In a way, I started this post last Sunday. I used a familiar passage that many of us have memorized. I expanded the group of verses to use on my Sunday post and got thinking about how it applies to our kids.
Today, I’m applying it a little differently than it normally is. But I think it is still within the realm of an accurate application of this Scripture. If it isn’t, I have plenty of people around me who will be letting me know quite rapidly!
Now, let me back up a bit. Over the years, I’ve had conversations with women who have been concerned about their children…usually in their teens. Frequently, for one reason or another, they were in a church they felt was meeting some of the needs of their kids, but not all.
You may have been there before…or are now!
You may have even made the choice. You know, the one where you have to decide: Do we go to the church with the youth group and music our kids like or do we go to the church where we like the teaching? …or some version thereof? Not everyone makes that choice or wants to. But some do.
I had another version of that conversation not long ago with a mom. I can’t go into all the details now because I don’t have permission. But I will use this as a jumping off point for discussion.
When we are deciding what to do, how do we decide? The passage included in my Sunday passage last week uses some guidelines. It urges Timothy (the son/grandson who has been taught from Scripture since he was a small child) to continue in that teaching because it will develop him in the areas listed.
Often we have our own plans of how GOD needs to grow our children’s faith that may not be the way He plans to do it!
So many of us parents (and I include myself!) have ideas about how we think our kids should be discipled, trained and molded along the way.
My plan was to have an amazing youth group for all of mine that would challenge them along the way. Yes, I was going to reinforce and teach them at home as well, but I was going to help them learn and follow GOD’s plan for their lives with amazing youth leaders helping me. His plan for each of my girls was quite different! In fact, very different.
For the one daughter who had the opportunity to be involved in a church with a good youth group, she was uncomfortable with the large group and chose to attend a small Bible study at another church (where my husband wasn’t on staff!)
To this day, those are all good friends of hers. They aren’t in the same denomination as we are. None of them went to the same college. Most went to the same Christian School together and stayed close friends even after we moved far away from Miami, FL to TX! Some of them even came to Dawn’s wedding a six years ago just to meet her husband…and attend the wedding of course! She was in their weddings for the most part as well.
We need to serve where GOD puts us. In the process, He provides for our children in ways we didn’t expect
My husband’s gifts as a pastor seemed to be to work in churches that were not doing well. Most had had splits in their recent past. All were stuggling. Few had active, healthy youth groups. Our rule as a family was that our family had to be as active as a normal member. We didn’t require unusual behavior of our children…as in “you can’t do this or that because you are the pastor’s kids.”
They did or didn’t do things because they were Christians, not because they were pastor’s kids. We didn’t believe in doing things for show or looks. It didn’t always go over well, but for the most part, we did okay. I digress.
Each daughter had varying struggles with the Sunday School/Youth activities at our churches. (The one exception was the period when Ron was on the staff of a large church.) Needless to say, their lives weren’t church-centric generally speaking.
They had friends and were friendly with them. Often their friends were christians, but not always. They also had friends in both the christian and public schools that didn’t seem to be christians in terms of their interests.
We worked individually with each…with fear and trepidation. They each went to Christian colleges (and no, we didn’t require it) and each found her niche there. They found other PK’s and a variety of friends and discovered that their lives hadn’t been nearly as weird as they thought…at least I think they discovered that.
They each came into their own as far as their faith in college but had already been used to working in church in a variety of ways…as well as taking mission trips and finding a variety of ways to serve in the context of their church.
We discovered, even though I wouldn’t have put it into words this way, that GOD is able to grow our children in their faith apart from a youth group. Yes, it is a novel concept to us Americans isn’t it? For many of us, we found help in our growth in youth groups and assume they will help our kids. And it might be! But they don’t help everyone!
So let’s not get stuck in our ruts. GOD is very creative. He can grow them is such a variety of ways and uses each life experience to grow them in the ways He plans to use them later.
It is more important to pay attention to how and what they are developing into than what they have available for growth. Resources that we may not think of as great resources are churches that are multigenerational and that offer places for your children to get to know people cross-generationally are a huge plus!
Helping them learn to love and serve others is important. Also teaching discernment and helping them learn wisdom.
It always helps them to learn to serve others. Always! It always helps them to learn to be around non-Christians and know them well as friends. Whether they are in Christian school, home school or public school…try not to keep them in a Christian bubble. They will be living in the world of all kinds of people and the younger they are around a variety of people, the better it is for them.
Our daughters function well around all kinds of people. I didn’t have as diverse a background as they did and have times when I am uncomfortable in social settings. They had some Christian school and some public school education. They learned that their friends in both places had lots of problems and needed caring people around them. They also learned that people are the same in many ways everywhere whether they are believers or not. It took me a lot longer to figure that out!
Learning not to expect perfection in relationships is especially helpful for all of us! Developing the habit of paying attention to those who look lonely, or lost, or new is something all of us need to do. Watching the world of people will teach you so much…both you and your children!
But looking to serve or help others doesn’t come naturally to adults or children. We need to go to Christ and receive grace from Him to give grace to the world around us. As we model this lifestyle for our kids, they will reach out to their friends.
Discussion with our children as they grow helps us know what is going on in their heads and hearts…hopefully. This is where wisdom and discernment is developed. Asking them their thinking processes when they were in certain situations (not hypothetical), when things happened and generally debriefing after events. This helps you understand what is going on with them. What makes them tick?
You can’t tell what they are thinking by what they do nearly as much as by how they process events. As they tell you the “why’s” of certain behavior and the “what’s” of their thinking at the time, you will have more understanding of their heart.
Often, you will be humbled to realize that GOD is working in their hearts through not just your example, but the example of many other wise people in their lives that are influencing them…including their Christian friends.
Trust GOD. He is truly working in their lives. You are still responsible of course, but you aren’t the only one involved.
There is no question there will be times you need help and wisdom to guide them. But don’t miss this part of the story.
GOD is growing the faith of your child must as He is growing your faith! You don’t need to be timid about speaking up as a parent, but you also don’t need to be fearful because GOD has placed other believers in their lives too:)
Trust Him to do His work in them.
Where else do you need to trust GOD to work in your life?
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed,
so now, not only as in my presence
but much more in my absence,
work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling,
for it is God who works in you,
both to will and to work
for his good pleasure.