Does it ever feel like time is passing you by? I know it does for me. I have memories that feel like just yesterday of Conan O'Brien on his Late Late Show doing bits about trying to guess what the future would be like in the year. . . 2000! (Let's not even mention that he has changed shows and formats multiple times and is now retired.) Now, here we are in the year 2022. It still almost sounds futuristic to me even though it is the present day.
For our kids, these are the early years. These years are incredibly important for them as they are shaping and molding who they are going to be as adults.
We must make the home our mission field.
As parents, our children have been given to us not only to provide for them and care for them but also to help them in their development and maturation. Thank goodness for this design and structure. Without it, we would have eight-year-old boys driving around in cars, working day jobs, trying to cook dinner at night, and doing their taxes. It's hard enough to get them to understand the need to take a shower, let alone live a self-sufficient life! (I am still amazed at the thought of Josiah in the Bible becoming the King of Israel at the age of eight. Wow!)
Our responsibility is not only to help our children grow and mature toward living a life of autonomy and to be successful in providing for themselves and a family. The most important reason that they have been given to us is so that we may teach them about who God is, what he has done for us through Jesus, and how to live a life of faith. As parents, our primary mission field is our home.
We must be future-minded.
So, these years are vitally important, but we can't just look at our efforts as having an impact on the here and now. As we disciple our children, we also need to keep the future in mind. In her book Resilient: Child Discipleship and the Fearless Future of the Church, Valerie Bell challenges parents and church leaders to think in terms of the year 2050. Talk about a futuristic-sounding date!
The reality is that 2050 is not all that far off. If you have young kids right now, they will be in their late 20s and 30s by the year 2050. That sounds weird, but it’s true. What will our kids' faith look like? Will it be intact? Will it be strong? Will they have the capability of serving as a leader in the Church? The efforts that we are putting in now - the shaping and forming that is taking place with our kids - is going to impact their life and the life of the Church in the year 2050.
We must help our kids develop a resilient faith.
It’s no secret that we live in a time in history that has never been more hostile to living a life of faith in Jesus Christ. It is harder for today's young generation to live for Jesus than it was for us. The world is becoming more and more intolerant of the truth of the Bible. What this means is that our kids are going to need to develop a faith that is resilient.
That means they need a faith that will be able to withstand whatever comes their way. It will have to be able to stand up to adversity and times of crisis. It will need to be able to take the blows the world throws at it without breaking.
Statistics today show that kids who are growing up involved in churches are still walking away from the Church and their faith after high school. Up to 25% of people in America are identifying themselves as having no religious affiliation ("Nones"). Many young adults who even identify themselves with Christianity don't have a true, firmly-rooted, active faith.
We must be intentional in helping our children become rooted in faith.
We must start guiding our children toward a faith that is real, deep, authentic, and resilient. Colossians 2:6-8 gives a good picture of the makeup of a resilient disciple and what they need to avoid:
"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Paul says that as disciples of Jesus we are to be rooted, built-up, and established in the faith. And how do we develop this? He says that it is something we are taught. Parents, this is the task and responsibility that has been placed before us! We need to put intentionality and direct effort toward helping our kids be rooted, built-up, and established in the faith. This is what a resilient disciple looks like. So how do we do that?
Consider these practical steps.
Here are ten building blocks that provide some direction toward building resilient disciples. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and they are in no particular order.
1. Take the Lead Spiritually in Your Home.
Look at passages like Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 28, and 2 Corinthians 5. We have been instructed to prioritize our own faith relationship with God, but then also to pass these things down to our children. Parents are to be the primary spiritual influence in the life of their children. Practicing things like family worship, talking about God's creation and how he is working, and pointing them towards God's promises in the everyday moments of life are a great way to start.
