One of the best things about mentoring parents today is that we have actual data about what works and what doesn’t work in the faith development of children and teens. Twenty years ago, I would have had to rely on my own experiences and observations. Now, I can be a little more confident I am giving advice that will truly help your kids build strong faith foundations and develop to their full God given potential.
When I was a child, reading the Bible daily was a top priority in many Christian homes. Props to our parents, because the NIrV Bible had yet to be published. Most of the versions were quite a few years ahead of the reading levels of even the best readers amongst us. As time has passed, however, I have begun hearing more and more Christians give the excuse that reading the Bible daily isn’t so important because they know the gist of it or are already struggling to do what they have read up to this point in their lives. Adult Bible class discussions have often morphed from ”What about such and such passage?” to ”I think” or ”I feel”. Daily Bible reading is now viewed by some Christians as legalistic and even toxic (because it can lead to legalism).
At the same time, the number of young people rejecting God and the Church as they enter adulthood have grown. Is there a connection? Intuitively, I believed there was, but had no proof. Studies have been done now, however, that make it easier to verify that connection. The important thing to note was that this particular study didn’t talk to all parents or parents who called themselves Christian. It was limited to parents who had behaviors the study defined as engaged Christian parents, meaning they regularly engaged with their children in prayer, biblical conversations, worship attendance, ministering to others and more. You might call these the ”best” Christian parents they could find based on behaviors.
The study asked these spiritually engaged Christian parents how equipped they felt to have conversations with their children about topics like basic doctrinal issues (baptism, etc.), how the Bible applies to life today, sin and forgiveness, Bible history, the authority of scripture, God’s mission for Christians, etc. The results were disappointing. The highest positive response was still under fifty percent and when broken down by topics, many topics had as many as a third of parents claiming to feel insecure about discussing them. And these are the spiritually engaged Christian parents! I would imagine those numbers would be much lower for Christian parents who rarely engage with their kids spiritually at all. (This also doesn’t measure whether or not the things parents are teaching their children are actually biblically accurate.)
Even worse, parental spiritual engagement begins dropping off right about the age of accountability. So the time period when our kids are making the most important decision of their lives and learning how to live out their commitment to God once they become a Christian is the same time period when their parents start leaving them to fend for themselves spiritually. And we wonder why young people are leaving the church!
If you, like the many Christian parents, feel uncomfortable having those spiritual conversations with your kids, it’s time to educate yourself. Ask an elder, minister or Bible class teacher for a Bible reading plan that will help you learn more about these topics. If you don’t understand what you are reading or how to communicate the information in ways your kids can understand, ask for help. Encourage your kids to read the Bible independently. Read it out loud to them. Make daily Bible reading a personal habit. Saving the next generation requires getting back to the basics. And it starts with everyone reading the Bible regularly.