Christian Parenting in a Post-Christian world

Families of faith are being backed into a proverbial corner.

Daily… we feel forced by our media driven culture to represent or dismiss our Christian beliefs. No choice given for us but to hard-line our position with the black / white of a hostile, faith posture or the watered-down, relativistic shades of gray to preserve a semblance of a moral status quo.

What’s a parent to do…? So many voices in the mix.

As parents we maintain the highest statistical influence on our children’s formative values and beliefs. Barna Research points to families as having more impact on pre-teens (13 and under) and tweens than any other voice in their lives.

So as parents what we do, how we respond and what we say really, truly, deeply, matters!

The issues of our time have entered our living rooms and roam the halls of our homes. Same Sex attraction, redefining marriage, trans-gender confusion, modern atheism, biblical skepticism, legalized pot, common core education, the welfare state… the issues that matter are growing daily for modern parents.

These are not trivialities… but HUGE and essential, in-your-face topics for kids to process!  

Today’s pressing social issues represent legitimate concerns paired with post-Christian philosophies in desperate need of biblically intelligent responses in our homes.

Let’s be sure to keep our parenting responses to these volatile issues as informed, compassionate, and consistent as possible. Insight and perspective that contains deep wisdom and truth, stuff that comes from time with our heavenly Father and a well read topical library of trusted authors. (See below)

Be aware of the temptation that our culture offers to us as Christians…to simply take one of two uber-polarized, preformed positions, ‘for’ or ‘against’ the latest social trends… before we seek out the truth on our knees. We can’t just ‘knee-jerk’ our responses out of fear and misplaced anger, these issues are essential for us all to understand and navigate well. 

Mom – Dad; some encouragement if I may…

Keep close to Christ. Lean on and listen to the voice of your shepherd, not the winds of popular opinion. There is truth in your world, its found in the scriptures. There is a foundation you can live from, teach and pass on. But the battle for truth isn’t a debate of words and logic… it’s a tug of war for the longings of our hearts.

Ultimately it’s about the essentials of our faith… Is Christ who He claimed to be? Is the bible a sacred text ? Can we live with clarity in midst of a out-of-focus world? 

Answering those questions on your knees will bring conviction to your faith and confidence to your answers. As Christians we’re not going to have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines of social change much longer. We’ll have to take a position. Will we stand for the core values we claim to believe, or in our passivity, just fade…?

Our kids are carefully watching… Lord, help us to show courage and compassion in the days ahead.

Pastor B.

Recommended Reading List: 

For issues of Sexuality and Faith – Joe Dallas 

For Culture, Os Guinness 

For Essentials of our Faith, Hank Hanegraaff 

For Modern Atheism, Graham Veale 

For Same Sex Marriage issues, Sean McDowell 

Covering the bases… with your tween.

Mom.

Dad.

Things have changed.

Not like your childhood house and school are SOOO much smaller than your remembered change…but fundamental stuff, like “walking on the ceiling” without falling on your head” kind of change!

Life is NOT as it used to be. 

No surprise here for anyone who’s still breathing… but in the last two generations our world has distorted and distanced itself from a millennium worth of wisdom and moral clarity into a soupy mish-mash of greyish theoretical goo.

blogs.telegraph.co.uk

blogs.telegraph.co.uk

What was once understood as “understood” has morphed into an impossibly vague and insubstantial world view, composed of unique blends of… religious pluralism, personal preference, raw emotion, sensuality, compulsive entertainment and the most sacred of all… our independent individuality!

Modern wisdom, guided by a humanistic faith as intense as any fundamentalist… has discarded past societal values and principles for something less restrictive and more “open-minded” and it’s been inadvertently aided by a generation or two of thick-headed and short-sighted Christian leaders.

The sum of it all… our kids are growing up in a hostile world that strangles (metaphorically) anyone who dares to believe or (“gasp” ) tries to uphold the traditional values of a Christian heritage. Its condemns any who opt out of their modern merry-go-round,  for a life of faith and morality.

It’s considered “wise” by leading educators, politicians and celebrities to process new ideas by rejecting the old ones. To throw off the past constraints of ancient religious superstitions as socially awkward mythology created to control. Old legal and social rules cast upon us by prejudiced, ignorant and intolerant forefathers….discarded as casually as today’s copper-less pennies.

