How do I know if my kids are maturing in their faith?

Every Christian parent wants their kid(s) to mature in the Christians faith. But often it’s hard to define what that looks like. Does it look like a student reading his or her Bible more? Does it look like a student being more involved in church programs? Does it look like a student just not walking away from his or her faith after high school?

All of those are good markers of growth. But talk to a few Christian parents with adult “kids” and you’re sure to hear a few stories of kids who once read their Bibles, loved going to church, left for college grounded in their faith, but now are completely apathetic about their faith or worse have no faith at all.

So what are we to do?

One helpful  thing to do is to first change the way we think about what “mature faith” looks like. Personally, I  like the comparison chart created by pastor and youth ministry coach Mark DeVries. It provides a clear distinction between childhood faith and mature adult faith.

 

Comparison of Childhood Faith and Mature Adult Faith[1]

Childhood Faith Mature Adult Faith
  • Good Christians don’t have pain or disappointment.
  • God uses our pain and disappointment to make us better Christians.
  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • God helps those who admit their own helplessness.
  • God wants to make us happy.
  • God wants to make us into the image of Jesus.
  • Faith will help us always explain what God is doing (things always work out).
  • Faith helps us stand under God’s sovereignty even when we have no idea what God is doing.
  • The closer we get to God, the more perfect we become.
  • The closer we get to God, the more we become aware of our own sinfulness.
  • Mature Christians have answers.
  • Mature Christians can wrestle honestly with tough questions because we trust that God has the answers.
  • Good Christians are always strong.
  • Our strength is in admitting our weakness.
  • We go to church because our friends are there, we have great leaders, and we get something out of it.
  • We go to church because we belong to the body of Christ.

 

As parents, our job is simply to help our kids move from childhood beliefs to mature beliefs.

So how do we do that?

Here are a couple options to get us started. If our kids are old enough we can share this chart with them, and then ask them what they think…likely, a conversation will take off from there.

If our kids are younger, (or we’re just not ready to have a deep conversation with them yet), then the best thing to do is simply hang the chart somewhere we’ll see it. Then we can begin regularly praying these things for our kids (and ourselves). God will take it from there.

No one is in a better position than parents to help their kids mature in their walk with Jesus. God wants to use you. I pray this chart will serve as a helpful tool in that effort.

 


 

[1] Mark Devries. Family-Based Youth Ministry. IVP Press. 2004. P. 27

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God’s not so big plans for your life…

Image

I remember the chapel like it was yesterday.  In a college gymnasium, surrounded by thousands of students, I sat on what was usually an uncomfortably hard wooden bench.  But on that day, my body did not squirm for comfort, because on that day my complete attention was on the charismatic Christian speaker in front of me.  His sermon was well-crafted, his stories were funny, and all his applications of scripture were convincing.  And with the Bible in his hand and deep conviction in his heart, he proclaimed with prophetic boldness words that spoke to my soul….”God,” he said, “has big plans for your life!”  But his sermon did not end there.  No, he then went on to give us the really good news: “God has bigger plans for your life than you could ever imagine.”

And thus began my season of despair…

Looking back, the problem was two-fold. One, at the time I could imagine some pretty big plans for my life. Once, when reading an article about a Billy Graham crusade, I saw a black and white photo of Dr. Graham preaching to a crowd of a million people.  At the time it was the largest evangelistic crusade in history.  With complete seriousness, I looked at that picture and prayed, “God would you use me to preach to two million people?”  And, truth be told, at that time I could have imagined myself preaching to three million— if God needed me to.

Of course some will respond that I misinterpreted the speaker’s use of the phrase “big plans”.   And I could not agree more.  But this only illuminates the second of the two problems. Often, when well-meaning Christian teachers and preachers say these kinds of things, they never think to define what they mean by the term “big”.   And so students, or chapel listeners (and, let’s be honest, even pastors) are left to define the term on their own. The problem is when most American Christians begin to imagine and dream about what it could mean for God to have “big plans” for their lives, their dreams often start to look like a Christian version of the American Dream.  Tell a college student today that God has “big plans” for their life, and they’ll think God is going to use them to save the world, or at least “their” world—whatever that might be.

There was another chapel speaker that year who talked about God’s plans for your life. His sermon was also well-crafted, his jokes funny, and his scriptural applications convincing.  But there, before a gymnasium full of college students, referencing Tolkien’s famous “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy, he spoke (what I now consider to be) truly prophetic words: “You are not the hero of the story. You are not Frodo. Rather, in the great battle of life, you are more like elf #351. But that is significant, because you are in the story.”

I have come to believe that God’s pleasure is often not in creating “big plans” for our lives (at least not the American kind), but rather in giving significance to the sometimes seemingly small plans He has for us.

Often there is nothing glamorous, nothing inspirational, and nothing “news-worthy” about the work Christ calls us to. Often we are simply called to be obedient and to follow wherever Christ leads.  Most of the time these actions do not seem big at all— but they are significant.  In Christ we are free to give up fantasies of American grandeur and instead rest in the knowledge that our lives are significant, no matter what we do, because it is Christ who gives significance to all of our life. The good news is that our stories are forever intertwined with His story.  And so whatever we do, whether it seems big or small, it is a part of His grand eternal story, and that is significant.

In heaven I imagine we will meet missionaries who gave their lives to the work of the gospel while living in total obscurity.  We will meet pastors who never published a book, never spoke at a conference, and never started a network, but did quietly and faithfully fulfill their calling to shepherd a flock. We will meet businessmen and women who never climbed the corporate ladder, but did live simple lives of kindness, and integrity.  And there in heaven, I imagine we will see for the first time how Christ used every one of these lives and their actions to magnify His presence on earth.  And there, before the throne of God, I imagine we will stand in awe of those once obscure and un-glorious people, and together with all the saints, we will praise God for their significant lives.

Have you ever heard someone tell you God has big plans for your life? What did you think when you heard that? Does the difference between “significant plans” vs. “big plans” resonate with you at all?

Overcoming The Intimidation: 3 practices for ministry volunteers

Students haning out

There’s nothing more intimidating than walking up to students, as a new volunteer.  No matter who you are, students won’t introduce themselves, they won’t make you feel welcome, and they will likely avoid you.  And when this happens your first temptation will be to go find the nearest group of adults and talk only to them.  Fight that temptation.

God has called you to help students grow closer to Him,  and thankfully there are a few things you can do to overcome the intimidation and allow God to work through you:

Pray
Pray that you would be sensitive to God’s leading
Pray that God would lead you to the students He has for you
Pray that Jesus would make Himself known through you

Commit  
Commit to knowing a small group of students (5 or less)
Commit to learning their names and listening to their stories
Commit to praying for them

Share
Share things you like with them
Share why you’re there
Share stories of God’s work in your life

It may take some time,  maybe a lot of time, but whether you’re  a new volunteer, or one that’s been around forever, when you  Pray, Commit, and Share,  God will show up in your life and use you to change the lives of others.

If you’re a youth leader or volunteer, what other practices have you found helpful?