Planting a small garden—or even just a single pot indoors—opens opportunities to talk with children about God. Just as we trust that plants will grow even when we can’t see much progress, we can be sure that God is nurturing seeds of faith in our kids.
It’s a chilly, sunny Saturday morning in March. I’m sitting on our porch steps, surrounded by seed packets, containers, and a bucket full of dirt. My five-year-old runs up and asks if he can help me plant seeds for the garden. I think about saying no, because my hands are cold and I just want to get the project done, but I say yes. We talk about what we’re planting (sweet peppers and some herbs), we dig our hands into the dirt together, and he uses his fingers to make the shallow holes we’ll drop the seeds into. Then he runs off to play soccer with his brother.
A few days later, we talk about how plants and trees grow.
“Do you know who made the trees?” I ask.
“God did!” he says.
“That’s right. And did you know that those trees grew out of little seeds like the ones we planted? God will make our plants grow, just like God made the trees grow. God provides good food for us to eat.”
Then the conversation turns to whether we can grow cranberries in our backyard, and why we don’t have our own cranberry bog.
Looking back at these moments and conversations with my five-year-old, I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 3:6-7:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
This is as true for gardens and seeds as it is for the faith of children. We can plant and water, but God provides the growth. We might plant a seed of faith that someone else will water as they walk alongside the kids we know. We might have a conversation that builds on something they talked about with an aunt, a grandparent, or a friend. Our conversation might center on God for only a few moments before veering off in a different direction. In any case, we rely on God to bring the growth in the faith of our children, just as we rely on God to grow our seeds into plants.
Jesus often tells parables about seeds growing into plants. The mustard seed grows into the largest plant in the garden. The seed that falls on hard soil shrivels while the seed that falls on good soil grows. A farmer tells the workers to let the weeds grow up among the good plants. Understanding these stories can be tricky if you’ve never watched a seed grow, tended plants, or pulled weeds in a garden.
Even if we don’t have a yard to plant a whole garden, we can provide the opportunity for the kids in our lives (and ourselves) to watch God’s work in action by planting seeds, watering them, and waiting for God to provide the increase.
Planting seeds with kids only takes a few supplies.
- Seeds (if you don’t have much outside space, I suggest planting herbs like basil or mint that will grow well in a small container)
- A patch of ground or a container (even an old egg carton or yogurt tub will work)
- Some dirt or potting soil
- Fill your container with dirt, but don’t pack it tightly. Your seeds need room to grow their roots.
- Make shallow holes for each of your seeds. The package will tell you how deep the holes should be and how far apart to sow the individual seeds.
- Drop the seeds in, and then cover them up with dirt.
- Give the whole pot or plot a good watering. If you used a pot, set it in a warm sunny spot.
Enlist the kids you planted with to help you with the watering, and make sure they check the progress every couple of days. Most plants will germinate in one to four weeks, depending on the variety, so check the package to know how long this will take.
When your plants come up, it’s time to celebrate! Do a dance, shout hooray, and say, “Thank you, God!” Remind kids of the faithfulness of God whenever you see something new happening with your plant. New leaves? God is faithful! See that tomato growing? God provides!
And if your plants don’t come up? Talk about that, too. Was the dirt too hard or dry for the seed to grow? What does it mean when things don’t go the way we thought they would? Remind children that God is faithful, no matter what happens, and try again.
The thing about planting seeds, and about sharing our faith with kids, is that we can only do so much at any one time. Plants can only take in so much water or light on a given day. The same is true for kids. They soak things up in small doses, and then they change the subject. That’s okay. If the kids in your life suddenly wonder why you don’t have a cranberry bog in your backyard, or ask if you’d rather be chased by a lion or a bear, go with it. They’ll come back another day with questions that will lead to faith conversations, and they’ll know you care, because you took the time to plant seeds with them.
Stephanie Soderstrom is coordinator for Short-term Mission for the Reformed Church in America. You can connect with her by email at email@example.com.