4 Ways You May Be Teaching Your Kids That Christianity Is a Spectator “Sport”

If you’ve ever known a really serious sports fan, you know they often talk as if they actually play on the team – or at least coach it! In reality, they have absolutely no impact on the game with their cheering and backseat coaching from home and only a minimal impact in the stands. It may be a spectator sport, but the real players are the ones on the field, participating in the action.

Unfortunately, many Christian families have turned Christianity into a spectator sport. They want to claim participation in hopes of getting any benefits from identifying with it, but don’t really want to get all sweaty and dirty actually living the Christian life.

Unfortunately, God does not condone spectator Christianity. Rather, He calls Christians to a life filled with obedience, service and activity. It doesn’t earn us a spot in Heaven, but active, full participation is necessary to meet God’s expectations of how we are to live our lives.

Parents may unknowingly be teaching their children Christianity is a spectator sport by their choices. Here are the four most common ways.

  1. Attending church online instead of in person. Nothing screams spectator more loudly than watching it on a screen. While there are times when virtual worship and classes can be a blessing, fellowship is a key part of the design of church created by God. Your kids need to be in the building with other Christians as often as possible.
  2. Skipping church for more important things. Do you allow your kids to skip Sundays for sports or other activities? Does your family skip on vacation? Every time you skip, you are implying worshipping and obeying God is optional and only if you don’t have something better to do.
  3. Acting like a professional critic after worship or classes. It’s one thing to discuss theological differences and quite another to constantly critique song choice, appearance, flower arrangements and all of the other elements as if you were a professional paid to do so. When you constantly criticize, you are implying worship and classes are for your entertainment and should meet your expectations for what that means, not for humbly worshipping God.
  4. Not living your faith and failing to teach your kids about God at home. Does your Christianity stay at the church building? Then you may be teaching your kids that it is a social club and not a lifestyle with everything that encompasses as far as God is concerned.

Don’t raise spectator Christians. Raise children who are active, productive Christians.

7 Things Your Kids Need This Summer

Summer is quickly approaching and your family is probably finalizing plans for how you will spend those few weeks out of school. Many of you will fill every waking minute of your children’s time with camps and other organized activities. While those things can be good, there are seven things which your kids need more this summer.

  1. Time to be bored. Boredom encourages your kids to process what they have been learning, dream godly dreams and be creative. Take away the devices and provide supplies for crafts, library books, plain paper or notebooks, pencils, pens and free time. If not used wisely, feel free to offer to substitute free time with extra jobs around the house!
  2. Quality time with you. Did you know most parents only interact with their kids for a few minutes a day – primarily with logistical conversations? Your kids need lots of quality time with you listening to them and giving them coaching and counseling where needed. They need you to be totally present and engaged with them for hours, not minutes.
  3. Daily time with God. Summer is a great time to help your kids establish lifelong habits of daily scripture reading and prayer. Those two habits are disciplines that will help them stay healthy spiritually.
  4. Time walking in nature. Long walks in nature are phenomenal for mental and spiritual health. Taking them together can also give you more quality time.
  5. Time serving others. In a selfish world, your children will easily become self centered and entitled. Regularly serving others in ways that allow them to also hear the stories of those people will encourage softer, others focused, servant hearts.
  6. Time doing manual labor. Over scheduling means many kids aren’t learning how to work hard doing things that aren’t necessarily fun – a skill often needed to succeed in careers and ministry. You can add an element of fun, but it won’t hurt your kids to help you with household jobs that require more effort than putting food in a pet’s bowl.
  7. Time learning Christian life skills. A lot of the things God requires of Christians are much easier if your kids have the skill sets to do them well. Things like conflict resolution and budgeting can make loving others and generosity easier. We have a free curriculum on our website, Living the Christian Life, with lessons for you to use.

Don’t make this summer another blur of too many activities and not enough time spent being intentional about helping your kids be healthy mentally and spiritually. Give them what they really need.

