Passing the faith

A few weeks ago, I sat around with some fellow mothers discussing the great dilemma of modern Christian parenthood: Family devotions or no family devotions?

Even just the phrase rings warning bells in my ears.  Can’t we think of a better term that doesn’t make teenagers automatically want to throw up in their mouths? As someone who spent the past decade in youth ministry, I’m leery of any family activity that can do more harm than good to a child’s spiritual life, and I admit I have pretty mixed emotions about the idea of a forced family Bible study.

I’ve seen some families where it seems to work, where their kids are adjusted and loving people who have a deep knowledge of the scripture. I have a lot of respect for that. I’ve also seen family devotions turn into a joke. I’ve seen many kids rebel under the pressure of their over spiritualized Christian family. And I have my own positive experience: growing up in a faithful, believing home, where we prayed at meals but where scriptural teaching was lived out organically in our daily lives, never forced from a devotional book at a specific meeting time.

So I often feel the struggle of what it should look like to be committed to raising my kids to love Christ. How intentional does “teaching” need to be? After living with a child in two success-driven cities, I’m feeling more and more convinced that as Christians we’re becoming just as obsessed with our children’s spiritual “achievement” as we are with their early literacy skills and exposure to foreign languages by the age of three. It’s not hard to buy into the guilt that we should be doing something more. Surely there are spiritual flashcards! Is there a Jesus tutor I could find?

I keep asking myself: if Jesus was raising August, wouldn’t he just be living with him, loving him, and telling him stories about how God loves him? Deuteronomy 11:18-19 is a beautiful picture of that act of passing the faith on to our children, talking about God’s word when we sit at home, walk along the road, lie down and get up.

This week, a friend sent me an article by Leslie Leland Fields called “The Myth of the Perfect Parent.” It was in Christianity Today in January so it may not be new to you. Its subtitle is “Why the best parenting techniques don’t produce Christian children.” It’s an article that may either discourage you or help you feel great freedom. It did the latter for me.

I’d love to discuss it more here, but want to give you a chance to read it. Please do and tell us what you think. Do you have an opinion about how deliberate we need to be in our kids’ spiritual training? Do you agree or disagree with Fields?



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6 responses to “Passing the faith

  1. You posted your latest post as I was posting mine! (I know, because my blog is set to feature the latest posts of the blogs I’m following). And your topic harmonizes so well with mine, I just had to respond. We’re supposed to be sharing our faith in lots of ways, throughout the day. And sometimes that takes the form of formal “devotions” – (or it can, when it seems appropriate). But much more it should take the form of conversation “along the way” – as Deuteronomy 6 suggests. Anyhow, I’m trying to unravel this on my blog – so take a look:

  2. It is such a hard question, isn’t it? How do we as parents learn to turn even our best intentions over to God as we parent, and choose to rely on His grace more than any other thing? I personally resist formulas when it comes to raising children, since I have seen so many kinds of personalities even just within my own four children. I think you are on the right track with the passage from Deuteronomy, and with the idea that it is the grace in those daily moments of your parenting that will most impress itself, with God’s mercy, upon your children. I find the process of learning to depend upon God’s faithfulness–especially when it comes to my children–the most difficult lesson of all! I would rather attempt to follow a formula and be promised guaranteed results. . .

  3. Absolutely terrific article. Thanks for sharing! I also found it very freeing… I don’t have any real hope of being a “successful” parent, but I know that with God’s help I can be a faithful parent. This was especially comforting to me as we are in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia. I don’t know what “successful” adoptive parenting looks like, but I am so glad I don’t have to attempt that. Faithfulness is all that God requires and all I have to offer.

  4. This article was not only excellent, but very timely. Right as our church has undergone a mass exodus revolving around one such parenting book (a “spiritually deterministic” parenting book), this article was so freeing. I’ve passed it out to many people.

  5. I’m grateful for all three of your comments. Alysia, I’m appreciating what you said about resisting formulas, especially because every child has a different personality. And I agree, it seems easier to be able to check “spiritual instruction” off a daily list rather than have to wait on the Spirit and be aware of moments to speak into your child’s life.

    Denise, that must be incredibly difficult for your church to be torn apart over divisive parenting styles. I’m glad the article was encouraging.

    Haley, I’m so excited for you in this process of adopting! I’d love to hear more about it…I’m so thankful that all that’s asked of us in all of life is faithfulness. Now if we could just figure that part out. 🙂

  6. Kim

    Hi Micha! A little birdie named Lia told me to find you here. What a treat for me to read from you. I love the poetry and kindness in your writing.

    And additionally we have been praying through Lent for this very thing for me and my bugs. The thing I so desire for my kids is engagement – the very thing I battle to have everyday – with Jesus and with them. When we are purposeful and engaged, we draw them close, we talk, process, argue, pray and give grace. We open our Bibles and read together and talk about how that overlays all the other things we read and love and do everyday. I by no means am in this place all the time… (I type as my almost 3 year old rifles my pockets and hangs on my arms, making my wrists crunch against the desk as he seeks my attention.) But it is what I pray for… organically grown future men… and a mom who loves Jesus all the more each day and is a walking ray of grace. Without Him, nothing is strong, nothing is holy:) – with Him it all is.

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