his friend. I want fellowship.’” I said, “Christy, I believe that’s Jesus. He wants in your life!” Then she says, “I’m hungry and thirsty for something, but I don’t know what”; yes. Now, in college, didn’t remember those verses—but I knew a worship song—because I was an alto on the worship team.
Dave: There you go!
Holly: I told her the verse: “I want to thirst no more; I want to hunger no more. I want to know that Jesus is my Lord.” She goes, “Will you sing it for me?” I’m like, “At two-thirty in the morning, you want me to sing to you?—okay.” I’m awkwardly, now, singing a song to her in the car. She goes, “Pull over, on the side of the road, right now. In case I die before I get home, I want Jesus in my life.”
I pull out a tract; because I’m like, “I don’t know what I really said to you a few hours ago.” She’s like, “No, no. Get to the end. I want Jesus in my life right now.”
Dave: “Get to the end.”
Holly: She like prays. Honestly, in my heart, I was doubtful. I said, “Christy, if this is real, meet me at noon tomorrow; and we’re going to talk about what this means.” The next day at noon, she showed up; she’s walking toward me. She’s far enough away you probably shouldn’t say, “Hi,” yet. She starts screaming: “Holly! Holly! I want to learn how to share my faith like you shared with me.” [Laughter]
I said, “Let’s go on the boardwalk and let’s go see what God does. Let’s go do this with God.” We approach a 15-year-old blonde surfer dude, named Mark. He asked a great question—he said, “How do you know you’re different when you’re a Christian?” I’m like, “Oh, man,”—my testimony is I was saved as a little kid—“How do I answer that?” She interrupts and goes, “Well, Mark; yesterday I was a vampire; [Laughter] but today, I’m a born-again Christian; and boy! Do I see the difference!”
She goes, “Mark, did you know that we’re all immortal? Did you know that blood is necessary, sacrifice is essential, and we were made for community? Can I tell you how?” She proceeded to share with him the same presentation I shared the night before, that I thought was only contextualized for a vampire.
He prays and receives Christ, right there on the boardwalk, same area she did. She was not even a 12-hour believer.
Holly: That convicts me: “No one should say they’re not mature enough in Christ to be able to share Christ with someone else.” It shows me that none of us may be prepared to share the gospel. I was not prepared to share the gospel; and yet, that is what transformed my life to be passionate about sharing Jesus.
Dave: Didn’t you find out something about her dad later?
Holly: Yes; her dad ended up/he was a Christian. I was at the airport, flying back home. I met a kind woman; she was asking about my summer. I told her the story of what I call “Christy, the Vampire.” She brings her husband over; and he says, “What’s her name?” I said, “Christy Denney.” He said, “Her father goes to our church. We have been praying for her for five years. We have not been able to get her into a church. Now that we know she’s a believer, we’re going to disciple her.”
What’s amazing is this pastor and his wife took her in. She ended up sharing the gospel with those 12 women to the point where the head leader said, “If you do this anymore, I will take your life.” He was threatening her life, so she literally moved in with the pastor and his wife that I met at the airport for her protection and her discipleship.
I said, “God, I have never seen someone go from darkness to light to full transformation. I want to do nothing else with my life but share Jesus with others.”
Bob: I can see why you’d say law school would be pretty boring after that.
Dave: I can also see, as you talk about her dad and the pastor praying, and they’re seeing their prayers answered. It’s five years; at some point, you even give up. There’s a dad, there’s a pastor, there’s probably a community—which sounds weird—they’re praying for a vampire daughter. You listened to Jesus; the Holy Spirit spoke into her.
There’s, obviously now, as a mom, an angst in your soul about praying; right?—especially praying for your kids. Tell us why you wrote a book about it.
Holly: Yes; there are two verses in the Bible that have really hit my heart on this. One is
Proverbs 22:6—it says: “Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This verse is not meant to necessarily to be a full-on promise—that as much as we are faithful to invest in our children, spiritually, some might become prodigals—we need to trust God with those prodigals.