Statistically we’re getting hammered in this truth war.

80% of “Christian” high-school graduates go to college, abandon their parents basic Christian beliefs and….never look back. 

davidkinnaman.com

davidkinnaman.com

What happened ? 

The fundamental truths that guide decisions, protect hearts and engage our minds aren’t getting passed on.

You know, the vital stuff… the beliefs we as Christians have sworn to never deny.

Essentials like the sacredness of scripture, the divine nature of Jesus Christ as the only begotten son of God, the reality of sin and the awe of creations power. We have to talk about the purity of marriage and the wisdom of humility with our lives, sharing openly and often with our kids about the “truths” of life and the lessons learned.

We’re raising kids that although they may have “heard” about Faith and the bible, they didn’t get it from home. Instead, as parents we may have relegated our sacred duty to “instruct” our kids in life to a semi-conscious Sunday school volunteer. Our lack of action speaking the loudest of all to our very observant and very aware children.  

As a result…., about eighty percent of us have communicated to our tweens that Christianity… is like a million other ” passionate opinions, an “optional” idea for them to consider. (Read David Kinnaman’s book – YouLostMe– to find out more)

helpthiskid.com

helpthiskid.com

We as parents can’t skip out on our assignment. 

We’re responsible to “Cover the Bases” and to be authentic (flawed and honest) in front of our kids. We can pray and we can trust that as they emerge from childhood and into early adolescence, they will Hear, See and Believe for themselves.

Not trusting in some knee-jerk-memorized-church-litany of pseudo-faith and mondo guilt to save them. Not trusting in a symbolic age 13 confirmation or baptism, but challenging them at home to consider what they will believe about God, faith…sexuality, morality etc…

Watch with confidence, as they get older and gain a grudging respect for your beliefs. Be patient as they slowly mature and decide for themselves…be grateful for God’s faithfulness…. when they finally say, I want what Mom and Dad have. 

The power of example is profound.

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

 

 

 

 

Coming of Age… are we celebrating tweens like we should ?

It’s weird really.

Of all the culture morphing changes we see in the Christian world currently, one of the most enduring and essential traditions of our forefathers has almost completely been lost in the modern era. Rites of Passage for our kids.

Coming of Age

Coming of Age

Coming of Age.

For generations, families have been celebrating and marking the transition from childhood to adult. These rites of passage are geographically unique, beautiful and often dangerous. Coming of Age as a specific event in one’s life, is an established and respected milestone for most societies and have served nations for millennia as THE foundational cornerstone of passing one’s heritage to the next generation.

These traditions are powerful, inspirational and reverently experienced by the initiates and the parents, often elaborate and carefully planned ceremonies designed to confirm and release each child into maturity.

For many, these rites of passage serve as a legitimate way to protect and preserve their cultural traditions & values. Effective in raising up each generation of adults regardless of the often dramatic changes of government, education and pop culture around them. These coming of age milestones have powerful historical connections between generations that have been maintained for thousands of years.. except for the modern Christian Evangelical world.

Why is that ?

I think in part its a side effect of our RUSHED lives and the shifting societal perspective on all things “ancient” and or “traditional”.

In our rush to move forward we may have left behind some rather critical traditions for the effective raising up and releasing of our kids into adulthood. I think it’s also in part due to the epidemic of single parent families out there. The celebration of adulthood and the conferring of a life blessing to our children has been replaced by a rushed meet and greet party with some money and a nice set off luggage… But can’t we do something more meaningful than that ?

I recently connected with a important and growing ministry based out of the Nashville TN area that is working to help change that pattern in our modern evangelical circles. ABBA’S WAY is working with fathers and their sons / daughters to change this trend. They run summer weekend events, day camps and celebrations year around to help dads connect with and celebrate their kids “Coming of Age” years.

They have programs for sons (Fathers Heart)  and daughters (Fathers Delight) and are now offering RTP /iShine subscribers a significant discount for both of their 2014 programs for this summer.

Father's Delight

Father’s Delight

I would urge any parent of a pre-teen son or daughter to seriously consider starting some NEW traditions in your families.

