Jul 30

Pushing Our Kids to Growth In Their Faith, Part 2

In part one of this series, I shared how I often hear some parents say that they don’t want to push their kids when it comes to faith. I shared how there were usually three reasons behind this: fear, inadequacy and challenge.

Fear is a common issue when parents are concerned that if they push their kids when it comes to faith, their kids will either push further away from them, or from faith. This fear can usually cause parents to respond in two ways:

Over-Push: Over-push can be described as making every moment, conversation, question, conflict resolution with a tie-in to faith, the Bible or spiritual things. Life is filled with Christian gatherings, Christian school, Christian friends, Christian music, Christian Movies, Christian websites…you get the idea. I’m not suggesting any of these things are bad things (except for Veggie Tales movies), and I would go so far to say that the intent of all this is honorable. The problem is we can fill up our time and schedule with so many Christian things that kids become indifferent because they have not been able to own their faith. Push too hard and kids will become resentful, and can’t wait until they are 18 and on their own, so they don’t have be in the “Christian Environment” anymore.

Self-Push: On the other end of the spectrum, Self-push can be described as leaving it up to the kids as to how much they should be pushed. This response is usually stemmed from kids arguing and reacting negatively about faith. Church and youth ministry becomes optional, faith discussions are at the discretion of the kids for fear of a negative reaction. Parents feel as though they can’t “force faith” on their kids, so they back off and let kids figure out their faith own their own, stepping in when needed or asked.

What are we talking about when we talk about “push”? One definition explains push as to “press upon or against (a thing) with force in order to move it away.” Another definition describes push as “to press or urge to some action or course.” If our understanding of “push” in the context of faith is the first definition, then pushing our kids can be perceived as negative. Here is an illustration of the first definition: At one point my daughters could not ride a bike, so I had to push them. If I over-pushed they would potentially become terrified of riding a bike. However, if I just let them self-push, then they never would have learned how to ride themselves, they would simply sit still. I had to literally push them just enough to encourage them to want to ride their bike. But once they learned to ride, my job of pushing them didn’t stop, it changed. Now when we go out on bike rides, I have to push them to keep going when they get tired and don’t want to ride anymore (when we are half-way home). If I over-push they will become resentful, but if I let them self-push, they will sit there stuck, and maybe get up some time later when they are tired of sitting there.

So, what does the Bible say about pushing our kids? Here is what we read in Proverbs:

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it…Proverbs 26:6

This passage, though not a command, is a precept found in the wisdom literature of Scripture; thoughts for wise living. To train a child in the way they should go requires some dedication, discipline and intentionality in showing them the way to go. We could say here that training requires a healthy measure of “push”. Somewhere between over-push and self-push, there is an intentional push that will help kids grow up in the faith, and not turn from it when they are older.

I will talk more tomorrow on what intentional push looks like, but for now, here are some practical things that we have implemented in our house:

  1. Going to church, Kidstown/Youth Ministry is not optional. Yes, this is easier said when kids are younger, but it is imperative that the value is implemented in the younger stages of life.
  2. We believe raising our kids is an art, not a science. This means that there are no silver-bullets, it’s messy, and our strategies will change over time.
  3. We will not compare our kid’s faith development to our friend’s kids. The worst form of fear comes when we begin comparing our beginning to someone’s middle.
  4. We submit to God. As we dedicate our kids to Him, we are fully trusting that they will be lifelong followers of Christ, no matter how messy their development becomes.

How have you “pushed” your kids to grow in their faith?  What has worked well?  What hasn’t worked as well as you would have hoped?