It’s a common story that every Christian parent wants to avoid: the dire warnings of how well-meaning parents invest time, energy and priorities to ensure their kids go to church, learn their Bible and avoid cultural temptations. But then those same kids grow up, leave home, and within a few years of departing—sometimes much less—they have given up on church and maybe even abandoned following Christ altogether.
The research reveals the truth that homes that foster “a vibrant and lived-out faith” tend to produce “children who have and keep a vibrant lived-out faith,” according to Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family’s director of family formation studies. The research that Stanton and others have examined shows that the kids who are most likely to carry their faith into adulthood are those who embrace spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, devotions and church attendance in their younger years. They also receive the support and encouragement of “satellite adults” in their lives—including pastors, extended family members, coaches and others who exert a godly influence. In other words, the kids that continue to follow Christ are usually those that are actively engaging with Christianity and living it out through day-to-day actions.
Every Christian parent wants their kids to “own” their faith—to embrace Christ as a genuine outpouring of their heart rather than just accept Christianity as a tradition handed down from Mom and Dad. But what can you do as a parent to help your kids grow spiritually?
1. Encourage your kids to wrestle with—rather than avoid—faith challenges. Have you ever had the experience of being uncomfortably challenged on a subject, only to later discover that being forced to answer someone else’s questions actually strengthened your own convictions? As Stanton writes, a challenge to a child’s faith “actually increases resolve and conviction. It requires [kids to] wrestle with the question of whether faith is really worth it.” Interestingly, research also shows that being teased about one’s beliefs can be a faith-strengthener.
Only through engaging with God’s Word in real-life situations can kids witness the power of the gospel to cut through cultural darkness and confusion and to bring redemption to even the most hopeless situations. A great resource for helping teens respond to challenges to the truth of the Bible is Focus on the Family’s article “Responding to Challenges”.
2. Give your children the opportunity—and the freedom—to live out their faith. Your kids desperately need your godly example and guidance, but they also need to be able to live their faith out on their own. One way to help them take responsibility for their faith in Christ is by empowering them to participate in something like Bring Your Bible to School Day. Scheduled for October 6, it’s a nationwide religious-freedom initiative for students from kindergarten-age all the way up to college level. The heart of the event is to equip and inspire Christian students to be voices of hope, to understand their religious freedoms and to express their biblical beliefs in a loving, Christ-centered way.
The significance of the fact that Bring Your Bible to School Day is a student-led event cannot be overstated. On this day, thousands of students across the country will take the lead on their campuses to celebrate religious freedom and share God’s hope with peers by taking a simple action: bringing their Bibles to school
(See Part I in this series—“Religious Freedom on Campus”)
3. Celebrate and share the Bible as a family. Although things like Bring Your Bible to School Day are student-led initiatives, think about ways that you, as a parent, can also challenge yourself and shine the light of Christ in your own circles of influence. For instance, when kids bring their Bibles to school on Oct. 6, parents, adult siblings or youth leaders can support the movement by bringing their Bibles to work. Afterward, schedule a family time to talk about what the experience was like for all of you.
4. Live out your faith year-round. It just makes sense. Kids who are empowered to speak out about their beliefs and influence the world around them on an ongoing basis for the sake of God’s kingdom are more likely to confidently follow Christ into their adult years. This is integral to the idea of passing the Christian faith down from one generation to the next.
First Timothy 4:12 reminds us, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” Events like Bring Your Bible to School Day are designed to help you equip your children to do exactly that!