At a recent ‘Faith at Home’ conference for parents, I was struck by the results of a survey on the significant religious influences in the lives of youths in the US. The number one influence was not the church but the youth’s mother, followed by the father, the pastor, the grandparents, and in fifth and sixth places were Sunday School and the youth group.
This doesn’t mean we should stop these ministries as they play very important roles too. But the role of nurturing spiritual growth cannot be left solely to the church. It cannot simply be ‘outsourced’. The family has a major role to play in the discipling the next generation. Unfortunately, another survey conducted among churched youths showed that only 28% talked with their moms about their faith and only 13% talked with their dads about their faith. My heart felt very heavy as I heard this. Even though the studies were done in the US, I believe that the situation in Singapore may not be very far from this.
The speaker also shared one key reason young people are likely to disengage from their Christian faith when they become young adults – hypocrisy. They saw the Christian faith lived out only in church – but not at home.
This really struck a chord in me as I started thinking about my own relationship with my daughters.
In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God’s instruction was: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise…”
Many of us do talk to our children about God’s ways and put different things in our homes to remind us of His teachings. However, the question is do we walk the talk? Do we talk about God’s unconditional love but make our children feel that our love is conditional? Do we talk about forgiveness yet find it so hard to forgive them because of our anger? I have been guilty of these at different points and realize that preserving the faith in our children starts with me. I need to allow God to prune me continuously and walk the talk. I need to be authentic in my faith and acknowledge to my children that I too have failed and am learning to submit to God, and that we as a family can grow in this together. Nurturing the faith of our next generation needs to be a collaboration between the family and the church. It first requires us parents to live out our faith and be authentic in sharing our faith journeys with our children. It also requires us to recognize the important role our church family plays through the Children and Youth ministries and to encourage our children to participate in these ministries as it forms their community. And equally important is the love, acceptance and support from the church ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’ that will help our children to experience God in flesh as we encourage them, pray for them and stand by them. This is especially so for those children who don’t come from Christian homes.
There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child and the same applies for the sharing and impartation of our faith. We all have different roles and cannot leave it to others to play that role. Our children are influenced by many different things in our world today that will pull them away from our faith. Let’s remember to commit them to the Lord and work together to nurture the faith of the next generation.
By Mrs Sarah Choo (YCKC Bulletin 7&8 December 2013)