There is no question that the Christian faith and influence in American culture has seemed to steadily decline over the past few decades. A biblical worldview, on a number of current issues, seems to be outshined by a progressive and postmodern worldview. Just think for a moment how much American culture has changed since you were a child, concerning Christian values and practice. I’m sure most of us would agree that our culture looks quite different from years past. Now, thinking on how much the culture has changed in your lifetime, consider what it may look like for your children.
A Post-Christian Concern for Our Children
As a father of two little boys, I am deeply concerned with the post-Christian trend that we are seeing before us. Barna Group recently conducted a study of thousands of teens and adults, with regard to their religious affiliations. They found that the percentage of teens, ages 13-18, “that identifies as atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population.” Yes, it said DOUBLE!
Why is that the case? Generation Z, as they are referred to, was asked by Barna what their barriers to faith are. These are the top three answers: 29% reported that they had a hard time reconciling that fact that a good God would allow so much suffering and evil in the world, while 23% said that they believed Christians to be hypocritical, and 20% believes that contemporary science has discredited majority of the Bible.
The Best Way Forward
The top answers in the study reveal that there is a lack of good Christian example and biblical knowledge/apologetics. As Christian parents, what can we do? How can we work to remedy this? First we can pray. We can pray that God will draw this next generation, and our culture at large, to a saving faith in Christ. Second, we can practice what the Bible instructs us parents to do; I’m talking about Family Discipleship.
Why Family Discipleship?
Before there were churches, Sunday School classes, or small groups, there was the original small group: the family. God ordained the family all the way back in Genesis. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God designated parents to give primary and foundational instruction to their children.
Here are a few examples:
“"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 NASB
“I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children,”
Psalms 78:2-6 NASB
“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6 NASB
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Ephesians 6:4 NASB
God has commanded and entrusted us with the honor of teaching our children His Holy Word. Unfortunately, in recent years, many parents have passed this wonderful torch to the professionals: ie. pastors, church staff, and Sunday School teachers. Don’t get me wrong, I am blessed to teach and pour into kids every week, and I am not excusing my responsibility to do so, as a children’s pastor. However, the “professionals” are here to “equip the saints” (Eph 4:12). Doubtless, part of that responsibility is to teach and preach the Word; it is also to build up, encourage, resource, and partner with parents.
Where Do You Start?
1) Begin on Your Knees.
Prayer is one of the most important things you can do as a Christian, especially as a parent. Pray for your kids daily. Pray for their salvation, their walk with Jesus, their safety, their interactions with their peers. Pray for opportunities to minister to them and for teachable moments to speak into their lives.
2) Study the Word.
Reflecting on Deuteronomy 6 and Psalms 78, if you are commanded to “teach them diligently” to your children, you have to know what “them” are. You have to have personal time in God’s Word to teach yourself. You have to be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15). It’s a daunting task, but a rewarding one when you have God’s answers ready for life’s toughest questions. Believe me, your kids have tough questions to ask you, just look back at the study shown above. The the top barriers that teens had, regarding faith, are questions about what the Bible says. They want to learn and they want you to answer their questions.
3) Set Aside Time for Family Worship.
When we think of worship, we often think of music only, but that’s far from the truth. We worship God with music, prayer, the reading and studying of Scripture, and with our actions. Set aside specific time(s) each week to pray together and study God’s Word, as a family. Ask questions about what you read. Get them to talk about it. Share stories of application with each other. If you are musically inclined, sing praises to God, if you desire. Actually sit down and have a meal together, sharing what God has done in your lives. It doesn’t have to take place all at once. Worship in many ways, as you go. Worship isn’t only for Sunday!
4) Get Caught in the Act.
As referenced above, 23% of teens think Christians are a bunch of hypocrites. Prove them wrong! Teens and children are impressionable. They model behavior that they see. Let them catch you in the act of prayer, reading the Bible, serving others, and respecting your spouse. Don’t practice sinful habits. Always be compassionate, loving, and humble with every interaction you have in life. They are watching you: your actions, reactions, your speech. Everything that you do and say is under a microscope; so, keep yourself in check. One other important note, go to church together! I can’t count how many times I’ve counseled with a parent and they just can’t understand why little Johnny doesn’t want to come to church. 80% of the time, it was because one, or both, of the parents were not consistent in attending themselves. Wake-up-call: attending church once a month, or just on holidays, is not the way to stress the importance of church to your children! Church is not just for children, it’s for adults too. If you don’t model godly behavior, chances are they won’t either. Also, your kids can miss a practice, game, or recital if it conflicts with church. They will survive! Set the expectation and explain why. Place an importance on corporate worship. [End of soapbox]
5) Spend Quality, Intentional Time with Your Kids.
We live in a busy culture. Oftentimes, family time is sacrificed for personal pursuits, whether those pursuits are honorable or not. The time you have with your kids is short. Don’t waste it. They need quality time with you. Talk about what interests them. Do activities with them that you wouldn’t normally do, it will surprise them. Be creative, but also be intentional. Make teachable moments from everyday life. If they notice some kind of evil or injustice upon someone else, teach them about sin and the need for a savior. Do a mission trip together and discuss the importance of sharing the gospel. Serve in the church together, emphasizing the importance of using spiritual gifts and talents at church. Volunteer at a soup kitchen together and then talk about what the Bible says about caring for the poor.
6) Repeat Steps 1-5!
If you continually practice these things while your children are under your care, you will be making disciples at home. You will be training your child for life. You will make lasting impressions on them for God’s glory. If you practice family discipleship, your children will reach adulthood with a biblical worldview. They will be ready to take on life with a mission, not wondering aimlessly in a culture that is growing more post-Christian. Not to mention, fulfilling your God-called role as a parent. By God’s grace, and your faithfulness, maybe we will see a cultural shift with this next, precious, generation.