We take our families to church, we pray before meals and bedtime. We may even find time for devotions together. As Christian parents, seeking to raise Christian children, we make choices that we believe will help our kids to grow into a strong faith in Jesus Christ. But is it working? Recently, much has been written about the exodus of teens and young adults from evangelical churches. As Christian parents seeking to do right by the families we love, what are we to do about this troubling trend? How can we raise our children to embrace and live into a faith that is not only saving but offers direction for their lives on earth as well?
In Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna, the answer to this question begins with a deeper understanding of what we are seeking to teach our children. If we do not understand the goal at hand, how will we know if we are on the right path? Barna begins by coining the phrase “spiritual champion.” He says a spiritual champion is “an irrepressible follower of Jesus Christ who accepts the Bible as truth, lives by its principles, and seeks ways to impact the world that continually deepen his or her relationship with God.” The faith that is found in this definition is living and vibrant. The faith that Barna is encouraging parents to nurture in their children is one that stands strong against temptation and has a foundation that cannot be shaken. This faith is lived out in both belief and in vocation, and both of these deepen the connection we have to our God. Children raised to understand their faith in these terms are not floating in unclear practices. Instead, they are firmly rooted in Biblical truth, truth that has remained through generation upon generation and has guided the lives of many before us.
A common thread appears to be their disillusionment with the hypocritical and judgmental approach found among Christians. Our youth are wondering where our faith impacts our choices and actions in the day-to-day. Do we live what we preach? Does the Jesus in us show? Are our lives impacted by the tenets of our faith? As congregations seek to become more accessible, entertaining, fun, and mainstream, young adults are wondering what sets us apart. Churches feel like movie theaters, and worship like a concert. Its members seem like everyone else. And when the church looks increasingly similar to the world it is here to serve, they realize that there is no reason to stay.
Revolutionary Parenting offers us thoughtful direction as we seek to evaluate the efficacy of the faith-training we are living out at home. But coming to a deeper understanding of our goal is imperative. It is not enough to attend church and pray before meals. These practices are important. But, if our faith is found only in these, we are missing the mark and misleading our kids. The way our belief systems impact our lives must begin with a relationship with the Creator Himself. And this relationship, when nurtured, will direct our choices, our thoughts, our life-styles, and our parenting. The private faith in our hearts will be lived out loud in our lives, modeling faith for all to see. Children absorb the lived-out faith of their parents, so behaving like a spiritual champion is probably the best way to nurture one at home!
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster