If you're a mom of younger children (who read today's post title) and are about to leave my blog, don't do it! Today's lessons can never be applied too early, I promise. For those of you visiting from Marybeth's blog looking for my chicken noodle soup recipe, it'll be here shortly. First I want to share a recipe from a friend who's joining us for our"D6 Month of Encouragement for Moms".
Author, Suzie Eller, is here to what she learned during her survey of hundreds of teenagers for her book, "Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parents Needs to Know." Susie wanted to find out how parents can hinder or help their teen's faith. Here is what she wrote:
Listen to what these children had to day about faith:
- God gets sad if you tell a lie, or if you hurt somebody, or if you sneeze on someone on purpose (Shelby, age 7)
- God is in love with your heart. He made people with hearts and he also made trees. But people are harder to make than trees. (Sara, age 6)
Sweet, isn’t it? But what happens as a child grows up and their view of God becomes more complex? It might just look like this:
- My parents could impact my faith if they would believe it themselves. (Gemma M., Age 13)
- I know that you want to protect me, but I need to figure out some things on my own, including where I stand with God and making God my own instead of my parents’ God. (Janelle T., Age 15)
I was 15 when I became a Christian. My family was unchurched. All I knew is that my life was turned upside down by a God I formerly didn’t believe existed. When I became a parent I wanted my children to love and know His amazing love. I read devotions. I prayed with them. I shared Scripture. But many years later I’ve learned one very powerful truth: Most of what we teach our teens about God is not about what we say. Rather they learn about God as they watch our lives.
Scary thought, isn’t it?
Paul the Apostle, a straightforward kind of guy, once said in Philippians 4:9, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”
Your teen will hear a thousand messages about faith in their lifetime, most of them from people who don’t believe. So what we show our children about faith becomes even more vital.
But what are we teaching them? I talked with hundreds of teens and they said there are four things that parents do that can make faith difficult to comprehend. I'll share two of them with you today and two more tomorrow:
A teen was making Mac and Cheese and added water instead of milk. It was a sticky mess. Her mom came into the kitchen and gave her a long spiritual discourse on wastefulness. This teen was ripe for a lesson on how to read a recipe, but instead it became about God. To a teen, it’s confusing when your faith is judged on how clean your room is, or what you are wearing, or what your friend did last weekend. Faith becomes less about Christ and more about pleasing you.
I can hear a parent now. Do we just let them run rampant? Absolutely not! As parents, we have a responsibility to teach our children core lessons about responsibility, respect, etc. But when we tie God into it, a teen might begin to perceive God as a boomerang God who zaps down from Heaven every time they don’t pick up their socks.
The question becomes: If God gets mad over something like not following directions to make mac-and-cheese, what will he do if I make a serious life mistake?
Mistake #2— Not exploring the Christian faith
I wasn’t raised in church. One day I didn’t have faith. The next day I did. It was black and white for me. Jesus transformed my life! But my children were in church the week after they were born. It is a rich heritage, one I wish I had been given, but my children had to eventually sort through what was faith vs. church activities to discover the reality of Jesus for themselves.
When a teen squestions about Christianity, some parents feel threatened. But for most it’s the beginning of a personal faith journey. They are sorting through to find out who God is to them. When my son asked the hard questions, I wanted to give a pat answer: just believe!
But instead, we talked about it. When I didn’t know the answers, we found resources or books that addressed his doubts so that Ryan could dig deeper. I prayed often. It was a hard time because I wanted Ryan to know Christ in an intimate and powerful manner. But I was forced to acknowledge this truth: Christ had drawn me to him. He would do the same for my son.
We continued to go to church as a family, but as a young adult Ryan’s personal faith life was between him and God. Ryan told me later that the determining factor had nothing to do with what we said. He saw his mom turn to God in hard times. He saw joy when his dad prayed.
I wanted to say a million words to him during that time, but it was our lack of words that he heard the loudest."
T. Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is a Proverbs 31 speaker, youth culture and parenting columnist, and author of several books including Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parents Needs to Know. http://tsuzanneeller.com or http://realteenfaith.com.
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