The Heart of the Matter
I read chapter 2 with a heavy heart. As a lifelong youth worker I had a hard time fully concentrating on what the words had to do with my family. Instead, my imagination ran wild with examples of students, core students, who walked away from their faith. Great students from great families whose seemingly solid faith evaporated in college.
Like you, I know families who have zero of their children walking with Jesus. (Or one out of four; two out of five, etc.) I’ve drank that bitter coffee with those tearful parents. I’ve heard their lamentations. I’ve even seen some of them start to doubt Jesus because “he wasn’t there for their kids.” Those are tough meetings and we’ve all had them. We wish we had answers but all we can offer is compassion and shared frustration.
If you are like me those meetings end and you get in your car and cry. Sure, those are tears for those students. But they are also tears of resolve. “Not my kids. What do I have to do? How can I do things differently? I can’t afford to go 0-3 in my own home.”
That’s the heart of the matter. Am I wiling to change the trajectory of my parenting for the sake of their faith? Am I willing to forego my “non-negotiables” for the sake of my children wrestling with their faith in my home? (As opposed to pushing that until college.)
Inarticulate, sin managing, parent pleasers
Kara and Chap were too nice to put it this way but that’s essentially what their research reveals. Their research showed that Christian students can’t articulate in their own words or testify from their own lives what walking with Jesus means. And since we’ve elevated the role of rules to a place higher than faith, our children know how to act like a Christian without knowing what it means to truly have faith in Christ.
We assume that if our child walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and acts like a duck they must be a duck. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works with trusting Christ.
Trusting God is a discipline necessary for sticky faith development. Reading this chapter has helped me realize that I need to be a stronger communicator. In not wanting to over-share certain decisions or events in our lives, I’ve missed opportunities to articulate how decisions are made based on my trust in Christ. As our children grow older, I see the value of creating discussions and activities to help develop their framework of trust.
I specifically recall a conversation last year when I asked Paul if he had ever made a decision to trust Christ. His response – “every week!” Digging deeper, what he meant was that every week in Sunday school his teacher made the class pray with along with her to “accept Jesus”. Defining what it means to trust Christ is a challenge after sorting through all the do’s and don’ts thrown their way, even (and perhaps especially) at church.
- Sometimes it helps to start with a goal and work backwards. Have you ever stated goals for your children’s faith development? What is the goal of toddler faith? Of elementary-aged faith? Of middle school faith? Of high school faith? Or college faith?
- As ministers our kids feel extra pressure to perform as “professional Christian kids.” What are ways you’ve seen your children practice “sin management?”
- The book stated that “obedience is a response to trust.” Why is it better to begin with trust and then respond through obedience? Is it ever good to go the other direction: obey first and hope that trust follows? Have you ever experienced either of these in your faith journey? If so, what was it like, and what happened?
- How do you see your child’s faith in light of this chapter? Where do you see them growing in what it means to trust Christ, and where do you see them living out the do’s and don’ts of Christianity?