The most common response I have heard from people who were intrigued by the issues above has been, “What do I do now? What does it look like to parent with a gospel focus? How does an Imperfect and Normal Family like mine raise my kids to have a faith that lasts once they leave home?”
The bad news is that there are no formulas. As I have posted before, there is no secret recipe that will guarantee that your kids will develop a sincere personal faith. Everybody makes their own spiritual choices. Forcing your faith on your kids will probably not end well.
But there are some things that parents can do that can create an environment where God can get to work in our homes.
1. Clarify your parenting goals.
Start by giving an honest answer to this question: “Do you want to raise good kids or fully devoted followers of Jesus?”
If you want your kids to be happy and fit nicely into society, there’s nothing wrong with that. The American dream is pretty awesome.
But don’t fool yourself. “Pursuing personal happiness” as an end in itself is the polar opposite of “building the kingdom of God.”
And your kids can’t successfully do both. Following Jesus is unbelievably fulfilling, but joy will be a byproduct. It can’t be the goal.
Here’s another way of looking at it: All parenting should be rooted in discipleship. The ultimate goal is to help your kids find their part in God’s agenda of bringing His redemption to the entire world. If it’s not, then you’re missing the point. You’re just raising your kids like the rest of the world with a little Christianity sprinkled in for good measure.
2. Have a biblical theology of life-change.
As I mentioned in the original post, Christ didn’t come to make bad people good but to enable dead people to come to life. In suggesting that, I’m not advocating a Christianity that downplays goodness. When rooted in the One who is truly good, our faith will certainly transform us into good people.
And for the record, all those mean-spirited people in our world who claim to be Christians are likely practicing a form of self-righteousness that Jesus spoke the most harshly against.
We can be sure that goodness (and Christ-likeness) will be the fruit of our faith. But it will happen most powerfully when our kids are made alive in Christ because of a transforming encounter with Jesus; not because we force them or discipline them into goodness. With that in mind, you must …
3. Help your kids fall in love with Jesus.
The foundation of a God-driven life is found by living daily in the Spirit.
The common theme I hear from the parents of kids who have walked away from the faith is this: “We regularly brought our kids to church. They were very involved when they were growing up.”
Here’s the problem: Too many of our kids fall in love with the church (and all its activity) instead of falling in love with Jesus. They like the trips and the group and the experience they have. But they don’t personally get to know Christ. We must teach our kids to walk in a relationship with Him, where they listen to His voice, find Him to be altogether satisfying and get caught up in His plan for their lives. This all happens because of love, not because of religion.
The best way for them to learn this?
By watching you. They will learn what Christianity looks like by seeing your Christian life in action. If your life doesn’t regularly reflect joy in your relationship with Jesus, your kids will have a hard time embracing Him themselves.