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Sticky Faith Book Club, Chapter 2

This is part 2 in an 8 part series on Sticky FaithJoin our book club by signing up here. (part 1)

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.

Kristen’s thoughts

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.

Discussion Questions

  1. 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?
  2. As ministers our kids feel extra pressure to perform as “professional Christian kids.” What are ways you’ve seen your children practice “sin management?”
  3. 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?
  4. 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?

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10 Responses to Sticky Faith Book Club, Chapter 2

  1. Leena Prindle October 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    I typed my answers through #3 and then somehow my browser closed. Hope to try again soon. ;)

  2. Shawn and Amy October 17, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    1. No, we haven’t specifically set faith goals for our kids. We have viewed it though in terms of faith development, or trust development. So what does it mean for our 16 month old to have trust? We think, by expressing love for him, praying out loud over him. We shape his view of God. For our 4 year old girl it’s all about a foundation of who God is and why he can be trusted… And again prayer over her. And for our 8 year old, growing the foundation of his understanding of God and engaging him in opportunities to trust God with us. We try to keep it simple.
    2. We don’t think we see it in our 2 younger kids yet, but we do in our older. If we’re honest though we think it is more a reflection on us wanting him not to embarrass us or to be “better than” most other kids. The blessing for us in being in a larger church is they don’t get the pk stigma as easily.
    3. (Amy) because it sets your purpose which allows you to come at the issue requiring obedience with the right attitude. Yes, we think sometimes you have to come at it from the other way. Sometimes our trust is low and our obedience can serve to build trust by giving God another opportunity to prove himself to us. Did the Hebrew people want to cross the red sea? Sometimes everything in us say’s no, but God calls us forward anyway. We’ve experienced it many times and every time God takes our level of faith and trust and grows it through our obedience. It may not be exactly how we pictured it but he has always proved faithful.
    4. We need to take more advantage of the organic conversations, by intentionally weaving our faith into all aspects of life. We just say we need more “God talk” in the house, but in a way that expresses our own sticky faith rather than one we get paid to live out. This is the hard part for me (Shawn), having my kids hear me and see me have faith that isn’t explicitly tied to my role at church. I need to do better with this. We love to hear our kids pray. At this point in their development this is where we see their faith expression best, especially when they pray in ways that only a kid would understand. The honest expression is awesome!
    4.

  3. Patrick DeVane October 18, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    My wife and I are just getting into the discussion of how we want to intentionally introduce faith to our children (2 years old and 1 month old). 

    We’ve never given specific discussion to what faith looks like, because we don’t often discuss faith ourselves.  Both of us are ministers and grew up in very religious households.  It’s almost like we were so over-saturated with faith talk we were trying to detox.  We laugh about the “J Quotient” where you have to mention Jesus at least every other sentence so that others know you are faithful.  We’ve seen so much of that, it’s been hard to recover a healthy, active dialogue of faith without it sounding like a sham.  This book is a great springboard for my wife and I to discuss this problem and start addressing it now.

    I grew up in an “obedience then trust” family and I’m still dealing with the issues (and results) from trying to work my way into trust.  The authors nailed it by saying that in this type of faith, the performance in more important than the lifestyle.  My performance was great even though my faith was weak.  This is where my heart cries out for my children’s experience to be different. 

    A larger problem, though, is that in many churches I’ve served (including where I’m serving now) the standard procedure is obedience then trust.  Trying to model a different way in my home will also require modeling a different way in my ministry.  Thinking about my faith and  what I want for my children though, motivates me to do whatever it takes to make their experience more holistic and healthy than my own. 

    That didn’t really answer the questions you asked, but since it’s not about simply following the rules, I figured it would be ok.  :)

  4. Beth Hill October 18, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    I never had any faith goals for my kids, other than the rituals of first communion and confirmation that were set forth.  I have some goals to see fruits, but I’ve not written them out or anything.

    I have never bought into putting pressure on my kids to act a particular way just because I’m in ministry.  If they wanted to worship at another church, fine.  If they didn’t wear what some people would deem appropriate too bad.  My kids make no apologies for who they are.  I like that.  

    It’s hard to obey if you don’t trust.  It’s not impossible, just hard.  I trust God and I’ve stepped out in total trust.  I started working at this church I’m at now when I had no place to live and had to travel 2 1/2 hours to get here.  Someone from church offered to let me stay with her when I was here.  I’d travel down here on Sunday morning, work a lot of hours and then leave Tues. night and work some from home till I came back the next week.  I did that for 2 months before I found a place my whole family could move.  That was stepping out in obedience to God’s leading because I trusted that God had it under control. 

