One of our biggest fears as parents is “Did we do enough”.
Our daughter is a senior in high school. I have done student/family ministry long enough to know the statistics about kids dropping out of church during their college years (The Top Reasons Young People Drop Out of Church). While the numbers are a little better than they have been in previous years we still aren’t willing to leave anything to chance, specifically something as important as my her faith.
For the past several months my wife and I have been thinking back over the years and going over what we did well and what we could have done better. Sometimes it feels like we did everything we could and other times it causes sheer panic.
Did we do everything we could to help our daughter develop an authentic faith?
Because regardless of anything else; My children’s faith is THE most important thing.
So what can you do now that will help guide them to that authentic faith? Here are a few things that will help you develop that authentic faith in your family.
It Starts with You
If you want your children to develop an authentic faith, then it must start with you. A quote that’s been attributed to several people says this, “You can’t teach what you don’t know and you can’t lead where you won’t go”.
It doesn’t matter who said it because it’s 100% true. Especially when it comes to faith.
If you’re not walking with Jesus, you cannot possibly lead your kids to do that.
Please do not think that coming to a worship gathering once a week or less will be enough to produce authentic faith in you or your children. If you are relying on that you will be sorely disappointed. Corporate gatherings aren’t for feeding your soul. That does happen but not nearly enough to sustain you for a week or more. Imagine if you tried to do that with your physical self? You would die of malnourishment. It’s the same with your spirit.
You HAVE to be feeding yourself daily. That simply means building a relationship with your creator. Reading scripture (don’t know where to start…download the YouVersion Bible app and pick a study), praying (just talking to God about your day and the things on your heart), serving (we have lots of ways to help you plug into shift and Gainesville) and gathering with others in worship.
If you’re not actively working toward these things your kids won’t either. It all starts with you.
It’s not about Attendance, It’s about Priority
I don’t care what your attendance rate is. It’s not about the pastor using a roll call to check if you are there or not. It’s about priority.
Is your faith a priority in your family’s life or not?
When I coached softball we worked on the fundamentals every practice. How to catch and throw, where to place your feet, how to swing a bat, how to run the bases were things we went over again and again and again. After all that practice we told the girls that they needed to go home and swing their bat 100 times and throw the ball 100 times. At home. Everyday.
For the girls that made softball a priority in their life, they did the little things behind the scenes and made huge improvements in their game. We could see the difference it was making but more importantly THEY could see it! And what was even more glaring was how fast the gap widened between the girls who made it a priority and those that didn’t.
Girls with a ton of talent started riding the bench because another girl made it a priority and out worked them for the starting spot.
When faith and our relationship with Jesus becomes a priority in our life those little things behind the scenes aren’t looked at “Oh man we gotta do this thing”. It becomes “Come on! We get to do this thing”!
As parents we set the standard. If we make faith a priority in our family’s life, then so will our kids. If we won’t then neither will they.
As parents we tend to want to shield our kids from everyday life. We don’t let them see behind the proverbial curtain. And for the most part I think that’s healthy. We shouldn’t let our kids bear the burdens of being an adult. They’re not ready for that kind of stress.
But this isn’t always the case when it comes to authentic faith. Your kids need to see you wrestle and struggle with your faith. This is important for a few reasons:
• It lets your kids know that it’s ok to have doubts and questions. If your kids see you wrestle with faith issues it allows them to wrestle with faith issues.
• Seeing you struggle will let your kids know that your home is a safe place to ask questions and express doubts.
• It will show your children that doubts or questions aren’t antithetical to faith. Instead it teaches them that doubts and questions are most often the building blocks to a deeper faith!
Don’t worry about “having all the answers”. You won’t. I don’t and I went to school for this stuff. Find answers together. Give them room to struggle. Struggle with them. Allow God to use those questions to drive you and your kids to his word for answers.
One word of caution with this…make sure that you are allowing them to see you struggle appropriately. Don’t overburden them with things that aren’t age appropriate.
Be Predictable and Random
In Deuteronomy 6 we see Moses bring the whole nation of Israel together and talk to them about passing on faith to their kids. In this passage, starting with verse 6, we see natural rhythms that God has placed in our days. Moses calls on us to use the predictability of our days to speak God’s love and wisdom into our kids. We do that at home, during drive times (in the car), before school and at bed time.
Make faith an everyday part of life and it will become who you are. When you weave your story into the larger tapestry of God’s story it not only becomes part of your life’s fabric, it ties your lives into the epic tale of what God is doing! Your faith should be there every day.
But it should also show up randomly!
What would happen with your family if you started looking for opportunities to make an impact locally or globally AS a family? What if you signed up to help with Family Promise (one of Shift’s community partners) and you took your kids with you to pick up and deliver furniture to families coming out of homelessness? What if you took a week and served overseas as a family? What if you showed up for set up or tear down with your kids?
Look for random ways to engage your children’s interest in the larger picture of faith and then get out of their way! When children and students understand that they aren’t the church of tomorrow, that they are the church of today and have been called to that…they can do incredible things!
I’ve had students give up drinking anything but tap water for a year. They took the money they would have spent and used it to buy a clean water well in Africa. I have had students sponsor children monthly all over the world. Kids throwing parties for nursing homes. I had one student spend a month in Africa. Our children have all this untapped potential just waiting for someone to release it!
These are just a few ways to help you pass on authentic faith to your children. They’re not guarantees. It’s not a fool proof plan. Life doesn’t work like that. But if we start here I can promise you that your kids will grow up seeing and knowing what authentic faith really looks like!
And that’s kind of the point. Just show them what it looks like and then send them to do it.
Shift. Grow. Go. Repeat.