Christian Parenting: Fans or Followers?

They go to church, pray before meals, and know the books of the Bible in order.  Our kids usually choose behaviors carefully and know to respond to others with kindness and compassion.  As Christian parents, we have worked hard to raise our children in such a way that their lives reflect our faith. 

So, we’re good.  Right?

As we poured over Kyle Idleman’s book, Not a Fan, we were challenged to think about our lives in a brand-new way.  While all the qualities listed above are important, they are not nearly enough.  If we settle where we are, we are raising children who know about God but may not know Him. If we leave the teaching in a place of habits, we are raising children who may be fans of Jesus but not followers. And there is a distinction. 

Fans are people who are excited and knowledgeable about something or someone.   Sports fans or celebrity experts can quickly spout stats and history. They wear the team clothing, set the DVR to record the show, buy tickets to games and concerts. They take in the experience and share in the enthusiasm and are willing to bring others along for the ride. 

But they do not know that athlete. They have not met that celebrity. And the extent of their familiarity with these individuals is limited to what they see or read. Because they are fans. I do not want to raise fans of Jesus. 

I do not want my children to know about God but not really know him. I do not want my children to solely observe church, read scripture, and share their knowledge. I want more for them. And I want more for me. 

I want to raise my children to be followers of Christ. And while being knowledgeable is helpful and important, it is not where their story should end. They must learn to follow. So how can I help my children to follow?

Teach them to pray.

As their momma, I need to show them that to really know God, we not only pray to him, but we must learn to listen for His voice. Prayer muscles grow with exercise and God longs to draw his children close in conversation. Invite your children to share their hearts and listen for God's voice.

Introduce them to God.

God reveals himself in his creation and in his scriptures. As I help children to discover God by spending time delighting in his world and his word, they learn about their Heavenly Father. We can make time each day for discovering something new about God. Learning from God is a lifelong habit that we can begin to cultivate from a very young age.

Live as an example.

Paul tells the Corinthian church to "be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." I must live my life as an example that so that my kids can see that being good is not enough. It is not nearly enough. Our whole life is an offering to God so we are called to display his love each day. We must live our lives in such a way that we sacrificially offer up what little (or much!) we have, that we get up off the couch and find a way to do what needs to be done on earth.  For Heaven’s sake, we must ask, again and again, what Jesus would have us do and then find some way to do that thing. 

Serve God's world.

Because all around us, His Kingdom is being built. And since God created us and gifted us, He knows where we are needed. He knows what we will have to give up. He does not excuse us from the task at hand because it is too hard or because it costs us our dignity or because it impacts our material wealth. He does not focus on these things because in light of eternity, they do not matter at all. 

Instead, God gives us tasks to do. He gives us directions to follow. And while we are saved by faith, there is still a place for doing what needs to be done. I want my kids to know all of this and more.

Our family is not called to be fans. We are followers of the One True King.

About the author — Nadia Swearingen-Friesen

Nadia Swearingen-Friesen is a writer and national speaker with a passion for empowering parents to approach their families with great intentionality and grace.  Nadia and her husband, Mark, are the parents of four children and live in the Chicago area. Nadia also blogs at

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