    My oldest daughter trusts God and steps out in trust all the time.  My middle daughter has had some moments of great trust.  My youngest daughter is learning to trust all the time.  My son is testing his faith to see what it means.  

  5. Danny Bowers October 18, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    1- Fun & Tough question.  We’ve tried each summer to set a family goal for the year where we’ve said what traits, qualities do we want to help our kids focus on this school year.  A major part of that conversation has to be prayer asking God for wisdom & then intentionally taking time to talk with our young’s sons about their life, what we see & what God has to say about young men growing up…sounds great on a hammock in Yosemite when we plan it.  When “life hits” it’s a fight to keep those goals at the forefront & NOT fall into a casualty of it….

    2- Which if & when we fall into the casualty weeks/months of it we see in our language more “sin management” in how we communicate to them on how they “NEED TO ACT” as opposed to what is behind they actions, attitude & choices.  Through this chapter 2 felt a bit of a pat on the back in regards to this year we really set a goal for ourselves to be sure how we communicate with them is consistent & intentional to help them learn how to think for themselves and since August we’ve done a far better job than last year.  We have two boys, both wired the same & different in many areas.  Our oldest “sin management” area is in attitude & respect.  Our youngest is in lying/half-truth telling and the hardest part….I know they’ve seen both in Me as their dad

    3- I came to know Jesus at 18…TRUST is what allowed me to open my heart to him cause I sure as heck was NOT going to be “obedient to the right & wrong ways of life”.  For us trust is how we communicate to our kids in regards to who God is & what He is doing in our life.  However, there are times we do say to our kids “Obey first and then we’ll explain why we are doing this decision”.  Sometimes I feel acting them to be obedient in some moments is cause we don’t have the time right there to have a bigger conversation, but we try hard to be sure we have the bigger, longer, deeper conversation later as to why we asked for obedience without being able to talk it out.  The last 4 years of life for our family have been a huge TRUST factor in faith between losing a job, gaining a new one, losing a home cause of a move the new job required, 3 deaths of family members, financially pains, etc. etc.  So right now TRUST is an easy word to use in how we as a family are trying to follow Jesus.

    4- I see my child’s faith as a much needed ratchet up the conversations about trusting Jesus at EVERY chance we can, not just on the bigger moments of there life.  Our oldest is growing and how I know that is listening to him Pray.  There is something in him at 9 that just blows me away at how he prays & even his faith in how he talks to me about prayer.  My youngest is in question phase of life about God and those questions have allowed some GREAT conversations for us.

  6. Teri V October 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    1)  This is just another thing to add to the list of how I know I’m not ready to be a mom… the langauge of it seems so sterile… the goal of toddler faith??  My snarky side wants to say something like – sing the correct words to a praise song in a close enough pitch….

    2) It has been my experience that the children of church leadership have not felt the pressure themselves but it has been articulated to them – usually by an older “believer” and it’s shared without mercy or tact.  And I have to say – I echo Adam here.  My mind FLOODED with faces and stories of students while reading this chapter.  SO MANY students that really worked out the behavior and so many adults in the church that counted their behaviors as “fruit” of my ministry.  It makes me ill.

    3) I think the behavior management often comes as obedience to US – parents and youth leaders because they trust Us. OR because somehow they get the idea that if we think they’re obedient we will trust them.  I’ve worked with lots of students in church and at camps that behave out of relationship to/respect for me… some made the transference from me to Jesus and some didn’t.  Some continue to behave and some quit their relationship with me and behaved however they wanted.
    In my own life – I behaved out of fear.  If I did enough of the right things and abstained from all of the wrong things I could trust that there would be peace in my house and with my parents…. and that lasted for a while.  When faith stuff started to mix in it was all just really inconvenient for my parents.  I couldn’t make it to midweek stuff or to get to school early for prayer meetings or even fundraise to go on the mission trip.  I often chose obedience to my parents over obedience to God… and probably continued to until about Sophomore Year in college.  It culminated in a huge phone fight with my Dad.  I in no way honored him as my father in that call and it took years for me to realize my righteous indignation about it all was really just pride.  I defended my faith – but not in a way God would want me to…. and God’s grace was big enough for that to all get reconciled eventually.  

