Many of the big questions in this season relate to the actions of God. “Where is God?” “What is God doing?” “How can God let this happen?” “What will this mean for God’s churches/camps/ministries?”
To add to all of that, I want to suggest that we also ask “What does this mean for God’s families?” For a long time now, we have professionalized faith formation. For several decades, our churches have said (largely unintentionally) that the best way to pass faith on to the next generation is to hire professionals. Then, when our students no longer come to church, we have someone to blame.
What if one the biggest opportunities we face is to push back against this model and remind ourselves that God’s intentions have always been for faith to be passed on within the family, which is supported by a community of faith?
Consider Deuteronomy 6 where Moses tells the people to “repeat (the commandments) to your children,” or Psalm 78 where Asaph leads the congregation to sing about how they “will tell the coming generation all about the praise that is due to the Eternal One.” Remember how parents brought their children to Jesus in Mark 10?
What does this mean for parents?
It means that the responsibility for leading our children to Jesus falls back to us. Many of the support systems we’ve enjoyed (children’s worship, children’s midweek programs, vacation Bible school) have been taken away. For many of our churches who have reopened their doors (or provided online messages), supporting the faith formation of children has not been the primary, or secondary, emphasis. And many of us feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to take on this responsibility.
And yet, we have to do this. Actually, we get to do this. It is a privilege to lead our children to Jesus. It is our responsibility, but it should also bring us joy. I love the questions my kids ask me. I love reading Bible stories to them. I love imagining with them more about individuals who are barely mentioned (like Huldah in 2 Kings 22. Who was this prophet, the wife of Shallum? I want to know more about her!).
Keep these thoughts in mind* …
As you parent your children to Jesus, remember that:
We will get what we are. As parents, we will always be the primary influence in our children’s faith. Assessing the vibrancy of our children’s faith begins with assessing our own journey with Jesus. How are you growing in Christlikeness? How are you being reminded of your identity as a child of God? How are you doing at loving your neighbours?
We will get what our kids think we are. Even more important than what we actually believe, research suggests that our kids’ perceptions of what we believe is of most value. If we hold to convictions, but don’t talk about them with our children, how do they know what we think? As we’ve begun navigating difficult conversations, I’ve started taking my oldest daughter out to breakfast. Some conversations go much better without a three-year-old brother in the room (or the nine-year-old for that matter!). These breakfast dates give her a chance to ask me questions, so she can hear my beliefs and thoughts.
There are lots of ways to model sticky faith to your kids. The ways that I connect with God are different than other parents, or even my wife. Each parent (or grandparent) is going to find different ways to stay connected to Jesus. But the important piece is holding to your routine, and helping your children see that your connection with Jesus is an important part of your schedule.
An intentional priority for our Youth & Family Team over the next few months is equipping parents to lead their children in faith at home. This is the season God has led us into, and I’m grateful for God’s presence in the midst of this. Eleven years in, and I still have a long way to go as a parent (middle school terrifies me and we’re just about to enter our ten year journey into that parenting stage!). I certainly don’t have everything figured out, but I’m so thankful that as much as I love my children, God loves them even more.
Remember that as a parent you are not alone in this. Our churches have so many people who want to see you flourish as a parent. There are so many fantastic resources available and our team looks forward to helping you discover great ways to grow in your faith.
For this week
I find it helpful to think of one thing I can do at a time. So this week, I encourage you to think about your own relationship with Jesus. If it’s not already your practice, can you find a couple of times this week to grab your Bible, journal, and pray? Find ways to mention this practice to your kids and begin to work on your own consistency.
* These points come from The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family (Zondervan, 2014) by Dr. Kara Powell. It’s a great resource with suggestions about how to build moments of faith at home.