There are no perfect, or normal, families. Normal is a setting on the dryer, not a goal for your family.
But as Christian dads, one of our goals is to pass on a vibrant, active faith to our kids – a relationship with Christ that our children embrace for themselves as they grow older.
In my last post, I shared the encouraging news that the best research indicates that children coming from a family with an active faith are very likely to maintain that faith as adults. So, what are some of the things that cultivate a lasting faith for our kids?
Both Fuller Seminary’s Youth Institute and the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) unpacked this question with careful research. The two studies agree that a primary factor that determines whether your child’s faith will endure the test of time is:
You and Your Family Live Out a Vibrant Faith
Some kids grow up in homes that go to church on Sunday, but then never talk about – or revisit – their relationship with Christ until next Sunday. If you farm out the faith training in your home to your church or private school, you’re communicating to your kids that Christianity is a ceremonial thing to be played out an hour or two on Sunday.
Living out a vibrant Christian faith means making it a natural part of how you live your Mondays through Saturdays. It’s integrated into how your family ‘does life.’ It shapes the things you care about … spend time in … and how you make everyday decisions. For example, when my kids are facing a tough issue at school or on the playground, we will talk honestly about it, but then I’ll also pray with them about it. And, I let them know that I’m doing the same thing when I face challenges or need guidance.
NSYR’s Christian Smith indicates that parents are an “absolutely huge, nearly necessary condition” for a child to stay strong in their faith into adulthood. He goes so far to say that “without question, the most important pastor a child will ever have in their life is a parent.”
If you’re a dad like me who’s not seminary trained, you might not feel qualified to ‘pastor’ to your child. The reality is, in addition to living out your faith, there are easy, practical things you can do, too.
Something simple we’ve done in our family is to pick a book in the Bible and go through it one verse at a time as a family (last year, we did James; this year we are doing Proverbs). That’s it. One verse a night. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a biblical scholar to do this. When we get to a verse we don’t understand – or a question my wife or I can’t answer – we go search for an answer. Using a study bible helps answer many questions. This approach of reading just a verse or two a night has led to many great discussions within our family.
Dads, God promises He will never gives us more than we can handle with His help. You can live out His call to spiritually lead your family, and help your kids maintain and sustain a thriving Christian faith.
Together, you and your spouse play a vital role.