You Lost Me

“You lost me.” This is how a lot of 20-somethings feel with respect to the church. In a recent podcast, David Kinnaman, President of Barna Group and author of You Lost Me shared information about this new generation and why they are leaving the church.  Here is some (part 1 of 2) of what he imparted in this podcast, as it pertains to parenting:

When speaking about this new generation, he described them as post-institutional. They have lost faith in the institutions of marriage, education, government and yes, church. When they leave the home, many will leave the church too, but not their faith in Jesus. A small percentage will leave their faith altogether.  But about half will find themselves stuck between culture and Christianity. They may occasionally go to church, believe in God and Jesus, but not find a way to live out that faith in the prevailing anti-religious culture.  As parents, it is our job to help them navigate these waters while they are still in our care. We want our kids to be so glued to God that they can’t imagine another way.

Here are some ideas to keep them from getting “lost.”

Be clear about your beliefs and share them with your family. Discuss them often. Allow questions, discussion, and different opinions, but be clear about where you stand personally.  If you are uncertain about your faith, spend some time talking with a pastor, your spouse or another trusted adult. You do not have to have all the answers, you just need to know what matters most to you and share it with those you love.

Integrate God into your daily life. When you have tough decisions, share them as prayer requests with your family. Talk about your wrestlings with God over tough issues. Point out the times God helps you or when prayers are answered. Ask your kids what they need you to pray about for them. If you make your faith part of your everyday life, it will become reality for your kids. As Kinnaman put it, “People don’t leave things that are real.” Show them faith is personal, it’s about a relationship with Jesus, it’s a way of life.

Explain church. Many tend to think of “the church” as some big amoeba that rolls around making decisions and laying down doctrine. When in reality, the church is made up of a bunch of people; flawed, imperfect, human beings. They make bad decisions and good ones. Sometimes they offer the love of Christ, and sometimes they don’t. Explain how your church works and how decisions are made. Teach your kids that God calls us to live in community with other Christ-followers. We need the institution of church, but it is still just a bunch of people doing their best to share the love of Christ.

Next week, I’ll share what we need to embed in our kids, how we need to equip them, and what we parents need to embrace.

Are you a frustrated parent?discipline, parenting

Parenting is hard. I often talk with parents about discipline issues concerning their children. While each situation is different and we often have to try various methods with our children, the number one phrase I hear is, “I’m tired of yelling and threatening.” So how do we even get to that point in our parenting?

Let’s face it – sometimes, we’re just tired. We don’t feel like reminding our child to pick up their toys one more time. It takes work to enforce rules, talk through situations and follow through on consequences. It’s easier to take their plate to the kitchen than to ask them to do it, again. It’s less stressful to let them watch TV than to enforce a rule and bear the crying and tantrum that will follow. But here’s the deal- if you put a little extra work in up front – it is actually easier later. Try a new plan in your home:

  • Keep rules to a minimum. Have only a few major rules that you enforce at all times. Examples might be – Show respect for others, always tell the truth, and respect our home. Refer every infraction back to one of those core rules.
  • Adapt the consequences and keep them age appropriate. You need the freedom to adapt to the situation and the child. While one child may respond to a stern voice and reprimand, another may need to have privileges taken away.  A two-minute time out is good for an angry 3 year-old, but not enough for an angry 9 year-old.
  • No warnings: When the rules are clear in your home, you do not have to give warnings. A warning just tells a child that you may not mean what you say. I know it seems harsh, but kids crave boundaries. Clear rules and immediate consequences without warnings give them a sense of safety.
  • Discipline with gentleness. Harshness comes in your voice and your actions, so keep your anger in check and give them respect in how you deal with them.
  • Be consistent. If your children know that you mean what you say with regards to rules, they will know they can trust you in all matters. As they get older, that level of trust will help you navigate difficult times with a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

Pray over this idea and ask God to give you strength, wisdom and discernment. If your children are old enough to understand, sit them down and tell them you are changing some things in how you parent because you love them. Give them the house rules, talk about what they mean and let them know that you will not give warnings. This extra work now will save hours of work down the road! You can do it!

