While it is more important to live out our faith than to talk about it, talking is still important!
Only 1 out of 8 kids report talking with their mom about their faith; only 1 out of 20 talk to their dad about their faith or have life conversations with him. Only 9% of Christian teens engage in regular Bible reading and devotions with their families.
God has called us as parents to shepherd our children in the faith. The above statistics indicate a massive dereliction of duty among Christian parents. Given these numbers it is a surprise that so many children stick with their faith, not that so many walk away from it.
What should we do in light of these disturbing statistics? The first thing we need to do is make time to talk.
Make it a priority to eat dinner together as a family. Turn off the TV, phones, etc. Work together in meal prep and clean up. Spending quality time together creates trust and trust is necessary if you want your kids to come to you, as opposed to their peers or people on the internet, when they have fears and doubts.
Making time for meals together may require saying no to sports, friends, or music opportunities, but what are we ultimately after? Do we want our kids to be great athletes, popular students, and talented musicians? Or do we want them to be men and women of faith and character? This is not to say that hockey or playing the violin are bad, but only to affirm that what happens around the table is infinitely (and often eternally) more important than what happens on the sport’s field. (Disclaimer: I have played on adult rec. leagues, my kids have played on sports teams, and I have even coached youth teams. I am not discouraging sports, but encouraging proper perspective.)
Next, we need to encourage our children to express their doubts. We often think that sharing our doubts will destroy our faith, but the opposite is true. Students who feel the freedom and have opportunities to express their doubts tend to have “Stickier Faith”. If kids can’t externally express doubts they will internalize them and there they will grow toxic.
Our faith is True and it can thereby stand up to any attack. Your children should be confident that God is able to handle their hard questions—none of their doubts are capable of intimidating Him! You should not be afraid of your children’s questions. If you can’t answer them, find a Christian that can. Every great question and doubt has already been answered satisfactorily by countless Christians throughout the years. The answers may take seeking to find, but they can be found.
The key is to show our children that we have confidence in our faith. We believe in Christ because He is light and in His light all else is seen; we don’t believe because we are ignorant ostriches with our heads in the sand.
Still, it can be hard to get our kids to open up to us. A good way to encourage them is to open up about our own doubts and how Christ has led us through difficult questions and times.
Likewise, don’t avoid touchy subjects. The depth to which you are willing to discuss difficult subjects will set the maximum depth to which your children will be willing to talk to you about other subjects. Moreover, if they can’t come to you with their questions they will go elsewhere. Do you really want your children learning about same-sex marriage, gender construction and identity, or pornography from their peers or what they can find on the internet? These are not easy things to talk about, but we cannot leave to chance our children’s understanding of such important and misunderstood issues. What is more, we must be proactive. The average kid in the United States is exposed to pornography before age 10. Talk to your children about these things before they happen so your kids can be on guard.
Ultimately, we as parents need to take our God-given responsibilities seriously and make time to have real conversations. Our kids need us more than we realize . . . and more than they realize. In a world where much that is black is called white and much that is white is called black, our failure to shepherd our kids through their questions and doubts is to leave them to the wolves.