Passing the faith

Passing the faith March 12, 2010

A few weeks ago, I sat around with some fellow mothers discussing the great dilemma of modern Christian parenthood: Family devotions or no family devotions?

Even just the phrase rings warning bells in my ears.  Can’t we think of a better term that doesn’t make teenagers automatically want to throw up in their mouths? As someone who spent the past decade in youth ministry, I’m leery of any family activity that can do more harm than good to a child’s spiritual life, and I admit I have pretty mixed emotions about the idea of a forced family Bible study.

I’ve seen some families where it seems to work, where their kids are adjusted and loving people who have a deep knowledge of the scripture. I have a lot of respect for that. I’ve also seen family devotions turn into a joke. I’ve seen many kids rebel under the pressure of their over spiritualized Christian family. And I have my own positive experience: growing up in a faithful, believing home, where we prayed at meals but where scriptural teaching was lived out organically in our daily lives, never forced from a devotional book at a specific meeting time.

So I often feel the struggle of what it should look like to be committed to raising my kids to love Christ. How intentional does “teaching” need to be? After living with a child in two success-driven cities, I’m feeling more and more convinced that as Christians we’re becoming just as obsessed with our children’s spiritual “achievement” as we are with their early literacy skills and exposure to foreign languages by the age of three. It’s not hard to buy into the guilt that we should be doing something more. Surely there are spiritual flashcards! Is there a Jesus tutor I could find?

I keep asking myself: if Jesus was raising August, wouldn’t he just be living with him, loving him, and telling him stories about how God loves him? Deuteronomy 11:18-19 is a beautiful picture of that act of passing the faith on to our children, talking about God’s word when we sit at home, walk along the road, lie down and get up.

This week, a friend sent me an article by Leslie Leland Fields called “The Myth of the Perfect Parent.” It was in Christianity Today in January so it may not be new to you. Its subtitle is “Why the best parenting techniques don’t produce Christian children.” It’s an article that may either discourage you or help you feel great freedom. It did the latter for me.

I’d love to discuss it more here, but want to give you a chance to read it. Please do and tell us what you think. Do you have an opinion about how deliberate we need to be in our kids’ spiritual training? Do you agree or disagree with Fields?

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