I’d be surprised if anyone said they didn’t prepare for their child.
If you adopted your child, you planned the setup of their bedroom and made a few changes to your home. But more important, you thought about how to attach and bond with your new child. You likely had to work through intensive guidebooks and required training courses to become adoptive parents. Ahead of time, you tried to simplify your life and secure time off from work to make sure you would have the days and hours you wanted — and needed — to cocoon with your child.
If you or your spouse gave birth, you might not have been as extreme as I was. (In fact, I hope you weren’t.) But you almost certainly chose the location. You likely strategized your route there. You probably even figured out how you were going to contact your friends and family, and maybe even who you were going to notify first.
I’m guessing that when it comes to planning for your first few hours with your child, you’d receive an A. (I myself was apparently trying for an A plus.) But then something happens. Or rather, lots of somethings happen. Our kids get older. We do too. Our kids get busier. As do we. Our kids seem to gain more energy. We seem to lose it.
If you’re like me, you may have been proactive the first few days and even years of your kids’ lives, but as your family’s days become consumed by soccer practices and science tests, you become reactive. Instead of looking a few months or even years ahead, we consider ourselves lucky if we make it through the next few hours or days of our frenetic schedule.
At most, we devise plans for our children’s education — both now and in the future. We think about schools they might want to attend and calculate the steps our kids (and we) need to take to boost their grades and extracurriculars. But that’s often the only area of our family life where we have any long-term vision or goals.
For most families, faith tends to be more of an afterthought.
Let’s get real: no part of parenting is easy. Whether we’re responding to our fifteen-month-old’s cries from the crib or our fifteen-year-old’s texts from the mall, we’re constantly improvising. Guessing. Hoping that what we’re doing comes close to what’s best for our kids.
Part of that is inevitable. Parenting will always be a messy (and often awkward) dance of art and science. But what if there was research that removed at least some of the guesswork about what is best for our kids — both now and long-term?
What if we could learn from proven tools and ideas that would help us create a plan for our families?
For some of us, following a plan is a joy. We are the type of folks who love making lists and identifying next steps.
For others of us, the term “plan” is a four-letter word. (Well, actually, it is a four-letter word for all of us, but you know what I mean.) We cringe at the thought of tying ourselves down to specific goals and tasks.
Regardless of whether you love or hate plans in other areas of your life, we at the Fuller Youth Institute hope you’re willing to use this guide to map a spiritual course for your family.
Without a guide, without intentionality, your family is likely to drift.
So is your kids’ faith.
Multiple studies indicate that 40 – 50 percent of young people — like your kids — who graduate from a church or a youth group — probably a lot like your congregation or your kids’ youth group — will leave their faith and the church after they head to college.
To help that sink in, please take a moment to visualize a photograph of your kids and their Christian friends. Now imagine holding a red pen and drawing an X through almost 50 percent of their faces, because that many will fall away from the faith as young adults.
As a mom, a leader, and a follower of Jesus, I’m not satisfied with that. I bet you aren’t either. As we at the Fuller Youth Institute have spent time with families who beat those odds — who are more successful than average at encouraging long-term faith — it’s clear that those parents usually have a strategy that guides how they nourish their family’s faith. It isn’t that they are trying to control their children’s future. Nor do they view following a guide as a foolproof guarantee for success. They hold the guide loosely, knowing that even their best-laid plans sometimes need to be tossed aside.
But these parents know that the things they care about — including their children’s spiritual growth — stand a much better chance of becoming reality if they think in advance about what is important to them and how to make time for those priorities.
These parents know that their kids’ spiritual roots won’t grow deep by accident. God is the ultimate gardener, but He often works through parents to prepare the soil, remove creeping weeds, and make sure kids have the spiritual nutrients they need to flourish. Families who manage to beat the percent statistic also helped our team confirm that it’s never too early to start.
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Most of us have known kids who grew up in Church, seemed to have a relationship with Jesus, and maybe were even heavily involved in Church community, and yet, when they entered adulthood drifted away. How can we help our children to “stick” in their faith? How intentionally are we tending to our children’s spiritual health? Come share with us on our blog about guiding our children into life-long relationship with Christ. We want to hear from you!