The Number One Factor In Kids With a Vibrant Faith
March 30th, 2016 | John Chandler
Kids are intensely spiritually curious and have a natural desire to imitate what they see their parents do. We teach our kids how to brush their teeth, use good table manners, say “please and thank you,” and look both ways before crossing the street. As they grow into their teen years, our kids learn how to navigate friendships and to take on adult responsibilities. They even learn the wild world of social media from us.
How Kids Develop Faith
But, how can we be assured they’ll grow up with a sincere and strong faith? Dozens of books and seminars have addressed this topic. Yet, research suggests teens and young people are leaving the church in large numbers — sometimes permanently. It’s not the best Sunday School curriculum, or the best youth group, where they go to school, or even who their friends are that influences our kids’ faith.
It’s their parents.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how my husband and I are passing our faith on to our girls. For almost ten years we were part of a house church. From the time they were toddlers, my kids didn’t attend a regular Sunday School or Children’s Ministry program. I used to worry that our non-traditional choice for worship and fellowship might be detrimental to their spiritual development. However, as I learned about about children’s spiritual formation, I began to believe otherwise.
In 2012, a Children’s Ministry White Paper was published by Doug Paul and the Eikon Community in Richmond, Virginia. Their research revealed two things
- Children were more likely to have vibrant faith if the parents weren’t even Christians than if the parents went to church and did not act as primary disciplers.
- Children were more likely to have vibrant faith if the parents were Christians and didn’t go to church than if the parents went to church and didn’t act as primary disciplers.
Parents acting as primary disciplers is the key to raising children with a vibrant faith.
This means that my kids are watching me and my husband live out our faith, and they are learning what it means to follow Jesus by how we live our lives. When they are sick and we pray for them they learn about the power of healing prayer. When we invite friends and neighbors into our home they learn about fellowship and hospitality. When we give them honest answers to their spiritual questions, even if the answer is “I don’t know,” they learn the importance of wrestling with tough questions, and that following Jesus doesn’t mean having all the answers.
This is not to say that there is no value in the children’s programs that churches put prayer and energy into. Sunday school classes are educational and offer knowledge of Bible stories and truths about God. Children’s programs like VBS and youth groups can be lots of fun and create safe places to make friends and have some experiences of God. But it’s what kids experience in the home that matters most.
Parent’s Can’t Do It Alone
Because parents are key to their kids’ spiritual development, being part of a church community can be a place where families belong and grow together. Churches function as a sort of “ extended spiritual family” offering support, hospitality, and friendship to everyone, regardless of age.
The kids know they are part of this spiritual family and make meaningful friendships with peers as well as adults. Some of my girls’ most valuable relationships are with adults who they’ve gotten to know in our church communities over the years. And I welcome the wisdom and spiritual guidance those people pour into their lives. It brings me comfort knowing that others care about and are investing in the long-term spiritual growth of my children.
Are The Kids Missing Out
So, I no longer worry about what my kids are missing out on. I don’t fret about whether or not being part of a church with a youth group will harm them. In fact, I feel confident they’re learning, experiencing, and growing in faith in our home and the homes of those we regularly spend time with enjoying meals, praying for each other, and sharing our lives.
And, because I know they are watching me, absorbing and learning how to have a strong and vibrant faith, I am called to a high level of commitment to my own spiritual development. That is something I think that’s good for my whole family.