Over the course of my life, it has become easier for me to trust God. My faith has not grown because I’m exceptional, but simply because I have more experiences from which to draw. With more times when it felt like God wasn’t there, I can now look back and say, “Actually, God was there, I just didn’t know it at the time.” Because of that hindsight, my faith has grown.
Children, on the other hand, don’t have the same gift of hindsight. They just haven’t experienced enough. They need our help—and the Spirit’s help—in growing faith.
Shari Lillestolen, a retired professor of early childhood development, said faith grows best through experience. Children are highly experiential learners, meaning experiences are how they make sense of the world. These experiences get turned into mental memory that they link to whatever situation they find themselves in later. Those mental memories guide their behavior without them even knowing it.
Fortunately, there are many ways that parents, grandparents, godparents and other role models can help children form mental memories that will help their faith grow. Growing food is one simple way to do this.
It doesn’t take a huge garden to grow faith. In fact, it’s better to just have a couple of potted indoor vegetable plants. That way you and your child can watch every stage of the plant’s growth.
Plant the seeds together, then read from the Bible and discuss the text. If you have a children’s Bible, read the creation story from Genesis 1:1-12. If you only have an adult Bible, read Genesis 1:11-12. Pray together when you plant the seeds and each day when you check on them. Thank God for these seeds, and for the food that will come from them. Harvest the vegetables together, and thank God before eating them. Then enjoy!
It doesn’t take a huge garden to grow faith. In fact, it’s better to just have a couple of potted indoor vegetable plants.
Tomatoes, especially the cherry variety, are ideal because they are easy to grow indoors and produce abundantly. Lettuce and carrots will also work. What’s most important is that the food you choose to grow can be enjoyed raw so the experiential connection between plant and food is a close one. Seeds, pots and soil can all be purchased at any large hardware store such as Home Depot or Lowe’s. Instructions can easily be found online.
The faith connection won’t be immediately apparent, but the experience will form mental memories that will be a building block for a life of faith. “For the young child it will be a long time before they ask questions about God, but to trust that food will grow from a seed, that in and of itself can create an awakening of God’s creative power that moves through all of creation,” Lillestolen said. So plant some seeds with your child, and watch their faith grow along with their food.