For Kristen and I, the journey towards Sticky Faith for our own kids began in 2008. The first seven years of parenting went by in a blur of Sunday school lessons, small groups, Wednesday night youth group, and retreats. From 2000 – 2008 seemingly all of our energy went towards our ministry. We went into ministry as a couple to serve the church together. But as time went on in reality it became that I was in full-time ministry while Kristen was a full-time parent. Our marriage was functional but periodically miserable because life wasn’t panning out the way we’d hoped. Surely, a life in full-time ministry and having a family wasn’t supposed to be like this?
We were losing them. Their child-like faith was evaporating before our eyes. We could observe it. But then Megan (then 7 years old) actually said it.
“Daddy, the reason I hate church is because that’s where you love other kids but ignore us.“
That was a double dagger. First, she said she hated church. Second, she hated church because of our vocation. Before she said that we knew things needed to change. But those words took the conversation from “We know we need to make adjustments” to “Holy crap, we have to change things NOW!”
A commitment to change
As I read the first chapter of Sticky Faith my heart soared with the reality that it’s not too late. Maybe we lost some of the early battles but we haven’t lost the war… yet. In that regard statistics matter and don’t matter. I have three kids. It’s impossible for me to look at the 50% rate of Sticky Faith and pick 1.5 of them to make it. I can’t hold Jackson in my arms or send Paul and Megan to school hoping that one or two of them stick with Jesus into adulthood.
In 1 Samuel 1:27-28, Hannah delivers her son Samuel to Eli the priest saying, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” It’s hard to imagine physically giving back a child I desperately prayed for. In reality, I know that my children already belong to the Lord. Faith development is the “giving them over to the Lord” part of my parental responsibilities. It requires action and intentionality. Gut check time. Am I intentional in building faith in my kids? Truthfully I fail (often).
Adam and I have three children – Megan (10), Paul (8) and Jackson “JT” (7 months). In case you missed it, we are far from being model parents. The statement made on page 24 gives me hope, “Hear this good news: because faith development is a lifelong process for all of us, it is never too late to be more intentional in your parenting and the faith you model and discuss with your kids.” Adam and I are still learning and developing as parents. With JT’s arrival and with Megan inching her way toward middle school, we have a new determination to make faith development a priority.
The book asks, “What do you wish you had done differently?” For me, I wish I were more intentional about developing the discipline of prayer. (Confession time, my prayer life is active but mostly private.) What about you?
Questions for parents in ministry
- There’s a reason you joined this book club, right? What problems are you hoping to address by reading this book and processing it’s learnings with fellow ministers?
- How would you define Sticky Faith for your kids?
- As a minister, how does it make you feel to think that you are the most important influence on your child’s faith?
- As you think about how you have parented thus far, what are ways that your ministry is getting in the way of your parenting?