Rites of passage for coming of age are a lost treasure for many Americans and I would love to see that “forgotten” celebration return as a beautiful and life-long affirmation of our kids during their most influential ages.

I believe that God is always working to help families of faith and particularly us parents! He is raising up new and insightful family ministries with powerful and effective help for us to learn new ways to share our faith and our hearts with each of our kids… gifts that we can give them that will shape their self-esteem, values and core identity for a lifetime.

Check out Abba’s Way online to find out more and discover for yourself the value of blessing your kids on their journey from adolescent to adult.

Peace out, Pastor B.

European Identity Crisis

I recently visited Europe. Switzerland and Italy to be specific. I had discovered early on of my Swiss ancestry from my family tree, and I was an American by birth, at age 31 I became a Christian by faith. But who was I really, I mean what defined ME ?

I was/am also a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a friend and a son. At forty-one I have gathered more than my fair share of life experiences and personal convictions and all of those roles, beliefs and relationships have helped in significant ways to establish my identity.

My life behavior is directly impacted by what I believe my identity to be. If I believe I’m simply an accident of nature or a soulless biological entity without purpose or significance… than my life choices will reflect those beliefs.

 Its becoming more evident that we as parents of faith, need to be increasingly intentional about protecting our kids identities. We need to remind and remember for our families who they really are regardless of where we find ourselves. 

After our trip to Europe (Switzerland and Italy) I was overwhelmed temporarily by the beauty and breadth of the diverse cultures, beliefs and customs. In that week of European immersion, it was a temptation for me to abandon my old-established life and to simply absorb and reflect the environment or culture I found myself in.

When In Zürich, I started to feel I would be just as comfortable morphing into a classic Swiss citizen as I was being a laid back Tennessean. When in Switzerland I found myself becoming like my environment… extra polite, mentally focused, punctual to a fault.. on time with the trains, precise in my planning and balancing my emotions and mind with the beauty of the orderly culture I was in.

When we flew into Rome airport a few days later I felt the shock of culture transition. The Italians are loud, messy and loose with their schedules, the complete opposite of the Swiss. After only a day of Rome, I found myself switching quickly from Swiss to Italian in my personality as I adopted a more relaxed and artistic perspective on life, much less concerned with the time of day and more on the next great cafe’ to discover or fountain to photograph.

My recent European immersion experience was a powerful reminder of the incredible pressure that our kids are facing everyday when they go out our front doors… When they go to public school, or ride the bus, they have to adjust rapidly to the chaos and urgency of their teen world.  In order for them to “fit – in” at school, they are forced to at least outwardly adapt their language, their attitudes, postures and even behavior to avoid un-wanted attention or rejection. In the teen world of ever-changing popularity, styles and fads…maintaining the status quo is required above all.

I am reminded of the need to reinforce to my own children the truth of their identities, and to remind them of how much more they are then simply a reflection of whatever environment they find themselves in. The temptation is to assume they will sort this out on their own, to trust that our safe homes will offset the dangers of popular culture. I don’t believe that is true anymore.

If we don’t repeatedly and intentionally remind our kids of who “they are”… someone else will.  

As families of faith, we risk loosing our children’s identities to the environments they live in and by failing to take the time to remind them of their eternal significance, unique purpose and priceless worth…they are going to be severely tempted to believe otherwise and assume an identity that is not their own.

I loved visiting Europe, I loved experiencing it all… and it was amazing, but it did serve to provide a practical and personal reminder for me to help “keep my family in between the lines and on the road of life”.

Peace out,

brad.

Super Scheduled Sundays and Parenting

 

Sunday. Oh how we dread the day, with our push to get out the door and the guilt we feel if we don’t. So we rush through our Sunday mornings to get ready, one of the kids seem to be a bit cranky and slower than the rest. Makeup, hair, showers, breakfast, finding the one pair of my son’s dress shoes, reviewing the girls wardrobe before rushing out the door and considering if its “appropriate” for a service etc… by the time a mom and dad get to the mini-van and load everyone up, we’re about ten minutes late already. Upon arrival to the service, the kids scatter, mom and dad grab a seat and we do Church.

Sundays were designed by God to be days of rest and refreshment, of common-unity with other friends and family and a day of hearing from and talking to our God. What is it that sabotages us?