We need to think about our responsibility as parents. Our responsibility is to train. We cannot control the outcome of our children’s faith, but we can control our intentionality with them. If there’s one thing I’m really passionate about, it’s about: “God wants us to be intentional people in all areas of our life.”
The second verse in the Bible that really impacted me is Deuteronomy 6:5 and 7—it says this: “You shall love the Lord God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your might,” and “These words I command to you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk to them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise.”
I started praying, “How do I live this out practically?” I wanted to really meditate on this verse and be proactive. The first thing that stuck out to me in this verse is we are responsible to love God with all our heart. If we’re not walking with the Lord—if we’re not being in His Word and being obedient to Him—we cannot impact, train, disciple, and influence our children.
Second, it says to teach them diligently. I believe that means we need to help them understand the Word, even when they’re very young. My personal opinion—and yes, I only have two young kids—is: “When they start to walk, we can start to talk to them about God, sin, Jesus, our need for a Savior. They’re not going to fully grasp it, but we begin the conversation.”
Then, we need to talk when we’re at home. I think home needs to be a safe place—right?—for our children. We live in a fast-paced culture, and we’re rushing from one thing to the next. Honestly, we’ve become more task-oriented than people-oriented.
Ann: What did that look like for you in terms of—here you are—a young mom; you have little kids, and they’re only a year apart?
Ann: It’s crazy; moms listening are like, “I have hardly time to eat, let alone disciple my kids.” Even for your own personal time, that can be hard; because before you had kids, you had time to read your Bible; and then you have kids, and it gets a lot tougher.
Holly: Yes; when they’re first born, yes, you don’t get your normal quiet time if you’re used to that. I would take a proverb a day, and say, “I’m going to meditate on this while I’m in my tired state for the first three months of a child’s life.”
I do think there has to be, at some point, where we continue a spiritual discipline, even with young children. Once they got on a sleep schedule, I started to make it the norm that they weren’t going to be coming downstairs until 7:00 a.m. We got one of those lights that light up at seven o’clock; they know they can come downstairs. I condition them to do that. Even at five and six, they will pretty much will stay in their room.
At a young age, I decided to start giving them resources to have a quiet time like mommy. They can’t read yet. I got them a Bible—it’s a kids’ Bible storybook to color—it’s not a coloring book; it’s an actual Bible, but so many of the pages they can color. Their quiet time is coloring. Then, I read them the story after they color the picture; so they started to have their own quiet time.
Once my son started learning how to read—they could read the word, “God”—so he started to highlight the word, “God,” all throughout the Bible; because mommy highlights in her Bible. I’m just starting to give them principles, as little kids, to help them think about, “What would it look like to have a quiet time like Mommy and Daddy?”
Dave: I’m just amazed they don’t come down until 7:00 a.m. [Laughter]
Ann: Are you still stuck on that?
Dave: I’m like, “Wow! That’s a disciplined child!”
Bob: People are going, “If I could just train my kids on that, that’s all I need!” [Laughter]
Holly: Yes; I am more of a structured parent, so that does help. [Laughter]
Bob: One of the things that you’re passionate about is praying with your kids, getting them in this practice. What you’ve developed in the book is an outline/a map that moms and dads can follow so that this can become a regular practice in their home.
Holly: Yes; it was literally the week before school started this past year that God gave me this idea: “Let’s be intentional to pray with them.” Because now both of my kids were going to go to preschool and kindergarten. I invited 18 of my friends to join me; I said, “Do you want to join me this year and pray through a verse every day with your child before they go to school?”
I started to ask God, “What are topics that children need to think about as they go to school?”—topics like authority, respect, friends, anxiety, fear, being courageous on that first week. I looked up all the verses on that word and I chose five that I thought most would relate to the child as they go to school. I have two verses—one is the actual verse in the Bible for an older child, and then they get to pray through that verse. Then, I paraphrase the verse in the Bible for a younger child, like mine, that might not know some bigger words so that they, too, could start to understand principles in the Bible but maybe not the exact verse.
