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

Should I let my teen go to another church?

 

When I was in high school (I still like to think that wasn’t that long ago) everyone I knew who went to church, only went to one church—their church.

But now, twenty years later (holy cow) things have changed. Students attend different churches all the time.church

Is this a bad thing?

I don’t think so.

Here’s why…

First, there are a lot fewer church-going Christian students than before. So students are now looking for their “tribe” where ever they can find it.

Second, different churches have different strengths (and weaknesses). The big churches “down the street” are great at attracting students through big events, high entertainment youth nights, and giveaways. They’re able to reach a lot of students who would be scared (yes scared) to step foot into a traditional looking church. Their ability to reach the unchurched is a great thing!

On the other hand churches like Fellowship, because of our size, have different strengths. We are able to easily connect with people. The first time someone comes to us, we know their name. We’re also able to focus more deeply on discipleship. More than once a student has told me that he likes coming to Fellowship because he can ask hard questions. Others have told me they like the fact that the groups are small, and not overwhelming.

Here’s the thing. One kind of church is not better than the other. As long as we’re all doing our best to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples, we’re all on the same team. And there is no need to worry about competition.

Today students like being able to grow in their faith through both big and small churches. They like experiencing God through Gospel-driven entertainment, relational settings, and making deep connections with adults and friends.

All this is fine as long as one thing doesn’t change.

That is your student has a church home. By church home I mean, that they are committed to a family of believers on Sunday morning. Obviously I’m biased toward having them commit toward the family of believers at Fellowship.

But here’s why this matters. Church is like a family. And your student needs to be committed to a family and have a family that is committed to them.

Why?

Research shows, the teens who flourish in their faith after high school are the teens who had multigenerational relationships in their home church. That is the teens felt comfortable around and loved by the whole church family and not just their peers. They felt connected to the parents and the grandparents of the church as well. Teens only experience these kinds of relationships when they and their families commit to making one church their home church.

So don’t feel guilty if your teen wants to go with their friends to another church. It’s not a competition. Every church exists for a reason—to display the glory of God in the manner God has called them to. Let them enjoy seeing how God is working in another church. But on the other hand encourage (maybe even require) your teens to be committed to a home church—a place where they feel a part of the family. A place where they will be known and loved by multiple generations and given the opportunity to flourish in their faith.

4 Reasons To Read The Bible As A Family

 

Forget for a second that your teenagers pretend they don’t want to be around you. Forget that the first time you try to do this it is going to feel awkward. Forget that you feel like you don’t know the right way to do it.

Just pick a time of the day and go for it. Use a Bible reading plan. Read together for 15 mins.  Talk about what you read. Then close in prayer.Wm._Riley_Blankinship,_miner,_with_his_children._Koppers_Coal_Division,_Kopperston_Mine,_Kopperston,_Wyoming_County..._-_NARA_-_540984

Don’t worry if at first it doesn’t seem fruitful. What’s important is the routine of reading the Bible together as a family.

Because reading the Bible as a family does four things for your family:

First, it shows that you as the parent value the Bible.

This might seem like a small thing. It’s not. Teen’s attitude toward the Bible will often reflect their parent’s attitude toward the Bible. If teens don’t see their parents holding the Bible in high esteem, then neither will they. One of the greatest ways parents can contribute to the faith of their students is to share with them why they (the parents) reads the Bible, and how it has changed their lives.

Second, it centers your family around God’s Word.

Every time your family reads the Bible together, you are in a very simple way saying to your family that “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” It’s a simple reminder to the family that your family is not like other families. Your family has different values, different traditions, different expectations. Your family is a family that seeks to follow Jesus. When you read the Bible together as a family you are reshaping your family’s identity. You’re grounding your family in something bigger than sports, music, video games, clothes, appearances, and other stuff. You’re giving your kids a sense of security that is hard to find anywhere else.

Third, when families read the Bible together it opens up the lines of dialogue.

Having trouble talking to your teens? Read the Bible together. Then ask them what came to their mind as they read (or heard) the words? What questions did they have? What did it make them think about God? What about their their life? About their friend’s lives?  Don’t worry about having all the right responses. Instead just focus on hearing what is on your teen’s heart. Think of it as a three-way conversation between you (the parents), your teens, and God. Trust that God’s Word is alive and active. And overtime God will use His Word to open up your teen to sharing what is on his or her heart.

Fourth, it might just save their marriage (and yours).

This might seem random, but it’s not.  There is a long held belief that the divorce rate in America is 50%. Now it turns out that it’s not quite that high at all. But do you know what the divorce rate is for couples who regularly read their Bibles together or pray together– less than 1%. That means if you help your children feel like reading the Bible as a family is normal, they might just do that with their spouse one day. And it might just be the one consistent practice that gives them the foundation to weather all the storms of life that come in a marriage. Not to mention reading the Bible as family will likely strengthen your marriage, which will in turn give you children  a healthier picture of marriage. It’s win-win.

 

Yeah, it might be awkward. Yes, it will take some practice. But know that it is worth it.

Because families that read the Bible together are simply, better families.

 

 

Two simple things parents can do to keep their kids walking with God

 

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”[1]. 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.

Deeds

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.

Decrees

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.

 

 

[1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/may/dropouts-and-disciples-how-many-students-are-really-leaving.html?paging=off