by Dwayne McCrary
It seems like every generation of parent believes they face a challenge like no one else in history. The alarm that young adults are leaving the church gets sounded and all of a sudden there is this frenzy to find a solution. We seem to forget that the previous generation had the same concerns, heard the same alarm bells, and wanted to find the same magic solutions.
When my wife and I began our family (our oldest child was born in 1989), books like The Five Cries of Youth(1974 with multiple reprints), The Five Cries of Parents(1985), and Keeping Your Teen in Touch with God(1987) were the talk of the day. We looked for common things from “the experts,” talked about what our parents did, and what we wanted our kids to remember.
We had our quirks and our shortcomings, but we tried to represent Christ to our kids as much as possible. Our children are grown and starting their own families now and are active members of a local church. We now have the opportunity to look back at what we did that we think made a difference. Here is our short list.
Attended church as a family. That may seem strange, but serving as a church staff member meant that we went in separate cars. My children may not have seen me until they walked into the worship center unless I made an effort to meet them when they arrived. It was important for them to know that both their mom and dad were at church and were serving in some capacity.
Letting them make spiritual decisions.We did not force our children to make a decision for Christ. We did teach them and were always there to answer their questions, but we had to let it be their decision. When it came time to decide about going to camps and other activities, we also let them decide. Now we asked them to help us understand how they made the decision, but we will let them decide.
Treated everyday as a teachable moment. My wife is a master of this. I might see a tree that is shaped strange while she sees an opportunity to talk about God making each of us different for a reason. She looked (and still does) for ways to initiate a conversation about spiritual things as she went through her day.
Prayed with and for them…and we still do. This builds relationships, reveals to them what is important to us (we pray for what we value), and demonstrates our own dependence on God. We might use a prayer from memory, but more times than not, we voiced our own prayers.
Provided a means for them to serve. If our children had to decide between going to camp or a mission trip, we encouraged the mission trip. We found ways to serve in meaningful ways that included them. Delivering food to new parents (our daughter loved seeing new babies when she was younger), serving in a food kitchen as a family, or helping a neighbor were a few of the things we did as a family.
Let them see us share Jesus with someone.Both of our children have seen my wife and I share the gospel with someone. They watched us steer a conversation toward spiritual things and then introduce a person to our Savior. They watched us answer questions, struggle to answer a trick question, and then leave the door open for more conversation later. I am not sure but this one action, them seeing us share the gospel with someone, may be the most impactful thing we ever did.
We were not perfect (at least I was not). I wish we had been more consistent with our family devotionals. Schedules always seemed to get in our way. We tried, but were not as successful as I wish we had been. I am sure there are other things we could have done that we did not. I also realize there are things we did that I did not list. For example, I love my wife and my children know it (so does she). I don’t know how that plays into this but I have to believe it made some difference.
No two families are alike and no two children are alike. What you do with one may not work for the other. However the things listed above seem to be the things that made a difference in the lives of both our children.