Teaching Tiny Spiritual Habits

Many of the things that keep Christians spiritually healthy need to be practiced regularly – up to several times a day – for maximum benefit. Often, Christians with the best of intentions are failing to do these things because they haven’t made them a habit in their lives.

Habits can be difficult to establish. We generally start a new habit well motivated and with the best of intentions. We may even do well for a time. Then something happens…an illness or vacation, perhaps. The new habit is quickly dropped and it seems even more difficult to start it yet again.

There’s a great book called, Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg. It’s a secular book, but there are some important ideas in it that can help us encourage young people to develop better habits with the spiritual disciplines that can help them become and stay faithful, productive Christians.

There’s a lot of great information in the book, but I think three of his ideas could be transformative for many young people.

The first is to find times where the various spiritual disciplines will fit easily into their current schedule. Let’s say a student wants to start reading the Bible daily. Choosing second period in school as the time to read won’t work well. For one thing, school is only five days a week. It’s also unlikely the second period teacher will get excited about a student reading the Bible while he or she is lecturing.

The trick is finding a time that is rarely disrupted and they are willing to dedicate to the spiritual discipline. If a young person always eats breakfast, reading the Bible while they are eating may be the best choice. On the other hand, if they watch Netflix every night before bed, will they really turn it off early to read the Bible?

The second great idea is to make the spiritual discipline seem easy. The author calls it a tiny habit. The problem with a lot of Bible reading plans, for example, is that they require reading multiple chapters of the Bible each day. Missing even one day can feel overwhelming and encourage quitting. The trick according to the author is making the habit seem so easy, it appears doable even on the worst days.

In our Bible reading example, instead of chapters, encourage students to commit to a daily habit of reading one Bible verse a day. That’s it. If they want to read more on any day, that’s great. If they are having a bad day, they just have to muster enough strength to read one Bible verse. Make it even easier by choosing Proverbs as the first book and teaching them to read a verse from the chapter corresponding to the day’s date. So if it’s January 7th, they just need to read one verse in Proverbs chapter 7. If they want to read the whole chapter great. If they can only master one verse, that’s still goal accomplished for that day.

Finally, (for this post…the author has other great suggestions) encourage students to give themselves strong visual cues to help them remember. Set their Bible at their place at the breakfast table. Put sticky notes saying pray on the bathroom mirror, in their locker at school and on their bed pillow. Visual reminders are a critical step many miss when trying to establish new habits. Without those cues, anyone trying to establish a new spiritual habit must also count on remembering the new habit at the appropriate place in their day.

Grab the book if you have time to read it. If not, try giving these tips to your Bible students. It may just help them finally establish great habits that will keep them spiritually healthy for life.

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