I was scrolling through Facebook recently when I saw an article that stopped me in my tracks: “5 Things People with Tidy Homes Don’t Do.”
Oh boy. This is one I need to read. Immediately.
I am constantly fighting a messy house. Whenever I take my kids to a friend’s home, I’m amazed at how relatively clean it is. How do they not have a pencil on every seat cushion? How do they not have returned homework papers carelessly scattered across the floor? How do they not have sticky spots on their counters and stacks of mail stuck to the sticky spots? What do these parents know that I don’t?
The article I clicked on that day provided a tantalizing clue to the answer. The author wrote:
Tidy People don’t act like a slob all day, and then get their house tidy in one fell swoop. . . . The number one thing I’ve learned from Tidy People is how valuable it is to develop some simple, non-drastic, tiny habits that when added together will change the level of tidiness in your home. Tidy People are in a constant state of low-grade tidying.
Low-grade tidying. The point hit me like a ton of bricks (which, if they were in my house, would be all over the floor, and we’d continue to step over them for weeks before someone moved them outside). You see, my running assumption had been that I must have particularly messy kids. But I’ve since come to realize that—gasp!—the vast majority of kids are quite messy. Those clean houses I visit aren’t the product of naturally clean kids. They’re the product of parents with good habits—parents who are constantly in a state of low-grade tidying.
Low-Grade Tidying Is the Key to Faith Conversations
As parents, we’re often as overwhelmed by the task of having deep faith conversations with our kids as I am by the task of keeping a clean house. We have a rough idea of how our spiritual house should look, but we feel we’ve let things get messier than they should be. We know we should have more faith conversations than we do, the ones we do have don’t go as we’d like, and discouragement sets in when we don’t feel equipped to answer the questions our kids raise. These subtle disappointments are like pencils on seat cushions—nagging reminders that things aren’t where we’d like them to be.
Now you’re holding a book telling you there are thirty conversations you must have with your child about Jesus. It’s like I just dumped a laundry pile in your living room.
But that’s not all. I’ve written two other books with “must have” conversations. My first one, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, walks parents through forty important faith conversations in the subject areas of God, truth and worldviews, Jesus, the Bible, and science. My second one, Talking with Your Kids about God, takes parents deeper into thirty conversations specifically about God (for example, the evidence for God’s existence). Talking with Your Kids about Jesus now goes deeper into thirty conversations about—you guessed it—Jesus.
All together, that’s one hundred faith conversations I’m saying every Christian parent needs to have with their kids! (And there are many other important topics I haven’t covered, of course.)
Lest anyone read my books with the guilt or pressure I feel when stepping into clean houses, I want to suggest a healthier mind-set: know that impactful faith conversations happen through consistent low-grade tidying—not massive house clean-outs.
A massive house clean-out requires you to set aside blocks of hours upon hours, as you attempt to order and beautify everything in one fell swoop. That’s overwhelming. I want you instead to look at this book (and my others) as your guide to long-term, low-grade spiritual tidying through ongoing conversation. This book will help you do that in three key ways.
First, it will help you focus on what most needs tidying in your child’s understanding of Jesus, given the challenging world in which they’re growing up. No one can clean absolutely everything, so having focus is key. Interestingly, many of the subjects in this book are ones your child won’t hear discussed in church (at least in much depth). Sunday school programs tend to teach only the basics of Christianity, and those basics are leaving kids unequipped to encounter today’s secular world. Research consistently shows that at least 60 percent of kids who grow up in a Christian home walk away from Christianity by their early twenties, largely in response to intellectual challenges to their faith. Our kids need specific training for what they’ll encounter today, and they need that training from you. That can sound intimidating, but this book will help you get focused on the kind of training they need most. We’ll look at challenges from atheists, challenges from those who adhere to non-Christian religions, and even challenges from Christians who promote ideas that vary from what the Bible teaches. All are vital subjects that should continually be revisited as your child grows to both refresh and deepen their understanding over time.
Second, this book will help you learn the most essential points your child should understand about each subject. Much more could be said in any given chapter, but this book isn’t about doing the deepest possible “cleaning” on the areas covered. Rather, the goal is to help you develop clarity on the essential points to emphasize in your conversations over time.
Third, this book will give you a vision for how to do your tidying. The chapter content itself is written for you, the parent. But at the end of each chapter, you’ll find a step-by-step guide with questions designed to help you facilitate conversation with your child about the chapter’s subject. The first question (“Open the Conversation”) is an easy one to get your child talking. The subsequent questions (“Advance the Conversation”) then open the door to discussion about more detailed content from the chapter. In “Apply the Conversation,” you’ll find a quote from a person who in some way challenges what was learned. These quotes are intended to give older kids practice applying their understanding. While each guide can be used in a single sitting, it’s also intended to be a flexible tool you can use to revisit these subjects as your child grows. For example, with young kids, you might use the first question as a conversation starter, then casually discuss a few basic points from the chapter without using the remaining questions. With older elementary-age kids, you might use all the discussion questions but explain only a couple key points in response to each one. With tweens and teens, I encourage you to walk through the full discussion guide, covering as much detail as you can from each chapter.
What this book won’t do is create the actual habit of tidying. That’s up to you. You’ll have the tools for doing your work, but you’ll need to make the time.
Homes where deep and meaningful faith conversations happen
regularly aren’t the product of lucky parents. They’re the product of intentional
parents who believe nothing is more important than raising kids to know and
love Jesus. All those sports events, music practices, play rehearsals, and
other activities that fill our weeks can be great, but Jesus must come first.
Getting our spiritual house in order starts with that simple commitment. Once
that’s in place, we’re ready for cleaning—one tidying step at a time.