Making Faith Stick (2 of 2)

For part two of our series on “Making Faith Stick,” I borrow a few suggestions from Dr. Kara Powell, author of Sticky Faith: What Parents Can Do to Help Teenagers Have Faith that Lasts. She recommends a few things that have been proven to be helpful:

Share verbally about their own faith journeys.

Let’s stop lecturing our kids (your own kids or ones at church) about why they need to do XYZ and so on. Instead, let’s start by sharing naturally about our own faith journeys. Use time in the car, recent current events, or dinner discussions as a chance to share how our own faith is growing, or ways that our faith impacts our everyday life. This way, children begin to see that faith is not meant to be compartmentalized to just Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, but that it’s a real thing that makes a real difference in how we see the world and how we behave.

Ask their children who they will turn to when they have doubts.

I think if we’re honest with ourselves, from time to time we can have faith doubts. Maybe you’ve been through or are going through a tough time and you aren’t sure where God is in this whole thing. Doubt in and of itself is not toxic; it’s unexpressed doubt that turns toxic. One of the conclusions from Kara Powell’s research was this: it is absolutely important for parents to give their kids space to wrestle with tough faith questions until they have pinned down their own answers. If our kids open up to us about an issue they’re having trouble with and we treat it as if it were a silly matter or that they should not dare to question certain things, not only are they going to be left hurt and confused, eventually they will start to look elsewhere for answers from people who will ultimately cause them more harm than good. This is by no means easy, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Connect your children to at least five caring adults.

Kids need to develop a strong sense of who they are as individuals so they can own their faith, and good community helps do just that. Powell says that “when kids know specific adults who are ‘on their team,’ they have a web of support to catch them when they fall and keep them connected to faith for the long haul. Using the scaffolding of existing relationships with extended family, neighbors, friends, coaches and teachers, build a 5:1 (or 7:1, or 10:1, or whatever you determine works best for your family) sticky web adult to child ratio for mentoring your kids. Other adults are often able to speak to them in ways you cannot as the parent.” My friend Justin put it this way one time: he said “I know the day will come when my sons won’t want to talk with me about whatever things come up. I am not looking forward to that day. But I know if they have several other trustworthy adults in their lives besides me they can turn to, that’s one of the best things I can give them.”

Reinforce that their faith is bigger than failures or mistakes.

What we teach our young people has to be more than just a “gospel of sin management.” I think too many of us grew up believing that God was constantly unhappy with us for a number of reasons, and the only way to appease Him was to go to church and not do “big sins.” But our faith is supposed to be more than this. I’m not at all trying to promote a cheap grace that allows our young people to get away with things. I’m suggesting a different understanding of the church than what many of us grew up with: the church is not supposed to be an exclusive club for people who already have it together: one strike and you’re out! The church is full of people who are in all different places in their walk with God; hopefully we’re all moving forward, but even if someone has taken a step back, they need to know that what God offers through the church is still for them. Yes God loves you as you are, but He wants so much better for you and all His children too.

            I hope these have been helpful for you. Whether you have kids of your own or not, we can all help the young people in our churches grow in their faith – especially if we grow in ours.
 
– Kevin 

One Response to “Making Faith Stick (2 of 2)”

  1. Jo Browning says:

    Great advice!

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