I’m kind of new to this whole parenting thing. My daughter turns 2 this week and we are expecting our second child in June. However, I have been around and worked with children and teenagers for the past 8 years and have noticed a trend. There are certain conversations that almost all parents fear. I wrote about one of those conversations a few months ago, so today I’m going to talk about another conversation. It’s the faith and beliefs conversation.
To call it a conversation isn’t fair, because there is absolutely no way that in one conversation you can explain the totality of your faith and beliefs. It would be much easier if we could, in one 15 minute conversation, just tell our children this is what we believe, this is why we believe it and this is how we will live it out, but it’s not not simple. Or is it?
Well the 15 minute conversation part, no, but I do believe talking to and with your children about faith can be simple. I am reminded of a phrase that many of us have heard many times, “Actions speak louder than words.” Don’t get me wrong, what you say is important and you need to talk with your kids about what it means to be a Christian, but sometimes you won’t know what to say. You won’t have the right answer and if that’s the case all you can do is live it out.
If you’re waiting for the perfect time to have that one conversation with your child, stop. As I mentioned earlier my daughter turns 2 this week and if you think she hasn’t picked up on what it means to be a Christian in the past 2 years, you’re mistaken. The past month she has been obsessed with carrying her Bible around the house, no she’s not some child prodigy that can read, she just sees it’s important to her mother and I. She has also started wanting to pray by herself before bed, why? Because every night for the past 2 years she has heard her mother or myself pray for her and over her. She didn’t always understand the words, but she remembered the action.
So what am I trying to say? Let the conversation about faith, be ongoing because truthfully it never ends. Think about, if you have the faith conversation with your child when they turn 6, by the time they are 18, that’s 12 years. No doubt they will have changed and will have a different perspective of the world, as will you. Your faith journey is ongoing, it hasn’t ended or come to the point where you understand it all. Let your child join your faith journey ( in case you don’t realize it they’re on it whether you invite them or not). Even if you never sit down with them and talk about what you believe and why, they will be watching and will more than likely be able to tell you exactly where they are in regards to your faith.
As a pastor I beg of you, don’t let me shoulder the burden of your family’s salvation. I want to help, I want to be a part of it, I want to see them grow and experience Christ, but I just don’t have the same impact on them that you do. I know they hit a certain age and all of a sudden you think they hate you and would rather be with anyone else but you, but I promise they still are watching and learning from you. The point can be overstated, but I am so limited in the time I can spend with them every week. I mean really it’s not even close. On a great week, I see them 5 hours and much of that time is not dedicated to them alone. You might get 5 hours a day with them. Think about that!
I know you look to me to have all the biblical and theological answers to the complicated questions they will have, but guess what? Sometimes I don’t know either, and I have told them that. It’s ok to not know. More than anything your child wants to see you being honest and vulnerable with them. They will see if what you say matches up with what you do. That can be scary, but it can also provide an opportunity for you to share with them just how difficult it is to live out your faith every single day. To help them realize you don’t expect perfection out of them, because you aren’t perfect yourself. There I said it, I’m giving you permission to not be perfect. We do more damage as parents by pretending to be perfect or have it all together, when they know full well that’s not true. Few things are more damaging to a child than hearing their parent say one thing and do another. If you say church is important, go to church. If you say be careful who you hang out with, be careful who you hang out with. If you say be nice to everyone, be nice to everyone.
Lastly I urge you to make your faith a part of your everyday life, both personally and in your family. It may be as simple as a prayer before meals or even the conversation you have before bed time, but make it a part of your routine. Opportunities to talk about your faith and how it affects your life happen everyday, but we often miss them because we are going too fast. Each day goes by fast enough without us rushing through it. Slow down, look around and embrace every opportunity. Love your family and show them Christ. That’s the best way to teach your children about faith every single day.