2. Don't Rush Your Child's Faith Decision.
We want our kids to know and love Jesus. We want them to respond to the gospel through faith and repentance. We also want to have peace about where their eternity lies. But we have to be careful not to rush them toward a "decision" or "saying a prayer." It is important that the slow work of helping them grow and mature toward a true understanding of things like sin, repentance, forgiveness, faith, redemption, and reconciliation also takes place. They need to understand the weight of making a decision to turn from sin and self toward Jesus as Lord and Savior. This process looks different for every child. Rushing this or skipping ahead can have a detrimental effect on kids and their faith future.
3. Mark Key Spiritual Milestones.
Having a discipleship plan to follow and then having goals along the way can really help you in this process. Milestones help to solidify growth, mark key moments, and help with memory. Here at Berean, we have a Family Discipleship Plan that is made up of seven milestones that provide a map or a path to follow. Make sure to find ways to celebrate and document these spiritual milestones as they are reached in your child's life.
4. Make Church a Priority.
We need to teach our children to have a proper and healthy view of the Church. The Church is not a place that you just go or attend. It is a group of people with whom you actively engage. It is God's plan to further his Kingdom and expand the gospel. Normalize attending church as a family. Teach your kids about church membership and involvement and then show these things through your example.
5. Disciple Your Kids to Live in a Digital World.
Our kids live in a radically different world than the one in which we grew up. One of the biggest reasons is the growth of the digital world. This includes things like social media, the internet, TV, and movies. This digital world is ever-expanding. It matters what, when, and how much your child engages with this world. Help them to understand what is going on and the messaging that is coming at them. Enter the digital world with your child slowly and cautiously, but don't avoid it completely. They need your partnership as they develop a healthy view of it and how to engage with it properly.
6. Help Your Kids Become Comfortable with the Bible.
The Bible is God's Word. It is how God communicates with us. It is how we know the truth. It is how we know who God is, what he has done, what he is doing, and what he has promised he will do. It is kind of a big deal . . . so treat it this way! I always recommend a physical Bible. Digital bibles are good, but shouldn't replace a physical one. Help your kids learn how to use, navigate, read, memorize, and study the Bible.
7. Lean on the Church Body.
Sin has created weakness in all of us. We were never meant to live a life of faith on our own. We need each other. The good news is that God has provided the Church for us! We need the influence of the Church in our kids' lives. The Church and the home are meant to partner together in the life of a child to help them develop and grow spiritually. Two influences working together will have a greater impact than two influences working separately. Your children will become like the community they are a part of. What better community for this than the community of faith?
8. Help Your Kids Understand Their Identity.
There are many different things in this world competing to shape our children's view of their identity. The truth is that our kids will turn to these things if they don't have a firm view of their identity in Jesus. An improper view of who they are in Christ will lead to depression and false conclusions. We need to show them who God says they are (2 Corinthians 5:16-19; Colossians 2:9-14). Do not underestimate the importance of this!
9. Help Your Kids Develop Both Spine and Heart.
Your kids will need spine to stand firm for Christian beliefs in an increasingly hostile and secular world. As Valerie Bell says, "They need spine to insist on being fairly characterized, and heart to embrace that same intolerant-of-faith world with a love that can't be ignored." They need heart to see the world through the eyes of God, to love others, and to fulfill the mission of the gospel.
10. Keep Your Kids' Future in Mind.
We have to remember that we are working toward something. Our goal is not to simply have strong, grounded kids, but to develop disciples who make disciples. Psalm 127 tells us that we have been blessed with arrows (children) in our quiver. These arrows are meant to one day be placed in the bow, be drawn back, and be shot out on mission for Christ. Arrows, like kids, are not meant to stay in the quiver and be protected. God has a purpose and plan for our kids. We need to prepare and disciple them, and then commission and send them out to fulfill this purpose.
Let these things be an encouragement to you!
Don't let these things discourage you or cause you to feel guilt. Rather, I hope they serve as an encouragement to continue where you already are making headway and for direction in things you haven't yet begun to tackle. The key is to recognize that there is a lot at stake and this isn't something we can afford to take lightly. But all hope is not lost. We know our Father is the one who is in control of all things and we have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of us, guiding us, directing us, and giving us power as we navigate this season of parenting.