If Christian Moms Looked for Guidance as Much as Encouragement, Kids Would Have a Deeper Faith

If Christian Moms Looked for Guidance as Much as Encouragement, Kids Would Have a Deeper Faith

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks because I’ve been especially busy since the release of Talking with Your Kids about God. Speaking events and interviews take a lot of time! But it’s been a truly encouraging few weeks, as I’ve had the opportunity to hear from the first readers how the book is already impacting the discipleship of their kids and grandkids (you can read almost 70 excellent reviews on Amazon!).

One of the best parts of the book release experience has been my launch team—a group of people who agreed to read a pre-release copy of the book in exchange for their honest review and to help share about the book on social media. These early readers were passionate about getting the word out after reading it. This led to several of them in our Facebook group asking something to the effect of, “I’ve shared with my personal circle, but how do we get more Christian parents—in churches everywhere!—to understand the need for this knowledge? It seems so hard to get people to care about seriously discipling their kids.”

It was both heartening and discouraging to hear the question. It was heartening because it indicated that they felt the sense of urgency I so passionately wanted to convey in the book. It was discouraging because it reminded me of the challenge I have known so well over my years of writing and speaking—it’s tough to get most Christian parents interested in getting equipped to train their kids with an understanding of apologetics (the evidence for the truth of Christianity).

I’ve reflected a lot on this challenge and could say many things about it, but I wanted to share just one reason for it today, as it relates to moms especially: Christian moms often look for encouragement more than guidance.

If you do a survey of popular books, blogs, retreats, and conferences targeted at Christian moms (and reflecting the market demand for this kind of content), you’ll see a predominant theme of general life encouragement. These messages:

 

Help us find joy in the midst of our “messy” lives (a favorite descriptor).

Let us know it’s normal to be overwhelmed by laundry.

Inspire us to feel we’re doing an important job with our kids, even when cleaning.

Encourage us to find release from various “traps” in our lives.

Demonstrate how we can make the most of small moments in our day.

Confirm that finding balance is difficult.

Relieve our fears that we’re not as good of a parent as we should be.

Remind us that comparing ourselves to other parents is a bad thing.

Let us know we don’t have to be perfect.

 

These messages are all important. I know what it’s like to feel discouraged by the day-to-day parenting life, both as a working mom and as a stay-at-home mom. I really do. There is a need for these messages.

But when the predominant messages moms consume are words of general encouragement, we create a self-indulgent culture focused on increasing our satisfaction with life rather than our effectiveness as Christian parents.

One of the greatest areas that suffers when this is the case is our kids’ spiritual development.

 

How Did We Get Here?

My professional background is in marketing, and one of the things marketers know well is that there’s a key difference between a person’s felt needs and their real needs. A felt need is a need that a person feels, but may or may not be something they really need. A real need is a true need a person has, but may or may not be something they’re aware of or agree with.

Felt needs are powerful drivers of behavior. The fact that there is so much content targeting moms with life encouragement readily demonstrates that moms feel that need and have created a market demand for it. And is there any question as to why? Being a mom is HARD! Most of us are thoroughly overwhelmed. I’m personally overwhelmed by the messiness of my house, the incessant fighting between my kids, the reality of getting older, and a lack of free time, amongst many other things.

While “being a mom is hard” sounds like a rather trite declaration, many studies show that Gen X women are particularly stressed, depressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted, with self-reported well-being declining steadily from age 35 to 50. Two recent articles at Oprah.com and ChristianityToday.com discuss how these facts have led to a new kind of midlife crisis for today’s women who are in the thick of their parenting years.

When we’re in a crisis mode (whether we consciously label these feelings as “crises” or not), we’re at a breaking point. You probably know that point well: the one where you feel that if there is ONE MORE THING you have to do, you’re going to scream, panic, or cry.

It’s natural that in this state of mind we’re most interested in finding help to clear our emotional plate. It’s the strongest felt need. Unfortunately, it’s also natural that in this state of mind we are wholly uninterested in anything that tells us we need to be doing more or doing things better.

Yet, given the world our kids are facing today, they need us to do more than most of us are doing for their discipleship…and they need us to do it better.

 

A Real Need for Guidance

In the introduction to Talking with Your Kids about God, I suggest that there are two key ingredients to discipling our kids: discipline and direction. Direction is the knowledge of what to do and discipline is the commitment to doing it. Discipline comes from within, but direction comes from intentionally identifying the guidance one needs to best do the job.

So why is there such a need to actively seek guidance when it comes to our kids’ spiritual development?

 

1. What’s required in disciple-making changes over time.

Disciple-making has always been the process of helping kids become followers of Jesus. But what is involved in that process differs through time. Parents of kids growing up in the 1600s faced different issues than those raising kids in the 1800s and 2000s. We’re striving to help our kids follow the same Jesus throughout those centuries, but there are different obstacles in the path. Today’s challenges are leading unprecedented numbers of kids away from their faith (at least 60 percent of those raised in Christian homes, according to multiple independent studies). We need to ask what our disciple-making process should look like given today’s spiritual environment. That requires more guidance than our personal intuition.

