The research I did for my book, Going, Going, Gone, made it clear that we need to examine how we talk about and teach the Faith to our kids. Too many kids are leaving the Faith today. Seventy, eighty or even ninety percent of kids depart the faith; it depends on whom you talk to.
NOTE: This blog post is an abbreviation from the podcast The Jesus Our Kids Will Follow Part 4.
In spite of the statistics, I am absolutely convinced that our kids not only can stay in the faith, they can thrive. I believe they will thrive and connect to Jesus at a deeper level than previous generations. Why? Because in so many ways their mindset aligns better with the actual life and ministry of Jesus than it does with the way modern generations have viewed and spoken about their faith.
The kids of today could be and should be in enthralled with the Jesus of the Bible because he is in line with so many of the things they inherently value.
Our Faith Comes Across as Restrictive rather than as Loving and Healthy
I know this because I speak with kids all the time who are leading dual lives and heading out of the church or have already left. When I interact with them about God, they are drawn in. They begin to say, “Wow, why haven’t I been taught this way before? Why haven’t I heard this before?” This is actually a God who I can follow. They share so many different things that indicate that the way they’ve been approached comes across like the Faith is:
- Restrictive and controlling.
- Doesn’t love everyone.
- Excludes people.
- Requires them to be perfect.
That is why we’ve been doing the series, ‘The Jesus Our Kids Will Follow.’
If we want to keep our kids in the Faith, how we talk about and model Jesus in our homes is critical. What has really concerned me and frankly frightens me is my research at Christian schools. When I asked, 75% of the kids raise their hands and say, this is my parents’ faith, not my faith! Then when I talk with the parents, I find that 20 to 30% believe that their kids may be at risk for leaving the Faith.
As we dive into part four of the ‘Jesus Our Kids Will Follow’, we’re going to be looking at how Jesus involved the disciples, had confidence in them, and drew on their internal desire for fulfillment. If we’ll see and talk about this Jesus, it will alter how we function in our homes. Our kids will attach to Jesus, just like the disciples attached to Him, which we covered in the previous sessions of this series.
The Way Jesus Viewed the Disciples Attracted Them
The way Jesus viewed the disciples drew them to Him and will attract our kids to us as well as to the real Jesus. It is clear that Jesus met the disciples where they were, had confidence in them and sought to draw out their internal desire for fulfillment.
The reason that this will be so attractive to today’s kids is that they are frustrated when they are not believed in and valued. Today adolescents and teens don’t feel heard or understood. They do not respond to negativity or harshness, but respond really well to adults who believe in them, encourage them and want to help them fill their desire for significance.
In many ways, a number of the disciples were no different. They were men who didn’t hold significant positions in society or culture. The Roman government did not view them in a positive manner. In fact, without citizenship in Rome, the way they were treated and handled by the law was gravely different. Spiritual leaders of the day also wouldn’t have valued many of the people that Jesus chose as disciples. Yet Jesus placed real value on his followers and He made them feel valuable immediately. Today when I talk to kids that are in crisis, they don’t feel important or valuable in the church.
Kids Often Don’t Feel Valuable in the Family Structure
Kids also tell me they don’t feel important or often valuable in their homes. They know they’re loved, they know that their parents care about them, but don’t feel valued by their parents.
Some great questions to ask yourself:
- Do my kids feel important in the family structure?
- Do they feel heard and understood?.
- Do they feel like their voices matter?
- Do they feel empowered to make a difference?
It’s clear that Jesus didn’t look down on children. It’s clear that he didn’t view young people negatively because young people were basically adults at 13 or 14, given the bar mitzvah. Remember, His mother was only 13 or 14 when she gave birth.
In fact, at one point He chastises His disciples for not letting the children come to Him. He also talks about how it’s better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown overboard than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.
Jesus Placed a High Value on Kids
Jesus placed a high value on kids. He wanted to talk to them. He wanted to interact with them. He wanted to answer their questions and when it came to his disciples, Jesus valued and had confidence in them, which is in part why they went to their death for us. This is so important for us to explain to our kids. We as parents must see that if we really value our kids and have confidence in them, they will attach to us much more deeply and to our faith.
