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Don’t Forget to Talk About It

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“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.

That’s it.

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.

 

To Subscribe to the posts – see the sidebar or bottom of this page!
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

Hope, Not Fear.

“Every decision we make today will be driven by fear or love.  Who we toss the keys to determines a lot about the destination.”  –Bob Goff

Several years ago a good friend of mine gave a talk on parenting out of hope, as opposed to parenting out of fear and it has stuck with me.  I didn’t have kids then, but I knew I needed to remember this message.  At the time, parenting out of fear was easy to dismiss, however I knew enough about parenting to realize fear can be a constant companion.  Now that I’m a parent, I know that a lot of time is spent worrying about the big and meaningful and small and trivial.  It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about our kids.  It’s easy to begin to parent and make decisions based on that worry or fear.

Think about it.  What emotions do you experience when you anticipate any major milestone in your child’s life?  First steps.  First day of school.  First taste of failure or rejection.  Dating relationships.  Driving.  College.

You get the idea.  There can be a lot of worry, anxiety, and fear in these situations.  Do these emotions drive your response?  Do you quickly rush in to build fences of protection?  Are your actions motivated by fear above all else?

Helicopters and Lawnmowers

In our culture today, there’s a reason many parents are described as “helicopter parents” who monitor and watch over their child’s every move (“How helicopter parents are ruining college students”).  Or, even worse, “lawnmower parents” who mow over any obstacle in their kids path (“Don’t Be a Helicopter Or Lawnmower Parent”).

But, what if we didn’t let fear rule the day?  What if we decided to adopt a posture of hope for our kids?  Instead of spending anxious energy worrying about possibilities that may exist “out there”, what if we began to pray our hopes and our dreams for our kids in these situations?

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to go on a trip with a small group of people.  It was incredible opportunity to spend a week with my youth pastor, the director of a large Christian summer camp, and other men and women who would have a huge impact on my life.  It was a chance to do something significant that would change my worldview.  It was a chance to have a formative experience in the this great big world we live in.

The problem for my parents was that it was in Haiti, a third-world country where my safety could not be guaranteed.  A country where our car might be surrounded by a large crowd at the airport (which it was) or where I would find my self in the presence of automatic weapons often (which I did) or where we would be taking a picture of the beautiful countryside and then get rushed into the bus because we were no longer safe there and needed to leave quickly (which happened).

My parents had a lot to be afraid of and plenty of fear and worry, but they allowed me to go.  They chose to adopt a posture of hope.  They chose to hope that this trip would expand my heart for God.  They hoped it would be a trip where I rubbed shoulders with adult men and women who were following Jesus with all they had.  They hoped I would see poverty up close and understand more about God’s heart for the orphan and the oppressed.  They hoped I would go on a great adventure and it would plant a seed to continue to follow God into the tough places and be a light to those in need.

It was their hope, not their fear, that came true and that trip remains a significant part of who I am and my faith journey.  If fear ruled the day, my parents would have been seen as reasonable and responsible parents.  No one would have faulted them.  But I wouldn’t have experienced the growth and transformation that trip allowed.  This trip shaped my high school years and ultimately my future.  I’m thankful for their courage.

Echoing Jesus’ Prayer

Recently, I came across Jesus prayer in John 17 and decided to adopt it for my own kids.  As Jesus’ time on earth is coming to an end, he prays for those he will be leaving behind.  Jesus knows what is out there and what they will be up against.  He knows the dangers of the world and desires to protect those he loves.  Knowing this he prays:

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name…my prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”  John 17: 11, 15

For my kids, my prayer is that they will engage the world and be a light of God’s love to those they meet.  In order to grow into the strong, courageous person that requires, I have to let go of control.  I have to take risks.  I have to allow them to fail.  I need to give them space to grow and explore.  Is that going to be easy?  It’s not proving to be.  But when I step back and imagine the end (my little girls as adults living in the world), I know the answer lies in hope not in fear.  God, give us the courage to trust you, cultivate hope and smother fear.

What does it look like for you to echo Jesus prayer for you kids?  What protections do you need to trust God for?  What ways do you need to allow them to stay in the world and engage?  In what ways are you doing God’s job of protecting and need to take a step back?

There will be a part two to this post coming soon with some practical thoughts on this can play out, but until then:

Who are you giving the keys to –  fear or hope?

 

Feel free to share in the comments below!

 

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