 

2. What “worked” for you may not “work” for your kids.

Many moms I talk to are simply repeating whatever discipleship they received as kids in their own family because they don’t know what else discipleship would look like. Oftentimes, this boils down to a trip to church each week, prayers before bedtime, and maybe an occasional devotional. They assume that because they grew up to love Jesus that this is enough for their kids too. This is a dangerous assumption. Kids today will be challenged more often and more deeply on their beliefs than most of us ever were. You simply don’t know how your faith would have developed in similar conditions.

 

3. Today’s challenges are predictable, so there’s no excuse for not equipping your kids to understand them.

When I speak, I often begin by asking the room, “How many of you are here today already thinking that our country is becoming an increasingly secular place and that your kids’ faith will likely be challenged because of it?” Every parent raises their hand. But when I ask, “Now take that a step further: How many of you are confident you know specifically what the challenges are, how to effectively talk about those challenges with your kids, and what that means for you as a parent on a daily basis?” I at most will see a couple of hands go up.

As this shows, most parents get as far as feeling the fear of what their kids will encounter but don’t take the next step of looking for guidance on what to do. My goal at those speaking events is to demonstrate that today’s challenges are highly predictable (as I’ve shown in both of my books), and that if we don’t equip our kids to encounter them, we have quite literally failed them without excuse.

 

Discipleship is a calling for both moms and dads, so I don’t want anyone to read this and think I’m laying the youth exodus from Christianity solely at the feet of moms. But we, as moms, certainly have part of the responsibility. And our collective thirst for and prioritization of encouragement is, of course, just one of many reasons we aren’t better discipling our kids. However, when we see so many moms gravitating to self-help resources, I can’t help but ask:

What if for every book we read on finding balance, we read one on the evidence for God’s existence?

What if for every small group study we did on anxiousness, we did one on discipleship?

What if for every blog post we read on easing mommy guilt, we read one on a common objection to Christianity?

What if for every encouraging Facebook group we joined, we joined one that discusses apologetics and theology?

I will venture an answer to these and similar questions: Kids today would have a deeper faith. Encouragement is great, but it will never compensate for learning what we need to be effective disciplers of our children.

22 Comments

  1. Dawn Jones on November 30, 2017 at 1:19 PM

    Wow, Natasha! That was well said. I completely agree!



  2. Jamie on November 30, 2017 at 1:55 PM

    This is both convicting and encouraging! What a great post Natasha!!



  3. Lottie on November 30, 2017 at 3:19 PM

    Excellent and challenging post- thanks Natasha. Really liked the observation of felt need v real need. How true. Feeling currently quite overwhelmed with the imminent birth of our 3rd, but love the way you remind me of the importance of not seeing ‘busyness’ as an excuse not to pursue the intentional discipleship of our children. It’s so easy to think a slower day will come- but it never does, so need to commit time and energy to properly equipping our children now before they are all grown up! Thank you. Looking forward to reading the book!



  4. Bek on November 30, 2017 at 3:29 PM

    I had the absolute blessing of a huge faith crisis about 7 years ago which meant I HAD to read the books and the blogs etc from a Christian worldview AND and a naturalistic worldview. That’s what got me looking for guidance! I like encouragement as much as the next Mum, but for me the encouragement is only encouraging if I have reasonable certainty that Christianity is true.

    I don’t want to say we need to make mums have a crisis of faith…. but it sure helped me! As horribly painful as it was.

    I’m always going on about Apologetics to anyone who will listen. There is resistance to it in Australia in some quarters, but some people are interested. I’m so happy with your books because it gives parents an entry point on all the, as you say, very predictable objections. Your books give me something to give to others. When I had my faith crisis, all I had was google. Thanks for your ministry! It’s so helpful to mine.



  5. Melissa on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 PM

    Great article, Natasha!



  6. Jaimee on November 30, 2017 at 6:05 PM

    Hi Natasha,
    Which discipleship books do you recommend? I’ve got a tween and a teen, both daughters.



  7. Shan on November 30, 2017 at 7:12 PM

    Good article! On a side note Why is Kohls promoting Freeform teen filth (fomerly abc family) channel ? Dropping flyers in shopping bags :/ ? The commercials in between ….secular



  8. Alex Lasco on December 1, 2017 at 5:44 AM

    Thank you Natasha for the post. God bless you with your motherhood and household duties to be lighter (or seem lighter 🙂 ).
    I have been reading and studying apologetics since I came to the Lord. I am a dad of 4 children, and I hope there will be more dads reading and working with such materials in apologetics.
    I take the current crisis in our country is the result of us dads not taking our calling seriously. Notice that Eph 6 says “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”.
    I think we provoke our kids to wrath/anger by our lukewarm life and cause them a stumbling block in the way. Why should our kids believe that God exists and Jesus rose from the dead if we as fathers (parents) don’t live the talk?
    On the other hand, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition/discipline of the Lord we ourselves are required to be disciples of Jesus in the school of the Holy Spirit. This is what I am striving to do.
    May the Lord help us men and stir the fathers to turn their hearts to their children.



