There is a lot of scary research out there that shows many young people walk away from their christian faith by the time they are 18 years old and/or enter college. You can read many interesting statistics and articles by the experts here: Barna Group
Overall, about three out of ten young people who grow up with a Christian background stay faithful to church and to faith throughout their transitions from the teen years through their twenties. (Barna Group, 2011)
Seven! Seven out of ten do not remain faithful to the church and ultimately, God. A couple of Barna’s conclusions can be linked back to parents. Parents should be the primary influence in a young child’s spiritual life, we should not leave that important job only to the local church (for more on this thought check out the Orange philosophy here).
Not that it’s the parents fault or we have complete control over how our children “turn out” but we have a pretty major influence as to how they view our Holy God by the experiences they live in and see every day in our homes.
I can impact how my child views mercy, grace, judgment, love, righteousness, forgiveness etc. by how I respond to them, my expectations and standards I give and generally how I act in my home behind closed doors.
What is important to me? The television or the bible?
Where do I spend most of my time? On my social media? Or serving them or my neighbors?
How do I speak at church vs. in my car when someone cuts me off? Do I encourage or cut down?
Have my children been the recipient of me apologizing or asking forgiveness of them? Or is everything that goes wrong their fault and I let them know that?
After reading other authors thoughts on this my unprofessional conclusion is:
if we are not living out a healthy relationship with Jesus daily, where else will our children see that modeled on a daily basis?
Challenging? YES. Scary? YES. Possible? By anchoring to Christ, YES!
Someone just recently told me that God doesn’t give us a command without giving us the resources to carry it out. So true! God has all of the resources and strategies worked out already, we just need to follow and obey. Sounds simple right? But I know it can be difficult to accomplish in my own sinful state. Sometimes, because of sin, there can be a disconnect between what young people are hearing and being taught at church and what they are seeing daily at home. This scares me as well.
I am being challenged everyday to practice what I preach. To be responsible for what I read in my bible. I have four little sets of eyes watching and ears listening to my every move and every word. So one thing that God has encouraged me to do, as a parent living out my faith in front of my four children, is to simply ask forgiveness when I screw up and forgive quickly when I have been offended.
We have practiced this since our children were young and while we weren’t sure if it made an impact on them as little ones, we have seen, it certainly makes an impact on them as they get older.
Jesus’ simple words in Matthew 6:14-15 should cause us to obey:
“For if you forgive people their wrong doing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you do not forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrong doing.” (HCSB)
You see when I was growing up, the cadence went something like this:
you got hurt by another family member,
you got mad,
or you stewed,
you eventually calmed down and then began speaking to the offender again as if nothing happened.
There was no reconciliation, conflict resolution or discussing whatsoever. What did happen was hurt feelings which lead to unforgiveness which lead to bitterness.
For 18 years this played out in front of me and as I got older and bolder I began to participate as well. Unfortunately habits like this can carry into our marriages and raising of families too. We have to break the cycle.
I have to break the cycle.
So my encouragement today for parents is this:
When you screw up, ask forgiveness of your children and/or forgive them quickly, even if they don’t ask for forgiveness.
Here is what I have been taught to say:
” (name of the one you offended) I am sorry, I was wrong, will you please forgive me for (fill in the blank).”
That’s it. You may need to go into more detail about the offense, if your child is older, for clarification, but this simple sentence can show your child that you are obeying Jesus and desiring to follow Him. I cannot express to you the encouragement I feel when one of my children asks for forgiveness without being prompted. That is fruit friends!! It certainly didn’t begin all of a sudden. I had many opportunities while they were younger and to this day still continue to ask forgiveness from them. Keep working hard friends. It is worth the fight.