It seems obvious at first glance to most of us that our lives are out of control “crazy” busy. But does it really have to be that way ?…  Especially for those of us who have experienced the power of Grace and Forgiveness which we understand (at least conceptually)has abolished the need for us to work ourselves to death trying to get into heaven.

If your like me, we fail to remember our freedom and find ourselves caught in the tyranny of our over-scheduled day. Making the effort to belong to a community of faith is a huge sacrifice of time and energy and effort every sunday and for most of us, it means loosing out on a sunday morning snooze, enjoying a slow sunday morning -paper reading, coffee sipping moment and the pleasure of a few quiet hours of idle time.

I believe the greatest threat to modern-day parents and families is our relentless schedules. We book our days like they are going to be judged by how much we did and how fast we did them. Like a massive final exam that never ends. Its time to SLOW DOWN and REST. (I’m speaking to myself first here)

John Eldridge (the author of “Wild at Heart” and head of Ransomed heart ministries) has many great quotes, but one of favorites is perfect for this blog… ” Busyness is no substitute for significance”.

Our significance comes from our identity in Christ and from our acceptance of who we were created to be and the realization of our specific life purposes. Once we grasp our significance is not found in what we do, but who we are… we can be freed from the relentless need to “prove” ourselves and work at our religion like we do our jobs.

As parents, we have already established great purpose in our lives. Our Kids. We may say that God is our “savior” and that we long ago accepted Him as our “Lord” but if our daily schedules don’t reflect that truth, we’re in danger of undermining our testimony to our kids and of living out a psuedo-compartmentalized faith.  

So, the fact your willing to read this far is testament to your interest or concern on the subject.Peace, Health and Wholeness are promised by God to those who receive Him. Sabbath rest is a Commandment of God. When we ignore the commandment we miss out on fully experiencing the promise. So instead of trying to survive our days by living at the speed of light, lets remember to NOT schedule one day a week of our lives. Our families deserve the rest and so do we. Without this discipline, I believe we place enormous strain on our lives and our homes and our marriages that is completely unneccessary. 

Parents like me… let’s work hard to reduce our Super Scheduled lives into days we look forward too and lets invest that time into our families and homes and lives and remember it’s not about legislating that we rest, it’s about learning how to allow yourself to enjoy it.

Here’s to helping families like mine to “keep it on the road and in between the lines“….

Resources for Busy Parents… www.ishineministries.com

PEACE out.

brad.

Parenting teen daughters and the boys they attract !

So, my daughters turned out just like my wife. Beautiful. Somewhere in the last six minutes they grew up from little “cute” girls, to beautiful and oh so appealing young women. Whats a dad to do ?

PANIC… then PRAY. I resisted the urge to actually buy a shotgun to keep the wolves at bay, however I did gratefully receive a large broadsword from my dear friend Brian. It’s almost five feet long and is conspicuously obvious in the bonus room where all the kids seem to migrate to… and I have on occasion jokingly referred to its presence when young men seem to be around and have hinted as to its potential use as an implement of pain and how it might be reserved for any young men who might intrude on one of my daughters honor etc… well I made it seem like a joke. 🙂

Seriously, dating is a big deal. Girls seem to be born pre-programmed for planning tea parties, and pretty dresses which quickly and naturally moves to romantic movies and dreams of their own wedding. Having no sisters when I grew up, this was all fascinating and freaky for me to find out as a father. Daughters (as is well-known) can take a full-grown man and reduce him to a piece of play-doh in seconds. Dad’s are in a serious bind when their daughters are approaching the age of dating, protect and provide is our natural instinct and so when young hormonal men start showing up at the door its difficult for us to shift gears and allow them to enter our homes without inflicting some harm on them. (just kidding)

So, as a father who has two beautiful teen daughters (17 and 15) in high school here are some observations and encouragements to my fellow dads in crisis. I am not a big fan or critic of dating, my wife and I are much more of  the idea of “courting”for our girls.

There does seem to be a subtle shift in the emphasis the concept of courtship provides for teens to move from the emotional – physical rush of a crush, to the reminder that a potential relationship with a future husband or wife should be sacred and approached from the very beginning with some serious consideration and awe.

