Recently I sat with a group of parents concerned. . . and rightly so. . . about the challenges they face in communicating the biblical narrative to their children and teens when the cultural narrative is so loud, so pervasive, and so convincing. The questioning attitude of a teenage child who has been raised and instructed in the faith can be the most challenging and disheartening aspect of parenting for Christian parents. I know several parents who have weathered this storm to watch their children grow up with a faith that has become their own. In fact, many of them have embraced the storm knowing that in the long run, their child will be better for having gone through the difficulty. When I ask them how they got through it, they consistently offer these simple and valuable suggestions to parents who are still facing this challenge:
- Be diligent in teaching young children by precept and example. Talk about your faith. . . and never stop. Spend time together learning to understand God’s Word. By doing so you will help your children build a strong foundation. I highly recommend using the brand new book, The New City Catechism, as a teaching tool.
- Don’t be upset when your children start to ask questions. Rejecting the faith of your childhood is very different from asking honest questions and expressing doubt. A teen’s struggle to find answers to real and serious questions is a step on the road to spiritual growth. If you dodge the questions, they will look for answers elsewhere.
- Encourage your teen to be a vital part of your church. Teens benefit from interaction with older Christians who in the context of a loving relationship, freely share with vulnerability and honesty the Godly wisdom that comes with advanced years and spiritual maturity. You can’t put a price on the value of these relationships.
- Openly share your own doubts and struggles. Teenagers value authenticity and vulnerability in parents and other adults. Sharing our doubts with our children allows them to see us in our full humanity and dependence on God.
- Never, ever forget that spiritual growth is a process. If you are a Christian parent, your level of faith, spiritual maturity, and understanding is not the same as when you were a teenager. You’ve gone through a long process of growth that is still continuing. Since they are just like you, show them patience and grace.
- Remember that spiritual maturity is born out of struggle. God always redeems horrible situations to bring His good out of our rebellious bad. That mistake your teen just made might just be the very thing God is using to whittle them into who He wants them to become.
- Never stop praying for your kids. We can never be successful in force-feeding faith to our kids. We can only teach them and answer their questions. The rest is in God’s hands.
- Don’t ever think that the story is over. God’s ways are not our ways. And His script for our story and the story of our kids is not the script we would write. My wife and I are continually reminded that for all of us, the story is not yet over. One of our friends regularly reminds us that “as long as we breath, we have hope!”