Young people are looking to live for something worth dying for. When we walk out our Christianity, we model a way of life to which they can aspire.
However, familiarity can breed contempt. What seems familiar to them may not seem exciting or worth their full attention.
How do we keep them on the course when they are restless for adventure?
Can we help them to see the Christian faith for the risky, radical, and revolutionary adventure that it is?
Many times a teenager or college student will engage in risky or even dangerous behavior. This is partly designed by God who counts on the fearlessness of youth to get certain things done. But we can raise the adrenaline in safe ways. Your family could go on an adventurous trip. Think of ropes courses and zip lines and all sorts of daring activities. An even more productive way to allow your young person to experience some risk is to allow them to go on a mission trip. When my son was only 12 years old, he went on a intergenerational missions trip to Mexico...without me or anyone else in the family. I cannot tell you how much prayer this took on my part! However, I can see in retrospect how much that trip shaped who he has become. His gifts were revealed in big and mighty ways and even his occupation was discovered on that trip. If you think about it, risk is involved in every major Bible story. Faith requires risk of some kind, and we want to equip our kids to walk in faith.
Like it or not, Jesus was a radical. He said and did things that were beyond what is traditional or ordinary. He told His followers to pick up a cross (an instrument of torture!) and follow Him. He criticized the religious. He defended the harlot. Historically, young adults look for something to be radical about. During the 70's it was racism and the Vietnam war. In the 80's, the youth rallied to make a difference with world hunger and UNICEF. The curent generation is no less seeking to find significance.
I remember when my husband and I were small group leaders and would often invite strangers into our home. We would show ourselves to be friendly to everyone. Sometimes, if we would forget to invite someone to our home group or to a church service, our children would remind us. They knew that we believed what we said we believed because they watched us walk it out in front of them. When we water down Christianity to our young people, we make the message seem not real or worth defending. Live like you believe what you say that you do, and your children will be more likely to have a lively relationship with God.
There are a couple of excellent tools to introducing your family to radical Christian heroes. Depending on the age of your children, you can either purchase books from trailbazerbooks.com about a plethora of Christian heroes and the risky, radical, and revolutionary things they have done. For young adults, there's always the classic "Jesus Freaks" made famous by DC Talk featuring short stories on the sacrifices many have made in order to share their faith. There are also wonderful organizations like Voice of Martyrs that can keep your family updated on current time martyrs so that at you can discuss and pray for brothers and sisters who are currently experiencing persecution.
Christianity is a revolution against guilt, shame and sin. It is the only major religion whose God is alive and not dead! Jesus started a revolution against racism, sexism, and empty religion. Celebrities in the limelight have made it trendy to be part of a cause, but there is no greater cause than that of Christ! As your family searches for ways to serve others, make sure that you do it all in the Name of Christ and to bring glory and honor to His kingdom. Give a cup of water in the Name of The Lord. What does this mean? Sometimes, it means nothing more than handing a cup of clean water and making eye contact with a lost soul, but other times it means sharing your testimony of His love and grace.
Ultimately, we must remember that we are His ambassadors, carrying His cause. The Christian faith is a risky, radical, and revolutionary adventure that requires our full investment. If we are sensitive to His leading, we can affect our world for change. Ones of the most effective ways to affect change is to work at it together. Be the change now as a family. Give your kids something to live for that is worth dying for. Make the gospel of Jesus a reality by living like you really believe it!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra