“On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me…’” (Exodus 13:8a, NIV)
Parents have an incredible amount of influence on their kids. Many of us try to raise our kids to be Christians, but statistics show that the majority of kids raised in church walk away from their faith as young adults. While the reasons for this are many and varied, Dr. Tim Kimmel (author of my all-time favorite parenting book, Grace Based Parenting) points out in his book Why Christian Kids Rebel that many kids see their parents treating faith like a hobby, and follow their example.
There is much that has been written about church programming for youth (see this excellent and challenging article by Marc Yoder). Yet, as important as church programming is (or isn’t–the real importance of the church is not the programming), the primary responsibility to teach kids about the Lord belongs to the parents (or grandparents or legal guardians–whoever is raising the kids). We cannot hand over that responsibility and hope that their Sunday school teachers and youth leaders will do our job for us. Youth and children’s programming is supposed to supplement what kids are getting at home, not replace it. It serves as a catalyst, a resource, a conversation-starter for parents. But we have to do our job as parents, and the most important parental responsibility we have is to teach our kids about Jesus (we can’t make them choose to give their lives to Christ, but we can show them what life with Christ is all about, lead them to the point of decision, and help them follow Jesus if they choose to).
I understand it’s not easy. And, my kids are still little, so I don’t pretend to know how this works with teenagers. All I can say is this: As I was having coffee with the Lord and His Word this morning, Exodus 13:8 kept grabbing my eyes. I asked the Lord why, and in reflecting on the verse two thoughts came to my mind from my own childhood. First, my parents’ faith is genuine and important to them–definitely not a hobby. They lived a real relationship with God in front of us, and their example is still to this day the most powerful influencer of my own faith. Second, my parents never hesitated to do just what Exodus 13:8 says. They told us, “We do this because of what the Lord has done for us.” They talked to us about God in a natural way so that conversations about the Lord became a normal part of life, not some weird, dorky, or forced thing.
I am thankful for my parents. God reminded me this morning that I need to do the same with my kids. My prayer for this week is that you will be gently nudged by the Holy Spirit to have a conversation with your kids (or grandkids): “I do this because of what the Lord has done for me…”