That particular approach is an issue for you and your wife to decide together.I’ve read books by Ph.D Christian psychologists that advocate opposite approaches between the “good and bad” of dating or courtship and the jury appears to still be “out” on the ‘best” option. I do believe that no matter what you choose as a family, if you honor God in your processing of it, He will grant you the wisdom to guide your daughters through this very vulnerable season of their life.

No matter what approach you take as parents on the dating vs. courtship concept, its been my personal and observed experience that the following essential truths will do you no harm and much good !

1) Don’t allow a stranger to be your daughters first date. Its our job to do that. Start dating them early… like age five or six, take them out for Chucky Cheese or Dairy Queen or to the latest version of Disney on Ice. Revere them, honor them by opening the door, teaching them to pause at the door for a man to open it for them, listen to their dreams and hopes, pay attention. Find out their favorite colors, television shows, i-Pod play lists, the names of their stuffed animals, best friends etc… you get the idea.  Little girls who learn of faith and family and truth and can trust their dad will be there for every birthday, fever and bruised knee will grow up with confidence and stability. Dads, we must convince our girls at a young age that they are loved, adored and indescribably special and watch as they grow up into young women of faith and honor and inner beauty and strength for their own families.

2) Date their mother. No example is stronger or more profound to a young lady then to see her parents continuing their own love and courtship. When we take the time to open doors for our wives, genuinely complement their beauty, and flirt with them in the kitchen… it re-assures and reminds them of the reality that a marriage and a home can be happy, peaceful and fulfilling no matter what the latest People magazine reports.

3) Prayerfully protect them every day. Guys, we have the spiritual ability to prayerfully cover our kids with Gods blessing and peace as the heads of our home. The biblical model is clear, men are charged with the well-being of their homes, including our children. Spend time in Gods word regularly for our own instruction and encouragement and it will spill out into our families in a very healthy way. ( I recommend the www.dailyaudiobible.com as a fantastic daily resource for the word)

4) Rest in Grace. We will never be able to filter every bad particle out of our kids lives, not in our schools, with their media intake or with all of their relationships. But we can provide them essential truths and the wisdom of healthy boundaries and we MUST. But in the end, its Grace that will triumph and overcome all of our and their mistakes. Trust in it.

In the end,… no matter what we say or do, it’s a scary age to be a parent. I’m not smart enough, wise enough or strong enough to do it on my own. Thankfully I’m a part of healthy Christian fellowship in my home town and in that community of faith I have support, encouragement and the extra “eye-balls” of fellow parents to help us keep our son and daughters “on the road and in in-between the lines”. 

PS- beware to all the young men reading this… I still keep my sword in the corner of our bonus room… 🙂 

PEACE OUT

brad.

Tweens And Faith

Tweens and Faith, a battle we cannot afford to lose

“In matters related to style, swim with the current, in matters of principle, stand like a rock” Thomas Jefferson –

Why Tweens and Why Now?

Current Christian and social research has confirmed that 90% of American kids will form their lifelong values and beliefs before the end of their thirteenth year. That means if you’re pre-teen or tween (ages 7-13) has not made a faith commitment to Christ before the end of their eighth grade year… there is a 1 in 10 chance they ever will. Multiple recent Christian and Secular social studies have shown the devastating impact of this reality… 88-90% of college bound students leave the Church never to return.

From Fox News, USA Today, CNN and the New York Times, experts are noting the tremendous changes occurring in our current tween populations. Identity crisis common in adolescents is raging into grades 4,5 and 6 much earlier than previous generations. Secular companies (Viacom, GE, Toyota, Apple, Disney, Revlon etc..) are targeting tweens as “decision makers” in their homes. Mainstream marketing has directly focused on pre-teens for marketing campaigns designed to make “consumers for life”. Mainstream corporate America has responded much faster than the church as a whole.

They have a much stronger conviction to reach this age group with their truth, than most Christians do. The principles of belief formation are clearly believed by secular companies as they regularly invests billions in their ad campaigns used to engage and convince tweens their products will change their lives for the better.