My friends and I did this for a whole year. It became very, very impactful on—not only my children’s life—but their children’s lives as well. We decided, “Maybe this would be helpful for other families to start implementing.”
Bob: What did this look like? Take us through: “Is this at the breakfast table in the morning?—on the way to school? When are you doing it? How are you doing it?”—just give us a picture.
Holly: What I try to encourage people—this is five minutes of your day—but it can be the most crucial five minutes because, when we start our day with God, our perspective on everything that we’re going to experience that day could change. I encourage parents: “Wake up five or ten minutes earlier, even if you’re not a morning person, and pray that you’re filled with the Spirit as you try to do this with your children. He will give you the strength to have the patience to be able to do this.”
Some of my friends would do this at the breakfast table before they started homeschooling. Some of my friends would, literally, do it, standing up at the front door; and they would then lay their hands on their kids and commission them off to school as if they are being “sent ones” to school every single day. I, myself, would drive my children to school—about ten minutes to school. We would read it and pray as we were heading to school in the car. I think any idea would work; it’s just the idea of being intentional and being consistent.
Bob: With your kids, you’d get them buckled in—and before you start the car—I presume you’re not reading the Bible verses as you’re driving.
Holly: Right; true.
Bob: You’d read these Bible verses; and then would you pray, and they pray? Is that how—what would it feel like?
Holly: Yes; we would all three pray. Honestly, with little kids—or any age—they might start to feel like, “I don’t want to pray today”; right? It’s not like they’re robots, and they’re going to just do it. There were some days that became the discipleship moment of saying: “Let’s talk about that. Why do you think we want to pray to God before we go to school? How do you think that would help us? That’s your choice. I’m not, as the parent, going to force you to pray. But I know my life changes when I get to pray to God before I start my day.” Or I would ask the other child to pray first; then, the second child, “Okay; I want to pray.”
Sometimes, it’s just even getting into the rhythm. Our rhythm became so much so that, a few weeks in, I forgot the paper at home. My son said, “Mommy, how could you forget the Bible verse for the day?!” The next day, “Mommy, don’t forget the Bible verse.” Next day, “Mommy, don’t forget the Bible verse.” Then, what started happening, in our evening prayers with our family, our son would start to say, “God, help me to obey the Bible verse tomorrow.” He knew a Bible verse was coming, and his heart was starting to change: “Help me to obey the Bible verse tomorrow.”
What I liked about it, too, is—since it was a theme for the week—it gave us context to talk about a bigger topic in the Bible over the week—not just a verse for the day and then tomorrow’s verse is a difference topic—we got to focus on something, which really helped them grow in that area.
Ann: The theme would be—let’s say, “Courage”—the theme of the week is “Courage.” Each morning you have a different verse on courage.
Ann: That’s interesting.
Holly: —and how they could pray through it. Especially when you think it is the first week—because they’re meeting new teachers; new friends; new school, maybe—this year, it’s going to be new situations.
Holly: Yes; it’s helping them be courageous as they step into—
Dave: How did the mothers or families that had teenagers—how’d that go for them? Did you hear stories?
Holly: I did! I will leave them nameless. I had a sixth grader come swim in our pool just two weeks ago. His mom said, “This [Holly] is the one who wrote all those prayers for that devotional.” He goes, “Wow!” He goes, “Those were really good.” He goes, “They were better than my dad’s,”—his dad is our children’s pastor—[Laughter]—I was like, “Don’t tell your dad that, but thank you.” That gave me courage, because that’s a different age group than my little children. It seemed that he, as a boy sixth-grader, really enjoyed it.
I know I have another woman—her daughter is 11—looked forward to it every day. She had bullying happening in her school; she had to deal with a lot of really hard situations. Her mom said going through these prayers helped give her a foundation before she went into some very difficult situations for the year.