Doubt, fear and negativity will consume our kids and cause them to find others to replace us, which will only increase our fear. Unfortunately today it’s pretty clear that youth, young people and kids are looked upon negatively. Adolescents are viewed as potential problems. Schools are even beginning to view them as problems in adopting zero tolerance policies. Our desire to manage and micromanage our kids is felt as mistrust and negativity. It is painful for our kids because they have positive, not negative desires for their lives and futures.
Jesus Did not Focus On the Dos and Don’ts of the Law
When someone is on a positive mission, they avoid the mess and problems. Jesus was so powerful in the way He approached the disciples, valued them, and put them on a mission. You don’t see Jesus sitting them down and saying here are all the do’s and don’ts; here is how pure you need to live your life to follow me. Rather Jesus simply invited the disciples to follow Him, something none of them would likely ever experience from the government or spiritual leaders.
And yet here is Jesus, inviting these men to be at the table with Him, to be part of His mission. Our kids need to see and understand Jesus in that light. They need to see us doing something similar with them. Jesus takes these inexperienced, untrained men and does something amazing! He appoints them and calls them apostles. Can you imagine the impact that must have had on His disciples when no one in that society would have viewed and valued them in this way?
What if we could help our kids see this and help them feel that valued in the church and in our homes? How would that change their perspective of the Faith? Would they then live out the Faith?
If this were the case, I can guarantee you we wouldn’t be losing 70% to 90% of our kids.
Some of you may be asking yourself the question, “Do kids really respond to real responsibility? They won’t even do the small tasks I’m asking them to do in our home.”
I know from experience that it does. In fact I have seen it in entire youth groups. Through the years I have been asked by youth group leaders to come in and help them develop a postmodern ministry, a ministry that will connect with the kids of today.
The first thing I did was help the kids reexamine their view of love and the Faith and through this process draw them in, listen to them, and then ask them what they thought the youth group should do to reach people today. The results were always amazing: walls came down, cliques vanished and the youth themselves put forward amazing ideas, directions and hopes for the youth group far beyond what any an adult would have dared to challenge them with.
In these groups we appointed student leaders over teaching, mission, and care groups. The kids were in charge of the direction of the youth group, the weekly meetings, and the teaching occurring during the meeting. In fact, a couple of the kids got so good at teaching that they were invited to teach the main church body when the senior pastor was out of town. In every case these groups grew dramatically and non-Christians found themselves drawn to participate in them.
These are the Responsibilities Kids Will Respond to
If your kids aren’t responding to the little tasks that you’re giving them at home, you should ask yourself, do the tasks that you’re giving them:
- Give them a sense of accomplishment,
- Give them a fear of failure, because it’s stretching them,
- Move them outside their comfort zone,
- Offer a real sense of being responsible for themselves or others.
It’s these types of responsibilities kids respond to.
I’ll never forget going to Eric and saying, “Hey, do you want to step up alongside your big brother and begin to mow grandma’s lawn?” At first he said. “No.” He was only eight and it scared him to think he would be responsible for her big self-propelled lawnmower. He was literally frightened of it, but I took him out, got him behind it, and walked with him. I helped him make the turns and he said, “Wow, this is fun!”
And three years later he’s still cutting that lawn. In fact, he was down there after school yesterday doing it because he feels very responsible. He gets a tremendous sense of accomplishment when he can say, “Gram, come out and see how the lawn looks.” It’s a real responsibility for him.
I’ve seen it work with my kids, but man, do parents think I’m crazy for giving my kids the level of confidence, belief and empowerment at such young ages. I’ve yet to have that fail just as it didn’t fail with Jesus and His disciples. We need to have faith to step out like Jesus and give our kids this sense of being significant, heard and important. We need to give them real responsibility for their own lives and for helping in the lives of others. If we do this, I can guarantee we’ll see the loss of youth statistics begin to reverse from 70% to 90% leaving the faith to 70% to 90% staying in the Faith. They will follow the Jesus of the Bible. He is so attractive to them for so many reasons and if you haven’t listened to the entire series, go back and listen to session one, two and three.
I guarantee you it will not only challenge you but it will also change some of your perspectives. I am certain it will help you. Begin to talk about the Jesus of the Bible that your kids will want to follow.
Thanks for joining me for this series, ‘The Jesus our kids will follow.’