It’s clear the body of Christ is in need of a “wake up” call. Parents, pastors and teachers are all beginning to notice the lower attendance rates of their younger members. College age ministries are dropping off due to lack of interest and children’s ministries are still focusing on VBS and basic bible stories while the mainstream media is engaging our kids with “Hannah Montana”, “Wizards of Waverly Place” and” i-Carly”. Online Facebook and U-Tube are visited by 90% of pre-teens daily. Current media studies show an average of 48 hours per week for tween kids to consumer media in one form or another. On average, the families of faith based kids spend an hour a week engaged in faith based activities like church or youth group.

When kids do get to church, the pre-teen ministries of most denominations are limited to volunteers who try to entertain or feed the kids into compliance. For serious leaders who are trying to engage this age, finding effective pre-teen middle school Christian teaching resources is hard as very few options are available at all.

Parents are privately struggling with the chaos of the early adolescent in their homes, something we’re seeing in almost every social or economic group today. Children are being bombarded with a variety of media and instant communication technologies that by in large are accelerating the life values and beliefs decision making process before their emotional & physical maturation occurs fully. Kids are simply being “aged” earlier than ever before in our history. Texting is now considered a clinically “addictive” condition, with the average thirteen year old texting 3,000 times a month. Many admit to texting 300 or more times a day!

We believe the time is now to adjust our focus and philosophy for tomorrow. To make a dent in these trends we must intentionally and strategically reach this pre-teen generation with the truth of the Word of God.

Media and entertainment have replaced families, faith and the voice of the Church with false promises of fulfillment and moral relativism… together we can and must make an immediate impact on our pre-teen and teen cultures with a dynamic and relevant message of Hope and Faith in Jesus Christ.

Reference Resources for Concerned Parents and Pastors… http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/403-how-teenagers-faith-practices-are-changing and www.ishineministries.com both sites have great practical links to other faith based parenting blogs and websites ! (Check them out)

Road Trip Parenting… Practical Life Action Steps:

1) Educate yourself on the situation;

– Lifeway Christian Resources has done an extensive study on the beliefs and trends of today’s teen and college students.

– Barna Research Group has repeatedly studied this growing trend of pre-teen and tween faith

– National news groups have run hundreds of articles in the recent ten months reviewing and documenting the media and pre-teen / teen cultural changes in our society.

– Google it – you’ll be surprised by how much is out there.

2) consider your own statistics;

-What has you’re experience been in recent youth and children’s ministry impact?

-Are you seeing the same basic trends as others for loss of active members after 18 yoa?

-Have you noted the changes in tween activities and overall interest in faith based services and events?

-How are you’re families, parents doing with this sudden increase in technology at home?

3) Embrace the problem, rather than isolate;

– Many faith based families will “over-react” to the modern changes of technology – “Don’t”

– Learn to use technology with your events and activities, visual learning is KEY to tweens.

– Music is a critical component of their culture, using modern Christian music is helpful and engaging to tweens who may not be aware such an option even exists.

– Use age appropriate “Sampling” of popular movies, television and u-tube videos to make a values statement in your ministry times.

– Talk about the common “myths” of popular television and film as they relate to tween culture and identity issues.

4) Sponsor a live event or concert to engage the parents and kids with an alternative for their entertainment and your weekly youth ministry.

Several Options exist:

– J12 ministries does a weekend event for the whole church (Jesus at 12)

– CiY – (Christ in Youth) does a national tour in the spring for churches

– Deliberate Kids works with 8 yoa and younger audiences

– Go Fish – work with 3-8 yoa kids with basic bible truths

-iShine Live – engages tweens and teens ages 7-14 with a Disney style concert and ministry event.

5) create content if you can’t find it.

– Instead of ignoring the problem, find interesting information and create simple studies from media content you have personally reviewed –

– Engage your kids with facebook, u-tube and Myspace by adding your children’s ministry or youth group to the social online world. BLOG!

– Go missional – active participation in faith building activities is a “key” component to transfer of faith from one generation to another. Living it vs. studying it!

This is a lengthy post, first given as a lecture presentation in Washington DC in January 2011 to the Salvation Army Youth Leadership forum. Its meant to only serve as a “starting off” point for youth leaders, pastors and concerned parents who need ideas and information to engage this generation for Christ. Blessings to you in your own sphere of influence. For more information or support, contact www.ishinelive.com