Three conversations with your children

Years ago my wife came across a book that stirred both of our hearts. Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it (by Ken Ham, Britt Beemer & Todd Hillard).

Estimates suggest two-thirds of kids from Christian homes will walk away from the faith during college. But here’s the book’s stunning premise.

Young people are not choosing to walk away from the faith during college. Rather they are mentally checking out during middle school and high school years. As young as 13 and 14 years old, these kids are “already gone.”

As a father to teenagers, this claim has my attention. How can I guide my children spiritually in the face of these trends? With summer now in full gear, I’m looking for opportunities to sharpen in this area.

For most families, summer means extra time together. Time at the kitchen table. Time in the car. Time during evenings or weekends. Summer brings lots of time for conversations.

Here are three conversations I want to have more frequently with my children.

Conversations about God – I know, a no-brainer. But too often I allow family conversations to drift for hours among topics like school, sports, work, the NBA playoffs, vacation plans, the next meal – and no meaningful mention of God for days… or even weeks! But if I want to help my children walk with God, I must talk about Him more!

I want to ask more questions – like “How did you see God this week?” “How might God be speaking to your heart?” “Do you think about God when you lay down at night?” “What do you think God thinks of you?” “Do you have ever have doubts about God?”

I have 20+ years of walking with God as an adult. But my children don’t have the benefit of my adult-level learns. They need to hear their mother and me talking about our walk with God. Instead of telling them what they should do (read your bible, say your prayers), we need to take time to simply talk about God’s character. His sovereignty. His presence. And yes, even His silent and mysterious ways. 

Conversations about Church – It’s easy to let the church be something that we “do”, but not talk about. But if we don’t talk about the church, kids may see God and the church as the same. And they’re not! 

I want my kids to understand the church is the bride of Christ. And what a messy bride she is. After all, WE are the church!

The institutional church is under attack today. So kids need balanced perspective of the institutional church – understanding for what makes it so messy… yet appreciation for its role in a walk with God. 

I want to peel back the skin and talk about how churches are different. Why do some churches baptize and others don’t. Why do some churches do communion each week and others don’t. Why does music look this way at a church and that way at another? Why are some churches casual and some more formal? Why do churches sometimes split?

I want to discuss which church differences are shaped by doctrine. And which ones are shaped by culture.

By picking apart the church (in constructive ways), conversation can lead to the core issues that really matter…mainly, Christ! 

If we don’t have healthy conversations about church, teenagers will be inclined to dismiss its value once they leave home. Or worse, if they don’t distinguish between the bridegroom (Christ) and the bride (the church), they’ll confuse one for the other and risk walking away from both!

Conversations about culture – If you want to talk about spiritual things, you have to talk about the culture in which we live.

Why do we filter our choices of music and media? And what really is the meaning of “Christian music”, “Christian movies”, “Christian schools,” or anything “Christian”? (Just because something has a Christian label does not mean it represents Christ.)

And as headline topics become age-appropriate for kids, we need to press into them. What does the same-sex marriage debate mean for the church? Why is the creation account so threatening to educators? Why is Bruce Jenner being honored by ESPN? (The Wheaties cereal box icon is still the Jenner I know).

I want my children to understand the force of culture and how culture shapes the church… and how culture often leads to devaluing God.

When my kids leave home, I won’t have the same controls over the cultural forces in their lives. I want to talk about culture while I have them in my grasp.

Take the opportunity 

Well, those are my summer plans. I want to have more conversations to help my children think about God. I want them to know that God never changes, but churches often do…and that the familiar change agent for the church is culture

On the final pages (Epilogue) of Divine Applause, I share this verse: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (1 John 3:4). While John is speaking of his spiritual children, the verse speaks powerfully to those of us with earthly children.

I hope you’ll join me in taking time to invite these conversations into your homes, helping your children to walk with God.