For 7-year-old Vera, 5-year-old Mateo, and 9-month-old Sandro, faith is experienced 24/7—from reading the Bible upon waking up in the morning to praying before mealtimes, when they get hurt, and just before bedtime.
Credit their parents, Victory Greenhills Kids Pastor Bojo Bonifacio and his wife Ronna Capili Bonifacio, for seamlessly integrating faith “into every aspect of our life, so there’s no disjoint or compartmentalizing,” says Ronna, editor-in-chief of Themes & Motifs and a writer. (Read: 5 Daily Prayers to Teach to Your Children)
Ronna reveals how she and Bojo did it, and what young parents can do to instill faith early in their kids.
What are your family’s religious practices?
Faith and the church community are very important to our family. It was something my husband and I decided would be a major value for our family early on.
Our family attends worship services every Sunday and we make sure our children do, too. Since we’ve been on lockdown, our kids don’t miss their online kids’ church every Sunday after we stream our online worship service. My husband and I also lead and are part of separate discipleship groups. (Read: 5 Saints Who Are Also Real-Life Parents)
Praying with our kids is a practice we do daily, from praying before bed and before meals to praying when one of them gets hurt or when we grow their character. We’ve also been teaching our kids to read the Bible in the morning right after they wake up. Oftentimes, I catch Vera reading aloud a kids devotional book to Mateo, since she’s a faster reader over a bowl of cereal.
How do your children regard God, Jesus, and prayer?
Our kids ask us a lot about God and we try to answer their questions in a way they can understand. They know who God the Father is and who Jesus is, and we try to explain the Trinity as best as we can to them. They know that Jesus was the one who was crucified and resurrected and the Holy Spirit helps us to follow God. I try to encourage them to pray on their own, too—whether about themselves or to pray for family, friends, or each other. (Read: An Expert’s Tip to Instilling Faith in Young Children)
Before you became parents, what were your plans regarding religion and your kids?
Because faith was important to us individually, conversations about raising our future kids and designing our family according to Biblical standards were easy. On the big things, we were on the same page—that it’s never too early to teach our children about God. (Read: 3 Celebrity Moms Who Welcomed Their Baby During Quarantine)
But more than passing it on verbally, modeling our faith is what we try to do every day. We try to show them grace and mercy, and make them understand the difference between the two. We understand that as parents, we are the primary models for our children’s understanding of who God is. It’s a tall order but we also remind them that our imperfection means that we are not God, and we hope that our misgivings point them back to the only one who is perfect.
How different is your approach to raising your kids compared to how you and your husband were raised?
For my husband, there might not have been much of a difference apart from little things and tools that are now readily available to us as parents, such as videos, books, and materials that can be helpful to raising our kids in the faith. (Read: 5 Spiritual Podcasts To Strengthen Your Faith)
For myself, perhaps it’s engaging our kids in conversations about faith at a level that is easy for them to relate to and understand. We try our best to relay the same concepts of the Bible we believe and apply them to their realities as children, such as how they treat each other, their friends, our relationship as child and parent. Faith is integrated into every aspect of our life so there’s no disjoint or compartmentalizing.
What advice would you give parents whose young children refuse to participate in church services?
Take the time to sit down with your kids and talk to them about your faith. They will learn best from you because they love and trust you. Later on, when they are a bit older, it will be easier to introduce other people who can reinforce what you’ve taught them about faith. While they are very young, we are their first teachers in everything. Modeling our faith is also key and must go hand in hand with instruction.
Ask them questions, allow it to be a dialogue. You will enjoy hearing what your 3-, 4- or 5-year-old has to say about how he or she understands the world and God. Take advantage of technology, there’s a wealth of materials online that is engaging for a young child. (Read: Nonie and Shamaine on mental health: ‘Parents should open their minds’)
Pray for your children out loud and let them hear it. Our kids love it when we pray for them, they ask us almost every night to pray for them. And as much as they can, they want both of us, Mama and Papa, to take turns praying for each one of them.
These seemingly little actions will bear fruit in due time, not immediately. We’re playing a long game. It’s not just what we do that will grow their faith and knowledge of God, but God Himself working in their lives. But it is our job as their parents to partner with God in what He is doing in their lives.