I’m Jeff Schadt, author of Going, Going, Gone, a book that looks into the many reasons kids are leaving the faith. Given all my interaction with kids around the country, I can say that one of the reasons they’re leaving the faith is this way we tend to talk and interact with them about faith. This is the reason I am doing this series, “The Jesus Your Kids will Follow.” I believe that the younger generations, given the way they view the world, should connect with Jesus at a deeper level than the modern generations did.
NOTE: This blog post is an abbreviation from the podcast The Jesus Our Kids Will Follow Part 3.
Why, because so much of what Jesus actually did and how He really functioned in the world connects much more with the postmodern mind than it does the modern mind.
In today’s blog we’ll look at how Jesus’ approach did not limit the disciples, but rather stretched and trained them. This is absolutely crucial to understand if we’re going to connect with our kids at a heart level and see them continue in their faith.
Kids today are part of younger post-modern generation that has a relational or community bent. They desire to help, to make a difference. The younger generations in our country have had a hard time connecting to the church and staying connected to the faith as it’s been presented to them.
Our Desire to Hold the Line Gets in the Way of God’s Love
Our desire to hold the line, to keep things the way they’ve always been has confused kids about their faith. Unfortunately our efforts to hold the line have come across as condemning, judging, and controlling. We are seen as trying to prevent people from living their lives and not at all loving.
Our approach as parents is often perceived by the kids of today as controlling, trying to limit access to certain people. This is a cardinal “no no” for talking with the younger generations. They do not want to judge or condemn someone for the choices they’re making in their life because they value authenticity and relationship. They’re about providing hope and care more than they are about right and wrong. So when they see us trying to hold the line and fighting for certain legislation, we are seen as being judgmental.
Judgment literally hurts our kids because it damages community in their minds. It damages authenticity and transparency in their hearts. They would rather love and accept someone then cause them to feel condemned or hurt by their judgment.
This is why the way we talk about and seek to address perceived issues in the church and our homes is vital today. When we talk negatively about someone or the way they’re living their life, or we want to prevent our kids from interacting with people because we’re convinced that are going to be a bad influence in their lives, it shuts them down and destroys our credibility. When they perceive that we’re drawing these hard lines in the sand and we’re judging or condemning people, it undermines the faith that we’re trying to pass on to them because it doesn’t look loving.
Jesus chose to interact with broken people and care for them in order to have the opportunity to bring healing into their lives. This is the Jesus that will connect with the kids of today. Jesus knew He needed to get the disciples beyond the focus on right and wrong and out among the people. He showed his disciples how to interact in a loving, caring way, for only then would they see and understand that sin led to pain. Jesus knew that their hearts would respond correctly if they witnessed this reality just like the post. modern generation of kids will if approached correctly and given the opportunity to leverage their strengths.
Jesus believed the disciples were smart enough to see the outcomes in people’s lives and that their hearts and companions would lead them make better decisions themselves if they felt loved, cared for, understood and empowered. Jesus didn’t come in and lecture them saying “No, don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t hang out with these people. Don’t hang out with those people.” He led them into the midst of all of them.
God is Controlling and a Cosmic Killjoy
Unfortunately for many of the kids I work with, the way they have been approached has caused them to view God as a controlling and cosmic killjoy rather than a loving God who wants to protect them.
This is solely tied to how God was talked about in their home and at church. Kids have been approached with statements like don’t be alone with your boyfriend, don’t hang out with sinful people, don’t be friends with them because they are a bad influence. Don’t have premarital sex. They have been told to avoid temptation and sexual activity because they were wrong, but they have not been given God’s practical loving reasons, He said things. like “let the marriage bed be kept pure.”
Post modern kids who are approached in this negative manner do not see a loving gracious God they can follow.
It’s More Powerful to Ask Transparent Real Life Questions
I found it to be more powerful to ask questions like, “Why do you think God said let the marriage bed be honored by all and let the marriage bed kept pure?” At first they’re not able to answer the question. Then I ask, “Do you think God is a cosmic kill joy?” “Does He say these things in the Bible to make life no fun?” Unfortunately, they often say, “Yes.”
Asking questions like these helps kids begin to process and begin to come up with other answers as to why God might put it in there. And then I’ll say, “Hey, do you know anybody at school that’s had premarital sex and then broke up with that boyfriend or girlfriend?” And they’re like, “Yeah.” I continue with “How painful was that breakup?” They usually respond, “Oh, it was incredibly painful.” I say, “Do you think it was worse because they were intimate with each other?”
Than I get them to think a little deeper asking,
“Do you remember what this person did that you like and what that person did you liked?
Do you have images burned in your memory?
If you have a bunch of these memories and images, will the one person you marry be able to live up to all of them?
Is this why God said, “Let the marriage bed be kept pure?” He wants you to be pleased with and only have memories of the one you are marrying making it far easier to be happy, content and remain together.
These are the kind of very transparent conversations I have with my kids. Mixing what God’s motive really is with real life experience causes kids to go, “Wow, I want to follow God because it’s better.” They understand that He protects them because He loves them. He will keep them from pain. He is not a cosmic kill joy.
Jesus believed in man’s heart and desire to do good. This next generation of young kids desires to care and love and make a difference just like Jesus. This is why I know if we’ll approach them this way, and talk about the real Jesus and how he interacted and loved people and wanted to heal them, they’ll respond.
Jesus believed that if the disciples saw the real world and were taught to love and care for people the way He loved and cared for people, they would make great decisions and wouldn’t be tempted more than they could bear. And that’s what I’ve seen over and over again with our kids and with the kids of parents who have adopted Influential Parenting, our parenting program that’s now available online.
You can go to ReviveFamily.com, sign up and go through a class. We must stop being afraid that the culture has more influence than we do and we’ve got to begin to lead like Jesus because that’s when the kids are going to see the truth of the gospel, the love, care, and grace of Jesus. And that is when their hearts are going to jump on board. Once they do, they’re not going to be pulled off track just as the disciples weren’t pulled off track by the Roman Culture.