In Teaching Kids About the “I” in Faith, I shared my concern that perhaps the real reason we are “losing” so many young people in Christianity is that we have allowed them to believe some inaccurate messages about that “I” in the word faith. It doesn’t mean your children get to always have their way in church, that they can do whatever they want without regard to God’s commands, or that entire groups of people must twist themselves into pretzels to make sure your kids are happy and entertained every time they walk into a service.
That “I” though, does have a lot of important promises and responsibilities for our kids.
- Our children have the right to individually worship God all day, every day in the ways that speak to them personally. They can be creative, sing their favorite songs, read Bible passages that speak to their current situation, celebrate God through their gifts – really any way of worship that is biblical. That “I” does not give them the right to attempt to hijack corporate worship. They can express their opinions about the things that help them feel more worshipful, but ultimately they need to realize if everyone in their congregation got to have worship “their” way, you would have as many different worship services as there are people. Corporate worship is often about putting the needs of others above yourself, of learning to worship in ways that aren’t your favorite, of the relationships with your Christian brothers and sisters – not about being entertained or getting to always have things “your” way.
- Our children have the privilege of having personal access to God daily through Bible reading and prayer. What a blessing! They don’t need their parents, their teachers, their preachers or anyone else to help them tap into God’s wisdom and power. In fact, allowing others to “access” God for them can lead to all sorts of problems. All they need to do is open their Bibles or start talking to God. Then teach them how to take those experiences and translate them into making godly choices every day.
- Our children have the right to take personal responsibility to make sure they are obedient to God’s commands. Even and perhaps especially if they don’t particularly like them. Your children don’t get to vote and overrule God. They don’t get to dismiss books of the Bible because they don’t agree with their thought process or popular culture. They don’t get to ignore commands as merely suggestions for a different culture. They don’t get to reshape God in their image. Instead your children have the privilege of molding their lives to fit God’s image. They may never really understand why God gave certain commands, but that is a part of faith and obedience – trusting that ultimately God knows what is best for us. Obeying God’s commands as given is ultimately in your children’s best interest, even if it doesn’t always feel that way at first.
- Our children have the opportunity to experience the life Jesus wanted for them by serving others. Not the type of service when they secretly believe they are somehow better than those they serve, but the type of service where they seek to know the hearts of those they serve. Where they actively listen to the people they are trying to help to discover their real felt needs. Where they realize the people they serve can often teach them as many lessons as they will teach those people. The service that comes from a heart as desperate to love and get the people they are serving to Heaven as they would themselves or those to whom they are closest.
- Our children have the blessing of discovering the gifts God gave to them to use in His service and to discover God’s plans for their life. It doesn’t take away their free will to admit God has plans He would like them to complete. They can choose to walk away and ignore those plans. In my experience though, walking away from God’s plans means your children will miss out on godly adventures and the fulfillment and sense of purpose living out God’s plans gives a person.
- Our children have the privilege of sharing God’s good news with everyone they meet. What joy it can give your children to watch how lives are changed because they shared God’s Words with someone. If your children want to change the world, what better way than convincing the “good” guys and the “bad” guys they meet that following God will ultimately create the life they crave?
Share these points with your children. Have them restate them with “I” in place of “Our children”. With which points are they struggling? Why? Have them begin examining their hearts for the motives behind their feelings. Are those motives godly or selfish? Can they find godly ways of addressing the needs they believe aren’t currently being met? Do they need to find ways of being less selfish in what they demand from God, other Christians or the church?
These topics sound like the types of discussions that would occur in college classrooms. If you begin discussing them in age appropriate ways with the very youngest of children, you may find your kids have worked through many of these issues and begun making their faith their own long before they reach the college years. Helping your kids own their own faith before leaving home may be the biggest blessing you can give them.