Let me ask you something. Looking back at when you left home, were there perhaps a few conversations about faith you wish your parents had with you but didn’t?
Try not to laugh!
Seeing as how fewer than one in ten Christian families read the Bible together or pray together outside of mealtimes, most of us probably weren’t regularly engaging with our parents in conversations on the deeper matters of faith. But how much more grounded in faith we would have been, had we been given more opportunities to reflect on such questions in our childhood!
Consider this small sampling of faith challenges I grappled with in my first few years after leaving home:
- Why does God want us to worship Him? Isn’t He “bigger” than that?
- Why does the “Old Testament God” seem so different than the “New Testament God”?
- How do you actually love a God you can’t see, touch or hear?
- Why does it matter if I date or marry a believer vs. a non-believer?
- What should the role of the Holy Spirit be in my life?
- When people talk about “God’s will,” what does that really mean? Does God have a will for my life specifically, or only for the world at large?
- How does a Christian approach the topic of homosexuality?
- If I don’t believe in a literal creation story, where does that leave me with the rest of the Bible? With the rest of my faith?
The problem is, these types of faith conversations don’t casually “come up” in the course of an average day, or even in the course of an average morning at church youth group.
In order for conversations such as these to be had, they have to be part of our intentional parenting efforts.
Initiating conversations like these doesn’t come naturally to many of us, probably because we have so little experience engaging in faith discussions in our own childhoods. As a thought starter, here are 5 principles for starting more of these meaningful faith conversations at home.
1. Be single-minded in your parenting vision.
Without an overall vision for your parenting, a string of conversations over the years can become like verses without a chorus. While each conversation can be impactful in and of itself, how much more impactful would they be collectively if they consistently pointed back to the same carefully considered refrain?
For me, that refrain would be that there is absolutely nothing more important in life than prioritizing God and growing in spiritual maturity. My parenting vision is that my kids will leave home with this conviction. Every faith conversation I have can and should point my kids back to this in some way.
What is the refrain for your family?
2. Know what you want to talk to your kids about.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you have absolutely no qualms about initiating meaningful and deep conversations with your kids on a consistent basis (lucky you!). If all the barriers were removed, do you readily know what conversations you want and need to have with your kids before they leave your home?
This, for me, is a startling question. It’s one thing to acknowledge I need to be intentional in fostering the deeper conversations of faith; it’s another thing altogether to have a plan for what those conversations should be.
While the possibilities are endless, developing a “bucket list” of faith conversations to have before your kids leave home will give you a tangible goal. I’m going to draft these myself this week and will publish my own list in my next post.
3. Don’t wait to have answers before you have the conversations.
Looking at the conversation list I’ve started makes me slightly terrified. Many, if not most, of those conversations are around questions I don’t know how to answer myself. If you make a list, you will probably notice the same pattern.
If you wait until you have comfortable answers, you’ll never start the conversation.
Most of the value of faith conversations is in getting kids to simply start thinking about deeper questions they otherwise wouldn’t.
4. Accept that feeling awkward is normal.
I’m going to guess this is why most parents fail to engage in meaningful faith conversations: a fear of feeling awkward. Awkward in bringing up the questions, awkward in not knowing how to drive the conversation or awkward in not having the perceived necessary insights. Being able and willing to initiate conversation on topics where no conversation existed previously isn’t an easy thing to do. We’re so conditioned to associate awkwardness with negativity that we often avoid awkward situations by default.
Feeling awkward doesn’t mean you aren’t up to the task or that you aren’t doing something right. It’s completely normal when you’re doing something new and difficult!
5. Don’t judge your impact by your kids’ immediate reaction.
Depending on the age of your kids, their disposition, and the nature of your relationship with them, you may very well get reactions of indifference, annoyance, silence or disinterest when you attempt to initiate faith conversations. None of these reactions should be seen as a measuring stick for the value of what you are doing. Think back to meaningful things your own parents told you growing up. Did you respond at the time with an outpouring of gratitude and a knowing nod at the life lesson you just received? Probably not! They were seeds that grew to maturity years later. Focus on planting and watering the seeds, regardless of what blossoms you see now.
What are the first conversations that come to mind for your own “bucket list?” What faith questions do you most wish you had the opportunity to thoughtfully consider with an adult before you left home?