When my daughter was in the eighth grade, I taught her girls’ club at my church. Through a year of Bible lessons and craft projects, lemonade and prayer times, we got involved in each other’s lives. Those girls became my spiritual children. We encouraged and challenged each other. We talked through faith lessons, and prayed over life’s struggles. I invested in them, and they in me. I became, in part, a spiritual parent.
As those adolescents approached adulthood, my goal was to encourage them to claim as their identity as God’s children as their first identity in life. I wanted them to know how much their God loves them and desires to be in a relationship with them. I wanted them to submit to his leading in their lives. I wanted them to know how their Father desires them to live as young women, called by God. My hope for them needed to find expression.
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts (Psalm 145:4).
And who doesn't want their children to grow into a vibrant faith? Yet my hopes for them to meet Jesus can’t end with just my wishes. It takes action. It must translate into words and time spent. I need to talk with these girls about their life choices and help them wrestle with the hard questions of faith. I must make myself available to them to create an opportunity to share the concerns of their hearts. Helping them see themselves as part of Christ's Body means Christ's Body has to choose to pay attention to them.
I met weekly with one of those girls as we explored the idea of taking the step of publicly professing her faith, walking through a booklet and talking about the basics of faith. Over ice-cream, we discussed what it means to commit to following Jesus in all aspects of life. It is a small thing to hang out drinking milk shakes and talking about the ups and downs of the Christian life, but it is so vitally important. That investment by someone other than her parents shows that the church cares. It gives the kids a mentor to talk with and normalizes questions of faith as part of life. It is both a small part of what the church does to raise up the next generation and a personal response to God’s call to me to share what he has done in my life.
In Deuteronomy 6, we are told to keep God’s commandments on our hearts and to impress them upon our children. We are to talk about them through all of the normal activities of the day. Whether we are beginning our day, ending our day, traveling the roads, or relaxing at home, we need to share our love for God with those that God has placed in our life. This command was central to life in God's presence and it should be central to our lives as well. We should regularly share about how God is at work in our daily walk.
We all have people in our lives that could benefit from some Christian mentoring. We have friends in our neighborhoods and communities that are still young in the faith or maybe are still wrestling with their sorting out what adult priorities should look like. Are we taking the time to get to know them and coming alongside them as they explore spiritual issues? How can you encourage them to spend time getting to know their savior better? We do this as parents, but we also do this for other people’s kids. It’s part of being in the community of faith. Imagine how we could transform the world if we all stepped up to our spiritual parenting role!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra