Two posts in less than 24 hours…vacation is spoiling me!! Recently I shared an article that talked about the top 10 mistakes Christian parents make with their teens. I’ve shared a number of these articles before because I am of the opinion (and I think we have research to back this up) that teenagers (for the most part) model the faith of their parents. Thus, I try to post articles that can help feed the conversation going on among the parents at my church who are on Facebook (which is every one of them because teens have left Facebook…. Due to their parents being there =D).
All of the articles share good points (or I wouldn’t post them). All of the articles make points I don’t always agree with (because I don’t have to agree with everything I read lol). But many of them fall into a vein that is far too common among the Christian blogging industry. They point out a problem without actually providing solutions. Christians are really good at whining…it’s because we’re descendants of Israel and we learned from the best. To be fair, people in general are good at whining. I in fact have a fine talent for pointing out the barbecue sauce on someone else’s shirt and then ignore my own barbecue sauce stained garments.
Thus we arrive at this post. This is not a post to point out problems but to offer solutions (mostly theoretical because my son is only 10 months old). It’s a post intended to get my parenting juices flowing. It’s a post that is intended to remind myself that my role as a spiritual guide has already begun and if I wait until I see a problem, I’ve probably already missed my chance.
But mainly this post arose because Paul Cartwright threw down the gauntlet. Here’s what happened. I observed that many of the previously discussed posts miss a key point that spiritual guidance needs to start BEFORE our kids are teenagers. Paul sent me a message and said “good observation why don’t you write a post about it.” My first thought was…because I’m not a parent of a child above the age of 1. But then I decided, “Why do I need to wait until my kid is five or seven or whatever age to begin to make a game plan?”
Surely I can use my God given intellect to begin making a rough draft of sorts, an intentional focus and be humble enough to tweak when necessary. I will admit at the beginning these are all very early thoughts and I’m sure there are much wiser books, blogs and speakers who have something to say on the matter of spiritual parenting and in fact have already said a lot on the matter. So if you’re still reading here are my very limited perspective thoughts on Raising Isaac for Jesus (most of these are reflections from what I’ve seen others do, try or say…so if you said something and I took it from you but don’t remember…thanks for the help!!).
1) One sport one season. I hate year around sports. They drive me bonkers. They add unneeded stress to teens and parents and they are a symptom of a very unhealthy relationship our culture has with sports. Most likely my son will not be all sporty (my wife and I are notoriously unsporty. I mean…I’m BAAAAADDD. This past summer I played a one on one game of basketball that lasted 20 minutes. Final score? 3 to 0. I almost puked more times than I scored (and for the record…I won that game). In no particular order.
If Isaac wants to play a sport and be a part of a team then I will support him fully. I will be at his games and try to make his practices as often as I can. However, his sports will not be the center of my life/calendar nor will it be the center of our family’s calendar. Maybe he won’t get to play as much as other students because of this and he and I will have a conversation about this and why it is important to not be controlled by one activity but to seek to live a healthy life. We will talk about how devotion to Jesus calls for sacrifice but in that sacrifice there is a joy because we find opportunities to do other good things. So yes he’ll play sports but he’ll do other stuff as well.
2) Jesus will be a big deal in our family. Isaac had his first Christmas this year and we started a tradition of reading a book about the Christmas story to Him on Christmas Eve (as he gets older this tradition will be coupled with our family tradition of watching a Muppet Christmas Carol). Every year we will read “The Crippled Lamb” because Jesus is a big deal in our family. Will he have Santa Clause? Yes. We are a family of imagination and Santa will be a part as well. And when he asks about the reality of Santa I will tell him the original story of Santa and talk about why we keep retelling the story each year as it connects to a man who loved Jesus.
I plan on talking about faith (in a positive way, not in a griping “so and so did such and such” at church) at the dinner table: telling stories of answered or unanswered prayers, discussing religious ideas as they come up, engaging Isaac’s life with the power and wonder of God. I did this as a young man with a friend’s family and it made me a better man and Christian. And btw, no topic will be off limits. They may be accommodated for His age but we will be open to discussing any topic.
When we read bed time stories, sometimes we will read or simply tell stories from the Bible. I have a friend who is going to start doing Jesus Calling devotionals with her boys soon (children’s edition). I like to think we will try this as well. In any event, we will pray together, we will read the Bible together and we will discuss faith together. Isaac will be free to choose whether or not he believes in God or wants to follow Jesus. But I will proclaim the wonder and power of my Lord to my son for as long as I have breath.