Tips for Having Natural Spiritual Conversations With Your Kids

As a Christian parent, you would probably love to have meaningful spiritual conversations with your children. When you try, however, the conversations feel stilted and awkward. Or perhaps you find what you thought would be a great spiritual discussion spiraling into an argument. It seems that no matter how hard you try, you never feel like the conversations are helping your kids grow spiritually.

Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to make it more likely you are able to achieve your goals in these crucial conversations.

  1. Choose the time and place carefully – especially if you already know your children will disagree with what you have to say. Timing is half the battle. Try to have conversations when everyone is relaxed and well rested. Sometimes having them on a hike or other area away from home can make potentially tense conversations less so. What you want is for the atmosphere to be as relaxed and casual as possible.
  2. Try opening the conversation with a casual question. Godly Play promotes using “I wonder…” questions when having spiritual conversations with children. Asking a question changes a conversation from sounding like a sermon to a mutual discovery of what God wants from both you and your children. It also gives them a platform for feeling heard, making it more likely they will listen to your counsel.
  3. Give them space to ask questions and express doubts. We say it a lot, but it’s true. It’s not doubts that destroy faith, but doubts that aren’t addressed by Christians with godly, biblical answers. Leaving your children’s spiritual questions unanswered makes them vulnerable to whomever Satan sends their way to answer those questions.
  4. Use their real life experiences to point out God’s wisdom and/or commands on the topic. Combined with “I wonder” questions, this works well. So, for example, if your child comes home talking about how nobody likes Susie because she tells lies, then you can launch at least a mini conversation with, “Hmmm. I wonder if that is one of the reasons God hates lies…. (No one can trust us if we tell lies)?”
  5. Use the cover of their peers. Sometimes your child may be concerned about telling you about a doubt or concern. It can be easier if you frame the question about how people their age or their friends feel about the topic. Chances are at least one of their friends has the same concerns and they can answer your question honestly without having to openly admit they are having the same questions.
  6. Stay calm and listen carefully. What if your child launches a spiritual bombshell in the middle of a conversation? If the child is doing it to get a reaction from you, losing your cool plays right into their plan. Most kids and teens will shut down the minute a parent gets upset. They stop listening, get defensive or begin rebelling. Often staying cool and casually presenting the truth gives them a little time and space to feel like they came to the conclusion on their own instead of being forced into it by you. Bring up this topic again periodically to monitor how they are processing it and don’t gloat when they finally agree with you.
  7. Bring in a “neutral” third party. They may not listen to what they consider a sermon from you, but may read an apologetics book or watch a video. It removes the parenting dynamic from the equation and encourages them to deal with the actual topic without getting entangled with their feelings about your relationship.
  8. Practice authoritative parenting. If you practice an authoritarian parenting style, your kids are already primed for rebellion because you have harsh rules and consequences without a nurturing relationship. If you are a permissive parent, your kids are also primed for rebellion, because you have taught them they can do whatever they want without consequence. Authoritative parents with their nurturing parenting style can get away with being firm and even strict, because their kids know their parents are doing those things in their best interest. They may not always agree with you, but they are much less likely to rebel against you and/or God.
  9. Don’t be afraid to share spiritual truths, but mirror how Jesus did it. Sometimes your children may need to hear the harsh sounding truth that their choices are not making God happy. Making excuses for them or pretending like a sin isn’t a sin won’t help. Neither will pretending there is some mysterious third path where they can call themselves a Christian, but refuse to get baptized or even attempt to obey God’s commands but still go to Heaven. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for our children is to tell them a hard truth. But even harsh truths can be shared with love and showing them there is a path for forgiveness and grace.
  10. Don’t think addressing a spiritual topic once will settle the topic. As your children age, they will have more experiences that can raise additional questions or concerns. Bringing up important topics periodically can allow you to check in before they get too far down a spiritual rabbit hole.

Having spiritual conversations with your children doesn’t have to be difficult. The more often you have them, the more natural they will seem. And the more time you spend in personal Bible study, the more likely you will be able to handle whatever happens. Your kids desperately need you to have these conversations with them. Don’t let them down.