Bob: I can imagine—you asked about teenagers—I can imagine, with younger kids, there is some excitement and anticipation. In those years, they are kind of hanging on every word we say. You start doing this with a 14-year-old—you know, you haven’t done this—you say, “We’re going to start praying on the way to school and a Bible verse…” They’re kind of like, “Whatever,” and roll their eyes. Should a parent just power through that and keep going?
Holly: Yes; I think so. I think it’s never too late to encourage spiritual disciplines with our children and to model them ourselves. What I would do—if you have a middle schooler or high schooler—saying/make it an exciting thing—like: “Hey, I want to grow in God together. I want us to be united in doing something that will help us both understand the Bible and live it out. Can we please try this? Let’s try it for a month, and let’s see if it impacts our life.”
You don’t have to commit them or force them to do it for a year; but say, “Could we try this together and see if this, not only bonds us, but helps us to become greater influences around us?” You’re kind of in it together.
Bob: I’m imagining Ann Wilson hearing this conversation, back a few years ago when you still had kids at home, you’d be going, “I’m getting five copies of that book.”
Ann: I totally would, [Laughter] because I was doing it on the fly. What I’ve seen, too, with high school and middle school kids—they’re still soaking it in. They may roll their eyes sometimes, or generally be quiet; but what I’ve found was: kids in high school are going through hard things; middle school is rough. It’s interesting—because they’re so desperate, that they’ll take God’s Word, and they’re kind of clinging to it.
One of our sons was going through some stuff. I would take these little flat rocks that I found, and I would write a Bible verse on it. He would have it in his pocket all day. I would say, “Hey, when it gets rough, pull that verse out: ‘Lord, help me. This is what’s going on.’ Pray this verse; this maybe will help you.”
Then would come the next week—or something else was going on—he’s like, “Hey, do you have another rock?” I’m like, “What?” Then, he said, “My friend in track needs one. He’s really stressing about the meet tonight.” I’d write this little verse on this rock. I saw that guy, probably a couple years ago when he was 27; he said, “Mrs. Wilson, I want to tell you—that Scripture you put on that rock was like my lifeline for the year.”
We think kids aren’t interested at that age. Those kids are going through rough stuff, and God’s Word is a comfort and a stabilizer to their souls.
Bob: And to have a plan prepared for them—
Ann: That’s the part that’s so good! It’s done for us already.
Bob: —all you have to do is follow the instructions. It’s like a spiritual cookbook with your kids: “Here’s the recipe.” [Laughter]
And again, to your point—there’s no guarantee that the cake’s going to turn out the way you want it to turn out—there is not a promise from Proverbs; but there is a principle here in Proverbs that, when we “Train up a child in the way he should go,”—that’s our job—and God is going to meet us there.
Dave: Thanks for the intentionality. It’s a tool that helps parents, that maybe aren’t necessarily intentional, to be intentional: “Here you go! Follow the plan!”—how hard is that?—“And see what God does.”
Ann: And the moms and dads, who are just like Ann Wilson, and want five copies of the book, [Laughter] go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com to order copies. In fact, what we’re doing this week—we’re going to send you a copy—any FamilyLife Today listener, who can make a donation to help support the ongoing work of this ministry—Holly’s book, Praying with Your Kids Before School, is our gift to you/our way of saying, “Thank you for your support of this ministry.”
So here’s the deal—you’re helping reach hundreds of thousands of people every day with practical biblical help and hope for their marriage and family by supporting FamilyLife Today. As a thank-you gift, you get Holly’s book, Praying with Your Kids Before School. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make an online donation, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY; donate over the phone. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com if you’d like to donate online. Or if you’d like to donate by phone, call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Tomorrow, we’re going to continue talking about ways we can engage with our kids and get them focused—looking in the right direction/thinking about the right thing—before we send them off to school, wherever we’re sending them this year/whatever that looks like for you. Holly Melton joins us, again, tomorrow. I hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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