3) Church will be a nonnegotiable (at least on Sundays). I know, I know there are nightmare stories of children being forced to go to Church and being bitter for it. I was forced to go to Church, I have friends that were forced to go to Church and guess what…we still go to Church. I’m not saying every time the doors are open Isaac will have to be there (I mean, I most likely will but he won’t). I am saying for followers of Christ being with other believers is a necessity and he will know the value of being together with other believers regularly.
I will share with him my desperate need to be around others who share in our beliefs. I will share with him the joy of being there to encourage others in the faith. I will walk with him through the “church is boring dad” moments and I will invite him to help me find ways to make church better. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. I’m going to teach my son HE HAS A VOICE IN THE ACTIVITIES OF CHURCH!! He will be a PARTICIPANT!!
He will be involved. He will share in the ministry of the church working alongside members as we live as a community. For instance, when it comes to potlucks, I don’t want Isaac going first with all the children. Isaac and I will go with the other adults. More importantly, I will ask Isaac to go through a potluck line with an elderly member with me and we will eat with them. Will he always like this idea? Probably not. Will I ALWAYS force him to do it? Maybe, maybe not. Will he know that followers of Jesus look after the least of these and don’t rush to fill our faces like hogs at a feeding trough? Yes. Will he learn to respect and value the elderly? Yes. Will he learn to engage the elderly? Yes.
He won’t just be ministered to in the Children’s ministry. He will minister to others in small ways. And he and I (and his mom) will work together to find ways to use his gifts in the Church. He’ll read Scripture if he wants, he’ll lead songs if he wants, he’ll serve communion. If I ever become a preacher and he wants to preach with me, he will. If he wants to work lights or stay in the background he will. But I want to give him the opportunity to discover how God can use Him to encourage and strengthen and challenge fellow believers.
4) He will serve the community in Jesus’ name. I am a huge social justice junkie. I like to serve the poor and consider the least of these. I will invite Isaac to join me in this work. One of my friends just took his six year old son to Mexico for a mission trip. I love that idea!! Maybe we’ll take a family vacation (not every year but on occasion) just to serve in a mission type way. My other friend took his daughter to help make cinnamon rolls to serve to their local homeless population on Christmas. A marvelous idea!! I also read about a family that made pancakes and used their 4 year old son’s red wagon to help bring the pancakes to those who were hungry. I was all “WHAAA?!”
I want to show Isaac that faith is not just words and ideas but also actions and a lifestyle. I hope that my son and I can enjoy the deep discussion parts of faith but also enjoy the action side of faith. We will serve together and enter into the joy of giving to others and putting their needs first. It is a major part of faith that I want him to experience. When we talk about college and school I will challenge him to find a job that doesn’t just make money but betters the world for the glory of God. When it comes to homework, I’ll help him as best I can and I expect him to try his best but I want his best to be because God has given him the opportunity to learn.
5) Above all I will love Isaac unconditionally. You ever noticed how God says “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased” at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry? Like before he did anything really amazing, God was already proud of the Son. The same is true for me and Isaac. The first night he was born I held him in my arms and simply repeated those words to him. I made a promise that no matter what happens I will love my son, no questions asked.
He may be lazy and bad in school. I will love him. He may not be great at sports and I will love him. He may make some really really dumb choices but I will love him. He may decide that following Jesus isn’t for him. Or that I am a bad dad or get a girl pregnant before marriage or have a drug problem or whatever. I will always love my son and every night after we pray and every morning when we wake up I will tell him, “You are my son and with you I am well pleased.” And when he makes a mistake and I discipline him I will remember to say “you are still my son and though you screwed up, I am still well pleased because you are still my son.
I will work hard not to call him stupid when he messes up. I will work hard not to call him a failure when he fails. I will work hard to still be proud of him even in the dark times of his life and I will be there walking beside him as best I can. Will I always bail him out financially? Probably not. Does this mean I won’t have high expectations for him? By no means. Will it mean he’ll get everything he ever wants? Not gonna happen. But no matter what, he will know that he is loved.
So there we go…here’s the beginning of trying to help my son find faith. It’s probably really flawed but so am I. OOO…I’ll also show Isaac that we’re all flawed and we all make mistakes and that’s ok.