As I shared in a recent post, statistics suggest 60-70% of kids raised in Christian homes are leaving the church in college years. Parents cannot strap kids into their pew seats for eighteen years and expect them to arrive at mature faith.
Terms like “postmodernism” and “post-Christian” are being used to explain how today’s culture makes it harder for young people to stick with Christian faith. Growing up in a Christian home is no silver bullet for transferring faith.
The truth is, the Christian faith has never transferred easily.
If anyone understood the challenge of the family faith transfer, it would have been little boy Samuel. Awaken in the night by God, Samuel was instructed to inform the priest Eli that God would bring judgment against his family since he would not restrain his sons from their rebellious ways. (Eli’s sons had defiled the priesthood in detestable ways).
I imagine little Samuel didn’t sleep the rest of the night. When Eli asked him the next morning what the Lord had told him in the night, Samuel told Eli everything.
Years later Samuel would have sons of his own. When they grew up, Samuel appointed them to be judges… just like Dad! But guess what? The Israelites rejected the sons because they didn’t walk with God. The people appealed to Samuel for a king instead. It was devastating for Samuel, to see the era of judge-rulership end because he was unable to transfer faith to his children. What a blow to a dad’s spirit!
Years later Samuel would anoint Israel’s second king, a young man named David. King David loved God and was committed to him. When David’s son Solomon became King, Solomon started our committed, only to abandon God later in his life. Later King Solomon had a son, Rehoboam, who became a wicked king. In just two generations, the faith transfer system fully broke down.
Scriptures are full of examples showing how the faith has never transferred easily. For families of faith, it’s frightening to think that the path of least resistance is often for our offspring to take the wider path (that leads to destruction), not the narrow path (that leads to truth).
Trying to dissect the problem of faith transfer is sort of like analyzing the problem of poverty – where do you start? It’s a massive, multifaceted, age-old challenge. No blog (or no single book) can fairly address the enormity of subject. But there is hope. Scriptures give us encouragement and guidance for launching kids to walk in the faith. For starters…
Here are ten things NOT do if you want to transfer faith to your children.
1. Don’t rest on your own faith heritage. Although a powerful advantage, it’s not enough to ensure your children’s faith journey (ask Eli… and Samuel… and King David). Faith transfer involves intentional parenting, modeling and discipleship.
2. Don’t farm out faith transfer responsibilities to the church (or anywhere else) – It’s not their job. It’s yours.
3. Don’t set the wrong targets. The goal is not to get kids baptized at eight. It’s to see them walk with God when they’re 18… or 28!
4. Don’t stop praying. Jesus prayed for his disciples all the way to the cross. (John 17:6-19).
5. Don’t stop talking about the faith at home for as long as your children are under your roof. Talk about it before bedtime, when you eat meals together, when you drive to soccer practice, when you…. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
6. Don’t waste your prayers. Praying for safety, good health and ordinary daily choices are fine. But you must pray for “protection from evil,” and that they be “sanctified in truth” (like Jesus prayed for his spiritual children in John 17). The threats are real! Don’t ignore them in your prayers.
7. Don’t own what’s not yours to own. Take ownership of your role as parents and overseers; but you can’t own their salvation. That’s not your job. God’s sovereignty trumps your good-intentioned parenting efforts.
8. Don’t unfairly judge your parenting. As parents, we’re conditioned to take too much of the credit, and too much of the blame. Stay humble when little Johnny or young Susie impresses you with their pleasing behavior; and remain faithful and hopeful when they do things that break your heart.
9. Don’t throw in the towel too early. The journey’s never over till God takes them from this earth. Some of His greatest works are the boomerang kind.
10. Don’t make faith transfer your #1 priority. Your first priority is your own walk with God. It is said that “more is caught than taught,” so the best tool you have to transfer faith is your own faith journey. (No, this doesn’t conflict with #1 above if you are following this list 🙂