This post is the third installment of a series on children’s faith development called Vision from the Frontlines: Voices, Experiences & Practices of Faith Development. For more information about this series, click here. Ben and I met during the summer of 1993, almost 20 years ago, while serving on summer staff at Westminster Woods Presbyterian Camp. We spent many days leading crazy games, hikes & evening campfires. Now, decades later, I still rely on Ben’s passion for youth ministry and perspectives on parenting.
There are so many things to be worried about when it comes to parenting. And the bummer is that every year that goes by, we just seem to exchange one set of concerns for new ones. Before we realize it, we have spent the better part of our parenting years worried about so many things.
Think back to when your kids were babies and the worries that consumed you. Now, you may have a whole new set of concerns and we haven’t even gotten to adolescence yet. With all of this worry and the never ending search for the silver bullet that will help our kids live into whatever unrealistic dreams we have for them, we actually goof up the most important and most significant part in shaping our kids and the people they become.
You see, our kids almost always share the exact same values that you have as they arrive in adulthood. The problem is that they will not always share your stated values, but they will always share your true values.
Kids have an amazing ability to cut through all of the garbage we lay out there as priorities and values. They will embrace our true values. The real issue becomes figuring out our own faith formation.
Many of us have neglected our own walk with Jesus since we have had children. Due to lack of schedule, lack of sleep, and a million other excuses our once vibrant faith has been exchanged for flannel graph versions of faith complete with cartoon bible devotionals. We try our best to pass on this faith by praying with our kids and reading our story Bibles. We get them to church as much as possible and even take them to Vacation Bible School. But somehow, in this new parental rhythm, we become boring, old Sunday School teachers and lose sight of our partnership with Jesus.
If we really want our kids to have a value for faith, and even more have a love for Jesus, then this happens first and foremost by us having our own passionate, authentic, vibrant, and transforming walk with Jesus. This is the starting and the end of faith development for our kids.
May we never settle for the flannel graph version of faith we attempt to share with our kids and rather embrace the adventurous life of faith that we have been invited to through Jesus Christ!
Ben Kerns is an associate pastor at Marin Covenant Church in San Rafael, CA. He has been married for 15 years to his wonderful wife and shares the joy of raising their two kids with her. Noah is 8 and MacKenzie is 5. Ben has written a book called Holy Parenting which explores faith formation for parents while having preschoolers. He speaks regularly for MOPS groups and writes on his blog, averageyouthministry.com.