Hearing These Words More Often Can Help Your Children Become Christians

One of the benefits of my ministry is that I get to observe congregations around the U.S. and in other countries. I get a better sense of what works well and what doesn’t in Christian parenting and ministries serving children and teens. This week, my husband and I visited a congregation that regularly seems to average around a couple of hundred baptisms a year. We began asking ourselves why this particular congregation was averaging so many more baptisms (of believers) than others.

We suddenly realized why. The minister there was not afraid to talk about the need for baptism not only to have sins forgiven and for becoming a Christian, but for the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes living the Christian life possible. He walks through it carefully explaining the whys and hows of baptism. Children and teens in this congregation hear about baptism regularly and have a thorough understanding of what it is and why it is so important.

I imagine if I asked the minister I would learn that most of the young people in this congregation have decided to become Christians before the age of eighteen, unlike the majority of their peers in other congregations. I would also imagine the parents are encouraged to talk about baptism at home with their children and Bible class teachers are trained to discuss it in Bible classes with older children and teens.

Think carefully about your own children. How often to they hear baptism even mentioned – much less explained in your worship services? How often do they see a baptism? How often do their Bible class teachers talk about it? How often do you discuss it in your home?

Our young people aren’t getting baptized any more in part because they don’t know it’s something God expects of them. They don’t know why they need to do it (most never hear about Heaven or Hell anywhere either). They don’t know what happens when they are baptized and how it makes a difference both on Earth and after death. They don’t have a space to ask their questions – and may not have any because they have little knowledge and experience upon which to even form a question.

If you want your children to become Christians, you have to talk about it a lot. You need to study it with them in scripture (our free study and the book of Acts are great places to start). You need to encourage your ministers and Bible class teachers to talk about it more often. If you do that, your kids will have the information necessary to make an informed choice about baptism – and they’re more likely to make a great choice.

Here is the link to our free baptism study guide. http://teachonereachone.org/baptism-study/

The Book Every Christian Parent Should Read

Before you start posting critical comments on social media, the Bible is technically the only book you need to truly Christian parent well. The problem is there are too many people out there who either claim to be Christians or who were Christians who have taken it on as their mission in life to do everything in their power to destroy Christianity. It’s not enough to reject God and the Bible as the standard for their lives. They want to take as many people with them as possible.

It would be bad enough if just former “Christians” were aggressively recruiting young people to leave Christianity, but there are theologians, preachers, ministers, “Christian” authors and musicians and others who still attend church and even lead and teach in churches, but with a message that is meant to destroy the faith of those who hear them. It’s the false teaching warned about in scripture on steroids.

The problem strong Christians and Christian parents have always faced is because they are so focused on studying the Bible, serving others, sharing their faith, etc., they don’t always have a lot of free time to keep up with what is swirling around on the perimeters of Christianity until it has taken hold of their children through some back channel on social media or some book or post that leads them down a spiritual rabbit hole that rarely ends well.

As parents, grandparents or anyone concerned about the faith of children, teens and young adults you need help staying at least close to the curve and how young people are being influenced. What are they being told? What faulty logic are they hearing that seems to make sense, but is really a lie? What makes them more vulnerable to these false teachings and how can you keep their faith strong?

Normally, I finish a book before I suggest you purchase and read it. I will be honest, I am half way through The Deconstruction of Christianity by Alisa Childres and Tim Barnett and I am suggesting you run and read this book ASAP. It’s that good. If you have kept up with everything, it’s not that all of the information will be new to you, but it’s organized in a fashion that will help you work with young people and their parents struggling with the current issues circulating out there. If the very term deconstruction makes your head spin, this book breaks everything down in easy to understand ways that will not only help you, but allow you to have better conversations with others on the topic.

I’m not sure how the young people you care about would respond to the idea of reading this book at the same time you do and discussing it with you (those too far down this road may dismiss it as toxic and refuse to even look at it), but it could make a great book to help you have meaningful conversations with your kids – perhaps before they are even exposed to these issues. Fore warned is after all fore armed!

Whether you read this book for yourself or with your kids or grandkids, read it. We have to stop this current movement from taking any more young people down the path of destruction.