A study conducted by the Search Institute discovered that the most influential person in a teenager's faith journey is first Mom followed by Dad. And third? Grandparents.
Yet so many parents feel inept to teach their children at home. Isn't that why we take our kids to church, enroll them in Christian schools or send them off to church camp? Where do we start in teaching our kids about our faith? How do you raise your child to stay faithful to Jesus for a lifetime? To answer that, I've thought about who influenced me in my faith walk and what they did to influence me.
My mom was certainly a major component of my introduction to faith. In spite of a divorce and remarriage to a non-Christian, she took us to church every Sunday. She talked about our lessons at home. When she taught Jr. Church, she asked me as an eleven year old to play the piano for the singing time. She mentored my sister in learning to teach preschool worship. My most vivid childhood memories center around seeing my mom with her feet propped up, reading the Bible or some other Christian book. She loved to discuss what she was reading with us.
I grew up in the 70's, a time when the American church was just beginning to move out of its legalistic shell. My mother often challenged me to look beyond the externals. In rebellion, she would wear her oldest dress on Easter Sunday. She reminded me that being in church every time the doors were open did not constitute a relationship with God. She made her mistakes, but I could see her faith grow. She challenged herself to memorize Scriptures and got us to join her. She taught us about fasting by encouraging my sister and I to join her in a fast. We talked often about spiritual things. My mother, while not perfect, challenged me to embrace authentic Christianity.
In spite of this, ours was still a dysfunctional home and the non-Christian attitudes of my step-father took its toll. Perhaps the second greatest influence in my life was church camp. I still fondly remember the week I was a sophomore in high school. The theme of the week was the book of Ephesians. Each class session studied a different chapter of the book. We talked about Ephesians. We held debates about Ephesians. We memorized passages from Ephesians. We learned to live the principles of Ephesians. Godly pastors and Bible College professors shared their lives with us. Constantly, in our study and our play, in our cabins and in the mess hall, we were reminded of Christian principles and how to treat each other as Christ would have us do. Most impressive to me was that adults respected me, loved me for who I was and valued the gifts God instilled into me. They modeled grace and acceptance to me and challenged me to be better than I was.
Read through that last paragraph again. Why can't families apply these principles from my church camp in the home? Home should be a place where we freely talk about our faith, we're reminded how to apply godly principles to everyday situations, we have devotions right before bedtime, and prayer first thing in the morning. Home should be a haven where we can ask each other, "What do you see God doing in your life?" Home should be a place where we challenge each other to grow - in service projects, in spiritual disciplines, in Bible study and memorization, and in relationships. Home, like church camp, should be a place where praying about situations should be as natural a reaction as talking about the issue.
If you are a parent, what are you doing to infuse your faith into your home life? What is one thing you can do to mirror your faith to your children this week? What is one faith activity you can challenge your family to do together? Make it simple, start small, see what happens.
Here's a start: Check out Tony Kummer's web site for a worship devotional guide your family can use in preparing for the celebration of Easter this Sunday.
It's never too late. Like me, your children may benefit the most from watching you mature in your faith.