“A crucial link exists between your ability to parent and your personal growth” –Reggie Joiner
“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting ” –Brene Brown
Maybe you relate to this story I read recently about a dad who was proud of his diligence in growing spiritually:
During the process of reading each day, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my kids. One evening I casually mentioned I had been studying the Bible. Both my kids burst into laughter. That was not the reaction I was expecting. I asked them why they were laughing and they said:
“You don’t study the Bible! Mom studies the Bible.”
If you’d like to ship my “Christian dad of the year trophy” to me, there’s a mailing address on my site.
YOU GET WHAT YOU ARE
Christian Smith, who conducted extensive research around the faith of young people, said at parenting panel – “When it comes to our kid’s faith, parents get what they are.”
Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but the basic idea is this: How you practice/share/display your faith as a parent matters. You are the most important influence in their life and in regards to their faith.
As a youth pastor, I’m convinced one of the greatest needs a student has in regards to faith is to see adults with living, active faith. Think about it this way – if they don’t see it, they can infer that faith doesn’t matter when it comes to adult life (making a living, engaging the world, raising a family, enjoying life). Here’s a scary question – “Hey kids, based on the way I live and what I talk about, what do you think the most important things in life are.” (I’m guessing mine would say something about food or college football)
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
How do you understand your role in your child’s spiritual formation?
How do you understand the church’s role in your child’s spiritual formation?
How do you talk about your faith with your children?
Kara Powell, another one who has done some great research on the faith of young people, shared how her research – and namely realizing the role parents play in the spiritual formation of their kids – changed the way she talked about her faith with her kids.
Before the research, she would leverage church to try and have a conversation with her kids in the car on the way home from service or an activity. “What did you learn today?” or “How was youth group?”, which depending on their mood or a hundred other variables, only went so far. She realized she never shared her own faith in a personal way, but was constantly trying to pry it out of her kids.
When it came down to it, she was just interviewing her kids and never opening up herself.
After the research, she knew she need to talk on a personal level. If a kid interrupted her reading her Bible, instead of just thinking “how great is it they see me doing this” she would instead invite them over saying, “hey check out what I’m reading in John right now” or “can I show you this page in my prayer journal where I’m praying for you.” She knew she had to start verbally sharing her faith and not just hoping they put it all together.
She also decided to change the nature of the dinner conversation. She added questions like “What mistakes have you made recently?” to allow her and her husband to share their failings and invite the kids to do the same. She also added, “How did you see God working today?” to create some space for a faith conversation around dinner.
Was it always magical? – nope!
Were their God sightings theologically correct or even spiritually significant- not always!
But they were talking about it.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A BETTER CHRISTIAN
Here’s what you need to understand. You don’t have to share the perfect faith with them. You don’t have to have it all together or have the answers. You don’t have to be more like that really great Christian parent you know or try to share the “better” faith you think they have.
You just have to share the faith you have.
It’s not about what you know. It’s about giving kids a front row seat to God’s activity in someone’s life. You can be a total mess, but if you are willing to engage, then your kids will see that engagement and not the mess. If you are willing to experience God’s grace and share the spirituality you have, then your kids will have a front row seat to how God’s grace moves in someone’s life.
Your experience of faith matters in the faith of your child. How will they know that experience if you don’t honestly share it with them?!
As you go about the rest of your week — Don’t forget to talk about it.
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To read more about making your faith personal, check out this post – Make It Personal
To read more about how you already have what it takes as a parent – I Have Nothing To Wear