  9. Wimbreth on December 1, 2017 at 7:04 AM

    Thanks foe this message! Can you recommend some specific books to read that are, as you suggested, “on the evidence for God’s existence,” “on a common objection to Christianity,” or “that discuss apologetics and theology”? Thank you!



  10. Kate on December 1, 2017 at 7:04 AM

    Well, here is some encouragement… I didn’t know that some families did NOT already do this? Everyone in our circle is heavy in the apologetics, and we are constantly having discussions. Classical Conversations is a great force that is helping to equip parents and kids (although we were doing it even before)



  11. Wimbreth on December 1, 2017 at 7:06 AM

    Can you please recommend some specific books to for moms to read on apologetics and related topics you mentioned in your post above?



  12. Jenny Young on December 1, 2017 at 8:59 AM

    This is what I love about your writing….I love that I’m encouraged to seriously improve in my personal walk with Christ & in helping my family improve as well. I’m an empty nester getting ready to become day-care giver for my first grandchild so I realize my job isn’t finished yet.

    I do have one question though. Are there really facebook groups on theology & apologetics? And do you find a trsut-worthy one?



  13. Brenda on December 1, 2017 at 12:09 PM

    Wow thank you I totally agree. I want to Check out your book!!



  14. Tenisha on December 1, 2017 at 12:57 PM

    I agree whole heartedly!! What are some of the books and authors/blogs you read for yourself?



  15. Jennifer on December 1, 2017 at 11:14 PM

    THANK YOU, Natasha, for opening this discussion. THANK YOU for “encouraging” moms to stop looking for encouraging messages and do initiate discipleship with their children. This is such a necessary message. I like how you affirmed there being a place for both, but let us be truly intentional about equipping ourselves to equip our children. Yes. Yes. Yes.



  16. RebeccaLynn on December 2, 2017 at 8:00 AM

    As usual, you target the deeper and more vital problems plaguing the Christian family, and women in particular. I agree wholeheartedly! As a writer, I feel sometimes like I’m drawn into writing what is popular instead of what’s necessary. It’s a hard line because on the one hand we should write to help people where they are, but we also have an obligation to help them grow to the places God desires. Thank you for reminding me to keep my writing focused on the REAL needs of others, and not just the emotional ones. And thank you for also reminding me to do the same in my own responsibilities as a mom! xoxoxo



  17. Tracy on December 2, 2017 at 2:47 PM

    Brilliantly said Natasha! I cannot express enough how much this article means to me. Being a young mom of three and a youth pastor’s wife, I see this again and again. Now, I cannot say that I haven’t looked for encouragement myself. I have. But I have found that I am a much better mom and wife when I am in God’s word and focusing my energy studying things like God’s Attributes. Thank you again for this!



  18. […] But when the predominant messages moms consume are words of general encouragement, we create a self-indulgent culture focused on increasing our satisfaction with life rather than our effectiveness as Christian parents. To read the rest, click here! […]



  19. Rashawnda Dunbar on December 21, 2017 at 5:34 PM

    Natasha, this is a great post and one that is certainly needed. I can particularly relate to the part about “what worked for you may not work with your kids”.

    It is very true that children today face a totally different level of opposition (albeit predictable) when it comes to their faith. Often, they are ridiculed for upholding their Christian values or even mocked for believing in God. While encouragement is great and can get us over the proverbial “humps” that life so often presents, it is only with guidance and direction that we can equip our children to effectively defend their faith.

    Continued blessings to you as you meet the REAL needs of parents in your books and this blog!



  20. Mary Bartos on January 16, 2018 at 8:43 AM

    In the 1600, most children learned from their parents what their parents had learned from their parents. We have long passed the era of children doing most of their learning from their parents. So the need for godly learning has intensified significantly. Parents who are involved in their children’s lives and can see the barriers ahead, can still find answers for themselves and for their children from God and His word. May God strengthen all of us to share truth with those He puts in our paths.



  21. Susanne Maynes on February 17, 2018 at 9:03 PM

    Natasha, this is spot on. Parents can get caught up with worrying about externals rather than being intentional about teaching faith. I’m always looking for ways to help Christian parents — including my sons and daughters-in-law — raise kids who are strong in the faith. I just read “Talking with Your Kids about God,” recommended it to my daughter-in-law, and she just bought it, too. Keep up the good work!



  22. Food for Thought #35 | The Sparrow's Home on April 15, 2018 at 11:01 PM

    […] If Christian moms looked for guidance as much as encouragement kids would have a deeper faith … at Natasha Crain.   Ain’t that the truth?!  Most material aimed at wives and mothers contains some form of the message that ‘it’s not your fault’.  What we need is not often what our egos desire.  This reminded me of an article I read awhile back with possibly the best title ever:  Not all parents are the same.  Some are better.  (haha…we all think it, don’t we?)  Be sure, BTW, to check out the ‘popular posts’ tab at the top of Natasha’s blog for loads of ideas for teaching a Biblical worldview to your kids.  It doesn’t just happen, folks. […]