At some point every parent realizes time with their kids is running out. That their kids will soon leave the house. That their kids will soon make life choices without their consent. As Christians we worry that one of those choices might be to walk away from their faith.
It’s a valid concern.
According to LifeWay Research, “70% of young adults who indicated they attended church regularly for at least one year in high school do, in fact, drop out”. About two-thirds will eventually return at some point, but nevertheless that is a large number, even if it is just for a season.
So what can parents do to beat the statistics?
It may be of some comfort to know that this is not a new problem. In fact, it is a very old problem.
About 3,000 years ago a Levite named Asaph, who worked as a musician for King David, wrote Psalm 78. Within the song Asaph speaks of what must be done so that the next generation will not become “a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.”(Ps 78:8)
Asaph is concerned for his kids, and all the children of Israel. He is concerned that one day they might not follow in the faith of their fathers.
So what is Asaph’s solution?
He commends parents (and leaders) to do just two things. Pass down the Deeds and Decrees of the Lord.
In verse four Asaph writes,
We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.
And in verse seven he writes,
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds…
For Asaph, telling the next generation what God has done was of utmost importance. He understood that in order for people (of all ages) to know God, they must first hear about the works of God.
Today God calls parents to do the same thing. We are called to simply share with our kids what God has done. But not just in the Bible. We’re called to share what God has done, and is doing, in our lives.
I’ve found that most students want to hear how God is working in the lives of their parents. They don’t want a lecture. But they do want a story. They’d like to hear about a time when their parents needed God’s help and how he came through.
As a parent, your stories offer hope to your students. Hope that the same God who helped you will in turn be the same God who will help them.
Stories are great. But stories alone are not enough to sustain the faith of a student. Asaph longed to pass down more than stories. He also longed to pass down the decrees of God.
In verses 5-7 he writes,
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
For most of us, “commands/decrees” have a negative connotation. But Asaph knew the commands of God were good. He knew the words of King David:
Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night…whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
He knew that people (of all ages) grow in a deeper relationship with God when they begin to delight in the decrees of God.
What might this look like for parents today?
Parents don’t have to hang the Ten Commandments on their kid’s bedroom wall (they can if they want). But they may want to talk to their kids about the choices they are making and why they are making them.
It is helpful for parents to explain to their kids why it is they follow the decrees of God. Parents can share why it is they don’t cheat on their taxes. Or why it is they don’t lie. They can share with their kids why it is they try to do what is right. And how doing what is right in God’s eyes has benefited them.
Again kids don’t want a lecture. But they are interested in real life case studies–especially from people they know. Giving them real life examples of the benefits of God’s decrees will show them that God can be trusted. It will show them God is good. And ultimately it will inspire them to delight in God.
We can’t force our kids to continue in a relationship with God. But we can model for them what an authentic relationship with God looks like. This happens when we spend time (lots of time) sharing with them the deeds of God and the benefits of the decrees of God. And when we do these two things we might just see our independent kids desiring to grow with God rather than choosing to walk away from God.