This is my column from the June issue of "ChurchActs" the newspaper of the Diocese of WNY
I came across a quote from Rick Lawrence who is the editor of Group magazine, one of the premier youth ministry magazines in the world. He said:
"When it comes to impacting teenagers for Christ, who’s the superhero and who’s the sidekick? Well, both Christian and secular researchers [show that youth workers are] Robin and kids’ parents are Batman. I mean that parents who are only doing a mediocre job of impacting their kids’ faith journey can still out-impact the best youth minister in the world. Parents—not the church or the culture or friends—hold the keys to their kids’ long-term faith trajectory."
As the parent of a teen myself I have to admit that sounds like a huge burden on my shoulders. Doesn't Rick know how hard it is to raise a kid in this culture? Doesn't he realize the existing stress of struggling with career issues, economic issues, over-scheduling issues (mine and the kid's), and the getting-older-and-watching-my-body-fall-apart issues while trying to be a parent? Let alone those of us who have to try and do this ALONE!
Actually I'm pretty sure he's aware of all of that. Just as I'm sure that he's not trying to add more stuff to our already over flowing plate. It's just that in a world that loves to make fun of parents, that tells us how hard it is, that wants us to be worried about all kinds of other stuff we need to make sure that we don't lose all hope. Very easily we can feel like we can't make a difference and quit. Just accept that if we get them out of high school in some reasonable semblance of good order then we've done our job.
Of course the other argument is that most of us don't feel like we're really ready, prepared or qualified to be teaching our kids about faith. Face it we struggle with it most days and not many of us consider ourselves Bible scholars. So how are we supposed to lead our children deeper in a journey of faith?
So now for some good news, you're better qualified than you think. And as the studies show you're actually better at it than you think. This is less about your ability to lead bible studies or do in depth explanations of theology than how you show your children about living a life in faith. It's about how you treat the people you love in your life and the people that you really don't like. Your children will learn about a life in faith by how you react when you're cut off in traffic. You'll have an impact on them what you do when you're faced with commitments made that you really don't want to fulfill. Their life in faith will be shaped not only by whether or not you go to church but what you do every other day of the week.
Sure it wouldn't hurt for them to see you open the Bible every once in a while and read it. Sincerely praying together as a family every once in a while would be a bonus too. Letting them see you pray personally is also a good idea. But it's not about slapping some new “church-y” behaviors in your life. It is about making your faith a real part of your life and doing the best you can to live it out. Be honest about the days when it's tough. As they get old enough tell them about when your faith has been tested and when it has given you strength. Share the story of your faith, even if you think you're a rotten story teller. You'll be amazed at the effect you have.
As for the bible studies and the theology? Don't worry, there are plenty of youth ministers and clergy persons around to pick up the other stuff. It's our job to fill in the spaces between the foundation pieces that you'll put in place. Remember, YOU are the super hero. We're just the sidekick.
So fire up the Batmobile and let's go.