Mama Bear

I’m like a momma bear when anyone comes after one of my kids! Claws and teeth come out when anything threatens one of them. But I’m learning that protecting them from danger and protecting them from struggle are two different things. And perhaps I should save my claws for the danger, not the struggle.

In our culture of privilege and plenty, we fear the smallest difficulties for our kids. We try to prevent anything from harming them. They have a problem with a teacher; we remove them from that class. A friend is not nice to them; we prevent them from any interaction with that child. They struggle in schoolwork, we do it for them or get them moved to an easier class. They want something they can’t afford, we buy it for them, even if we ourselves can’t afford it either. But are we actually doing more harm by keeping them from the struggle, frustration and sometimes pain of a difficult situation? If we want them to become adults who are in a deep relationship with Christ, or if we just want independent, self-sufficient people who can move out of our houses someday, then I say keep the claws to a minimum.

This is not easy for us as parents, but our pain will be worth the effort as well. I have watched my daughter struggle in one area of her life for the past several years. It’s an area of her life she loves, and spends a lot of time devoted to. But it is also an area where her strengths are not necessarily an asset. She’s compassionate, kind, and always thinking of others. So when assertiveness is required, she worries about what others will think. When winning should be the motivation, she worries how the losers will feel.

It would be easy to pull her out of this activity, and at times we both think about it. But we both understand that she is learning great life lessons that will serve her for a time to come. She is learning to utilize her strengths in new ways, and discovering areas of growth that may become strengths later in life. She is learning what it is to not be great at everything. But mostly, she is learning to go to her knees. We have cried and prayed together more over this one area of her life than anything else. And God continues to answer our prayers. Not usually how we expect him to, but always an answer. And usually in ways that are better than we could have planned. He continues to show us new insights and he continues to show us how much he loves us.

So fight for your kids when they are in danger, but allow them some difficulty along the way. Walk beside them, claws ready, and help them discover their own strength and the power of a really big God.

Family Finances

Stretching Our Faith and Funds
It’s not easy to ignore the growing anxiety, the mounting bills, and the uncertainty of the job market . . . even if you’re only six years old. Chances are the kids in our lives are hearing nervous chatter from relatives, teachers, and friends, both at home and at school. It is ok to talk about finances in front of them, but it is best to do so in a very up front manner. Otherwise the bits and pieces they hear can make their imaginations run wild. Assure them that God is still present and is watching over our family.

Challenge Them to Be Good Stewards

Tell them what you are doing to help and then offer them some concrete ways to pitch in and make a difference as well. Brainstorm with your kids about how to stretch your food, clothing, and other supplies. How can you waste less? Talk about ways to save. List things you can go without for a while. Let them come up with their own ideas. You will be surprised at what they will be willing to do if they know it is for the good of their family. And doing something feels better to children than just hearing about the problem.

Connect the Word to the World
Don’t miss this opportunity to make the connection between today’s tough times and the tough times in Scripture. Nearly every story we in the bible highlights God’s faithfulness, provision, and care. God is still at work, delivering his people and calling us to trust him in every situation. Listen to your kid’s worries and concerns and lift them up together in prayer. That will help them cultivate trust in God. The most important thing is to reassure them that you all have to do your part, but ultimately God is enough for all of our worries.

 

Snuggle time

My children are 14 and 11. These last few years have been the ones I dreamed of – they are both able to dress themselves, fix their own snacks, handle chores around the house, and hold intelligent conversations.  We are able to do all kinds of fun things as a family. It is a great age. The one disappointing thing about the teen and pre-teen years is that the snuggling days are almost over. You know, when they hop in your lap  or snuggle up to you for no reason at all.  They both will still snuggle up sometimes, but it is less and less.  I wonder how many more years I have of those special moments. So I treasure each one when it happens.

I was reading a devotion about the Sabbath recently and the writer suggested that maybe God wants the same sweet moments with us. Of course he loves all that we do – especially when we do it for him. Just as we love to watch our children demonstrate their latest accomplishment for us. But perhaps what he longs for is for us to sit quietly in his arms and let him hold us tightly. The imagery gives me such a peaceful feeling. In the midst of the end of school craziness, I encourage you to spend a little time in your Father’s arms. Don’t feel guilty; it is what He longs for.