    4) This question makes me super cautious… I mean, even following these steps can’t GUARANTEE that the faith of our children WILL stick.  It’s a matter of us being obedient in sharing our sticky faith and trusting the hearts of our children to Christ as well….

  7. Lisette Fraser October 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    Great thoughts & questions! Thanks!!!

    Alrighty – I’m not sure we’ve ever laid out our goals as specifically as to say “this is our faith goal for our toddler.” But I would definitely say that we’ve set spiritual, character & relational goals every year, for ourselves and our kids. We’ve done a yearly evaluation on our anniversary (romantic, I know:) And, we do talk, think & pray about it along the way. We’ve been blessed with some awesome mentors that challenged us about intentionality in both our marriage & parenting. We’re eternally grateful for that!

    This one is tough. We’ve really tried to alleviate that pressure. We’ve done our best to not ask our kids to perform differently at home, school, church, etc. Character has to be consistent. That being said, other people still place it on our kids sometimes. I also see that some of it has to do with their personality. Our daughter is very works/success driven – it’s hard to steer that in a positive way. 

    I recall, in my own life, really struggling with forgiving my Father. He was an adulterer & an abuser and I struggled deeply to be able to forgive him. One of my professors in College, a godly, wise man, challenged me that I had to make the choice to forgive & pray that God would help the emotions to catch up. That was a definite instance where I needed to obey & hope that trust would follow. But I suppose, even in that instance, there was a start of trust in God that would even convince me that obedience was an option.  It really does make sense though – our obedience comes from a much healthier & more authentic place when it comes out of trust with the person asking something of us. 

    I think it’s really important to gauge the motivation for the do’s & don’ts of our kids. I’m not sure I’m always assessing that. I’m wondering what my style of parenting promotes. Does it encourage a do/don’t type of response out of trust or out of obedience – or a healthy combo? Knowing that whatever my parenting promotes is helping them develop a view of their relationship with God. Hmmmm . . . good thing to ponder!

  8. Shawn Michael Shoup October 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    1) Toddler goals? Whoah! Keep his diaper clean, have fun with him, and keep telling him that I love him and so does God. For my elementary girls, God is always part of our conversations. I want them to think about them in every aspect of their lives. For my teenagers, I want to see them wrestling with the harder truths and making their faith their own.

    2) I’ve definitely seen some of my own religious stuff rub off on my kids. Gah! I’ve seen my kids look at another’s media choices and get all righteous. Doh! Been there. Wish I wouldn’t have done that!

    3) Because when the stuff hits the fan… sometimes trust is all you’ve got. We’ve been there. Walking through three miscarriages in our family has been debilitating. There were times I was speechless. D was on the couch crying asking “why?” and I had NO clue. All I had was my trust in God.

    4) I think I see both sides – some good and some bad. Looks like some heart-to-heart talks with my teens are in our near future. 

  9. Rachel Foss November 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    I am late in responding to these chapters because we got our book and I read a chapter, then had a baby like the next day. 

    Our kids are 3 yrs and 4 wks, respectively, so I have to say that “faith development” hasn’t really been on our radar yet. Beyond explaining the Christmas story, we haven’t talked too much about Jesus or what it means to follow God. Even at church, our toddler is just getting the barest essentials of some Bible stories.

    I really have no idea what I hope his faith will be like at this stage, or at what point you could reasonably expect him to even understand what it means to be a Christian. I don’t even think he understands the word “trust” yet!

    My son hasn’t experienced any pressure to “act christian” or anything like that yet.

    If “obedience is a response to trust,” then I wonder if our parenting needs an overhaul – as in “do you trust me to have a good reason for asking you to do or not do this thing? then please obey me,” rather than “you need to obey me because I’m the mom.” The latter perspective is how I was raised. It would be a shift to go the with the first approach!  Reading the chapter forces me to ask whether I really trust God or am just going through the motions, and what my son sees.

    I trust God, but there are also lots of ways in which I don’t completely trust Him. I don’t trust Him to answer my questions, or to point me in the right direction when I’m trying to make important decisions. I don’t believe that it really matters very much to Him what I do with the details of my life – all this is a result of my experiences and disappointments with the many times I’ve looked for God to show up in these ways and He just hasn’t. I’m sure there is more to say about all this, but I cant quite figure out what it is!

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