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Jul 29

A Common Mistake Parents Make When Challenging Kids to Grow in Their Faith, Part 1

I want to begin this series by making it very clear that my purpose is not to critique parents (I am a parent), or send a message that will be interpreted as negative.  My purpose for writing this post is to create awareness, generate dialogue, and help parents be successful in helping their kids grow in their faith.  I’m not suggesting I have all the answers, and I’m always willing to learn from parents who are doing it better than I am.  So with that, here is my observation:

I have been in youth ministry for fifteen years, and I continually hear parents say; “we don’t want to push our kids when it comes to faith.”  The underlying issue behind this comment is usually one of three reasons:

Fear:  Parents often fear that by pushing their kids to grow in their faith that they will end up pushing them further away from them, and from faith.

Inadequacy:  Parents often feel inadequate to help their kids grow in their faith:  not having sufficient answers to questions, feeling irrelevant, saying the wrong thing, or the natural response to our culture that often says leave faith development to the professional youth worker.

Challenge:  The older that kids get, the more challenging it becomes to challenge them to grow in their faith:  competing priorities, competing desires (sometimes it can take all our energy just to get our kid to come to church), busyness, or simply feeling like we have our own faith to develop.

Typically when parents tell me they don’t want to push their kids when it comes to faith, I respond by asking some questions, such as, “do you push them to go to school?”  “Do you challenge them to get good grades?”  “Do you insist that they brush their teeth (it’s a non-negotiable in our house)?”  The point I try to make is that we want the best for our kids, and for good reason and intention, we challenge them in many ways.  While in some ways I can understand why a parent would not want to push their kids when it comes to faith, I think there is a very important reason why parents can’t not push their kids:

Who will push them if you don’t?

Parents are the number one influence in a kid’s life.  As Reggie Joiner explains in his book, Thinking Orange, parents have about 3000 hours a year with their kids.  3000 hours!  On the other hand, the church has about 40 hours a year.  Here is an illustration to put this into perspective:

No matter how great a ministry or program might be, the truth is the church cannot (and should not) compete with the leverage of time that parents have with their kids.  God, in His infinite wisdom called you and I as parents to raise our kids, giving us a huge responsibility that has eternal implications.  Here is what we read in Deuteronomy:

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…Deuteronomy 6:5-9

This is not just babysitting for God, God has given us the privilege to raise His kids as our kids, and nurture them towards a vibrant faith.  Scary? Yes!  Feelings of inadequacy? All the time!  Challenging? Every single day!  But it is in those times of fear, inadequacy, and challenge that we learn that God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!  Who else in this world can we give this amazing opportunity to?  We are it!

Over the course of the next week I’m going to try and help parents respond to each one of the three issues that parents often wrestle with when it comes to helping their kids grow in their faith, and equip you with some practical ways to help challenge your teenager in their faith in healthy and engaging ways.

Until tomorrow, my prayer is if you are a parent reading this that no matter how you are feeling about parenting these days, that God will renew your calling and passion to help your teenager become a lifelong follower of Christ!

  • Jim

    I can push my kids to walk the dog in the rain, and I can push them to be at church on time.  I might be able to force them to be “religious” (but I wouldn’t.) Can I push them to follow Jesus in an authentic way? 
    I can’t wait to read your posts Todd.