I heard a pastor quote an alarming fact that if you are a normal, North American Christian family, at least half of your children will walk away from God.* Maybe temporarily, likely permanently.
We’re not talking the family that only prays on Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is about regular church-going Christian families.
Which one, or two, of my boys will it be?
Which of your children will it be?
Let’s do something together – let’s say the names of our children out loud, right now. Full names.
Which of those precious souls is going to reject God, in all his holiness and grace? Which of those children is going to choose death over life, darkness over light, lies over truth?
I don’t know about you, but that thought make my heart miserable, and my soul rises up in a plea for mercy.
You and me, are we going to stand for this? This abandonment of light, truth, and grace?
As parents and grandparents, may we stand up and shout with our Saviour, “NO MORE! We will not lose even one of those he has given me!”
But what is the answer to this perplexing trend?
Is it more church?
In my 20+ years working in a church with children, I have rarely seen a child that is “churched” into the faith. Yes, as a Children’s pastor I obviously believe in the importance of communal worship being part of our child’s faith-traditions, but we cannot out-source spiritual teaching like we out-source piano lessons.
Change begins in the heart, and the heart is formed at home.
That is why I am an advocate, both here and in my church, of the cultivation of authentic faith in the home.
But what is authentic faith?
When I think back to my own childhood, some of the most powerful faith-experiences for me were hearing my dad pray for us at night, and seeing my mom on her knees in front of her open Bible in her bedroom. My parents let me see their faith, and I didn’t realize until recently how formative that was for me. Do your kids see your faith, or do you just teach them about their own faith?
1) Authentic means letting our children see our own faith.
It’s great to have quiet time alone with the Lord, but do our kids ever see us read the Bible when they’re around?
I admit this with much embarrassment, but I used to get quite angry at my kids when they’d come upstairs and try to engage me during my quiet time. As an introvert, I need that time alone, in quietness, and it frustrated me to no end when they interrupted me. Then I realized what a great Christian-satire cartoon that would make: imagine the mother at the table reading about love in a great big Bible, while yelling at her kid to leave her alone!
Did I mention that this was embarrassing? But I’m happy to report that God has brought me to the point where, not only am I (usually) able to extend grace when I am interrupted, but I’ve actually invited my boys to join me on a few occasions.
2) Authentic means letting our children see our struggles.
Do they know (in age-appropriate ways) that we also struggle to follow God? Do we apologize when we’ve wronged them, and remind both them and us of God’s forgiveness? When we pray do we actually talk to God, or do we use our prayers as indirect lessons? Do we report answers to prayer, no matter how they turn out?
Instead of focusing all our spiritual training at their hearts, authentic faith in the home means allowing God to work in our own hearts and inviting our children to join us in the midst: to study the Bible with, pray with, serve with, share God-moments with, and learn grace together.
Authentic faith isn’t perfect faith.
Only one man has that angle covered. <– Jesus, just in case you were wondering.
But I believe that God has called me to live out my faith in a way that is honest and open. My deepest prayer is that through my obedience, my boys will catch the vision for a life lived with God, and desire it for their own lives.
I know that there are no guarantees. I can’t make my kids choose God.
There are no guarantees because in the end, it’s about their own relationship with God.
But I must do my part.
*It was Tim Kimmel that stated this jarring fact in his DVD Bible study, “Raising Kids with a Faith that Lasts”. I have been unable to source out the exact statistic, but everywhere you look there is evidence of young adults leaving the church and their faith. Have a conversation with any middle-aged Christian parent and they will likely have a story to share.