A friend and I were recently discussing the need for Christian parents to be intentional in how they develop their kids’ faith. If I were to summarize my friend’s position, it would sound something like this:
“I’m not sure how ‘hard core’ I need to be in teaching my kids about Christianity – you know, like the apologetics you talk about. I’m sharing my faith with them and taking them to church regularly. We say prayers each night. I’m teaching them to be good people, and to live the way Jesus taught. I think God will take it from there. ”
While this is a well-intentioned argument, I think it greatly misses the point of our calling as spiritual trainers of our children.
Parenting is all about preparing our kids to eventually live adult life without us. Christian parenting is all about preparing our kids to love and follow Jesus without us (the most important objective we have).
Is it enough to generally surround them with God stuff and good behavioral direction for 18 years and think they’ll be prepared to be spiritually independent as Christ-followers?
To answer that, let’s use the analogy of climbing Mount Everest. How would we prepare to reach that goal (which is far less important than the goal of raising our kids to know the Lord)?
- In order to prepare your body for the 29,035-foot climb to the summit, you need to start a workout and hike-training regimen several months to three years before you depart.
- To build muscle and cardiovascular strength (you’ll need that as oxygen levels drop by nearly 70 percent from sea level), run, walk, bike, swim or hike for at least 45 minutes to an hour per day, four to six days per week. Carry a weighted pack to build endurance. Build until you’re able to ascend 3,500 feet carrying 65 pounds in less than three hours.
- Even seasoned climbers should enroll in a week-long training course to learn or review skills such as using oxygen tanks, dealing with rock falls and glacier conditions, navigating in white outs and, just in case things get really hairy, rescue techniques.
There are an estimated 120 bodies still on Mount Everest, and only about one in four people attempting to climb will succeed. It is a serious undertaking and a lack of preparation equals failure. From this analogy, we can see what it takes to prepare for any major goal – in this case, raising our kids to follow Jesus as adults.
1. You have to get serious about your desire to reach your objective.
If you don’t really care about climbing Mount Everest or don’t believe it’s a hugely important goal, you’ll have no motivation to undertake the extensive and intentional preparations necessary to succeed. Who prepares to ascend 3,500 feet carrying 65 pounds in less than three hours for fun? No one. You would only do it if you’re serious about climbing Mount Everest.
If you don’t believe preparing your kids to love and follow Jesus as an adult is the single most important objective of your parenting, it’s time to reconsider your priorities.
2. You have to know the specifics of the challenge that lies ahead.
If you don’t understand the specific challenges you’ll face on Mount Everest (e.g., the temperatures, the oxygen level, the elevation gain, etc.), there is no way you can prepare for them. No one serious about the goal would just show up at the mountain without finding out what they’ll face beforehand.
Today, you have to understand the specific challenges that are posed by a highly secular intellectual environment. There is no use trying to put a child in a Christian bubble for 18 years. It will pop the moment they’re out the door. Much research has been done on why at least two-thirds of young adults raised in Christian homes just like yours and mine are turning away from Christianity. Read You Lost Me, Revolutionary Parenting, and Already Gone to get up to speed on the major issues facing the faith of young adults today. Then you’ll understand the mountain ahead.
3. You have to know what an appropriate training plan is.
Once you understand the challenges of climbing Mount Everest, you’re not going to do whatever you personally think should do the trick to get you up the mountain; you’re not going to generally do some jumping jacks, run laps around the block, or even run a few marathons, because those aren’t the specific things needed to help you climb the mountain successfully. The plan must be carefully matched to the challenge.
Once you understand the major issues turning two-thirds of young adults away from Christianity today, the question is, what are you going to do about it with your own kids? You need a plan matched to the challenge. Overwhelmingly, kids are going into the secular world with very limited experience engaging in the tough questions of faith. We need to identify and answer those questions long before they encounter them on their own. In my last post, I provided 65 questions every Christian parent needs to learn to answer. That “training plan” is matched to the challenge. If you want to study those questions with me over the next year, be sure to sign up below to receive my posts via email.
4. You have to implement the training plan.
What happens if you get serious about climbing Mount Everest, learn all you can about the challenges, find out what you need to do to meet those challenges and then choose to watch TV every night instead of working toward it? Absolutely nothing. You won’t make it up the mountain. You have to do something.
Someone on Facebook commented on my last post that the best answer to those 65 questions is “I don’t know, let’s look for the answer together.” We certainly can’t have answers ready for every possible question, so that is a great response when we truly don’t know. But to plan on using that response when the tough questions come presupposes that your kids have brought the question to you! How lucky we should all be to have kids who proactively bring their big faith questions our way. We can’t count on our kids knowing what questions to ask while they’re still at home, or being willing to ask the questions on their minds. Training requires proactive effort. To implement the plan, we need to 1) train ourselves for the necessary discussions and 2) make avenues for discussion (such as a family worship time) part of daily family life.
We can’t make our kids Christians, but we have the responsibility of giving them the training they need to make a well-informed decision with their hearts and minds.
What will your plan look like as you look forward to 2014? What changes do you need to make in your family life to facilitate meeting the most important parenting objective you have?