Let me start out by saying I don’t have this one figured out. I’m not an expert in the field. My kids are 6, 4, 3, & 1. I have a lot to learn. My church doesn’t have this figured out. We are definitely intentional about finding a solution.
Here are some questions I've been wrestling with:
- Why are so many kids I grew up with, who had genuine experiences with God, not following Christ today?
- Why are all the right Christian environments (church, school, camp, etc.) not producing more mature followers of Christ?
- Why are so many Christian parents obsessed with things like sports, activities, education, nutrition, etc. and relatively unconcerned about their children's spiritual formation?
- Why are our teenagers leaving for college after years of attending church and trying to figure out who they are and what they believe?
I believe the answer is multi-faceted but I also believe there is a key ingredient we've neglected.
Faith is not made genuine until it is tested. (1 Pet 1:7, James 1:2-4) Think about that. Our faith doesn't take root; it doesn't become real; it doesn't become who we are until it is tested - until it is exercised - until it is put into practice - until faith and action collide (as James would say).
Just imagine you're a professional baseball player who spends every day of your life training but never actually playing in a game. You spend countless hours in the batting cages, taking grounders, and in the weight room but never get to swing the bat when it really matters. You would probably quit. I know I would. You aren't going to practice every day if you never get to actually play. Our kids are being trained, but for what?
To live on mission for Jesus. To make disciples. To reach people. To love and serve others. To actually LIVE BY FAITH. Are we presenting them with a faith that makes it necessary to trust God? Are we living out this type of faith in front of them?
We want to give our kids all the experiences. We want to create environments where they are safe and secure. We want them exposed to great people and all the incredible educational opportunities. None of these things are bad. In fact, I believe all of them are necessary to some degree. But what about creating space for our kids to struggle, to be tested, to exercise their faith and ultimately learn to trust God?
If we do not lead our children to live on mission for Jesus; if we do not create a better story of adventure, risk, and intrigue then our children will go find a better one. You might be saying to yourself, “Well, there isn’t a better story than Christ?” Then we better present the greatest story ever told in a way it deserves. If all we offer our kids is a Sunday faith, a few programs, some fun events, and a passionless, adventureless life - THEY WILL CHOOSE A MORE COMPELLING STORY.
ADDITIONAL READING: A Story of a Father & his Daughter - Choosing a better story
Donald Miller tells a story about a Father who is struggling with his teenage daughter. She started dating a young man who was doing the wrong things with all the wrong people. The Father asked Donald Miller what he thought he should do. Donald asked the Father, "Have you ever considered that she's simply choosing a better 'story' than the one you're giving her at home?"
Miller continued - everyone wants to be part of a story that is interesting and compelling. They want their life to resolve a conflict. This got the Dad to think. Over the next few months, he did some research and found a way to make his family’s story gripping. Over dinner, this father shared about an orphanage in Mexico that desperately needed help. They needed a building, some supplies and some workers from the U.S. to accomplish their goals. Dad said that he planned to get involved. In a matter of weeks, his kids were intrigued. His son suggested they visit this orphanage in Mexico, and later, his daughter figured out a way to raise money for it online, using social media. Over the next year, this family’s story was full of conflict and resolution. In fact, it was downright exciting.
Eventually, the teenage daughter approached her father and told him she’d broken up with her boyfriend. She couldn’t believe she was even attracted to him in the first place. Needless to say, dad was elated. Hmmm. I think I know why she didn’t need the guy anymore. I think she found a better story at home.
- Take your kids with you on opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and love/serve people. (feed the homeless, go on a missions trip, take advantage of outreach opportunities)
- Get your kids and family connected to a cause that is bigger than themselves. Bigger than the everyday problems that consume our lives.
- Don't just jump in and rescue your kid from every scenario. Let them experience the necessity of trusting God with their lives.
- Surround your kids in discipleship environments where they are imitating others who are living on mission for Jesus. (friends, mentors, spiritual leaders, teachers - people they can follow)
- Parents - more than anything - you lead the way. Let them watch you live on mission to love others and make disciples. Fill your home and dinner table with people you are discipling.
- What ideas do you have?