I woke up this morning feeling like I had a giant grey cloud over my head.
It was one of those mornings where you wake up and immediately remember something is wrong, but aren’t able to recall exactly what it is for a couple of minutes.
I quickly searched my memory bank for what’s going on with my kids, my parents, my friends, and my work. It wasn’t any of those things. But then I remembered why I went to bed feeling so depressed.
Our country is heading in an absolutely disastrous direction. I’m grieving for my children’s future.
Yeah. Just that.
And not just because of the most recent news headlines. Because of the cumulative news impact over several months now.
If you don’t share a sense of dire concern over our country’s spiritual, moral and political direction, then this post isn’t for you. This is a letter to those who already grieve with me for our children’s future.
I know how you feel. There are lots of us feeling the same way. You’re not alone. It’s a strangely disorienting mixture of sadness, frustration, anger, and dismay—one that leaves you wanting to pull your hair out or cry, depending on the day and headline.
I fear our country is at a turning point and we will never regain the foundation we had.
My heart hurts thinking about what society will look like for my kids someday.
I’ve found myself feeling the deep weight of this emotional burden lately. For a while, I considered that burden to be a negative thing—something to get rid of. But I’m now convicted that Christians should feel the burden and use that weight as a catalyst for doing something.
Christian parents, especially, are in the position of doing something hugely significant, as we are in a position to influence the next generation—part of the very future you and I are so concerned about. But we will only have the collective impact we desire if we do the necessary things and not just many somethings.
Here are four of those necessary things.
First, every one of us must take responsibility for fighting for what we believe and not give up.
When I’m discouraged because I’m on what seems to be the “losing” end of something I’m passionate about, I can become resentful and resort to a defensive silence. Based on the social media posts about news headlines that I’ve been seeing from fellow believers, I don’t think I’m alone. When frustration reigns supreme, it’s easier to throw our hands in the air and effectively declare, “Fine! Are you happy now? You got what you wanted!”
…followed by a whisper of, “and you’re going to see later that I was right.”
…followed by a half-defeated, half-smug retreat.
We can’t do this.
We can’t get smug, and we can’t retreat.
We may or may not be facing a permanent spiritual and moral decline in America. But our actions shouldn’t depend on our society’s likely fate. We have a responsibility to fight for the God-given values we hold to be true…even if we are the last voice in a thousand.
As Christian parents raising the next generation, that fight starts at home, where every single one of us should be working tirelessly to raise kids who will have the knowledge, conviction, and courage to stand up for what is right in the future.
Please don’t let your discouragement turn into resignation.
Second, we need to get our priorities straight.
I recently helped a private Christian school do a spiritual survey of parents. We asked questions ranging from how often the parents go to church to what kinds of spiritual development activities they do at home. Using my professional background, I was able to identify the one question that statistically determined how someone would likely answer all other questions in the survey.
It was this:
“To what degree do you agree or disagree with the following statement: It’s important to me that my kids grow up to be Christ-followers.”
Those who answered “Strongly Agree” had completely different responses on the survey compared to those who answered “Somewhat Agree.” Those who only “somewhat agree” go to church far less, read the Bible with their kids and pray far less, and are far less likely to say they are prepared to explain the basics of Christianity to their kids. In addition, zero percent of those who only “somewhat agree” said they could confidently explain to their kids why we have good reason to believe Christianity is true.
On paper, the difference between “strongly agree” and “somewhat agree” might sound minimal.
In reality, the difference says so much.
If you can’t honestly say you strongly agree that it’s important to you that your kids grow up to be Christ-followers, it’s time to examine what you really believe. If you really believe that Jesus is the exclusive savior of the world and that there are eternal implications for whether or not your kids ultimately put their trust in Him, how could you not strongly agree that it’s important they grow up to follow Him?
What could possibly be more important?
Your kids’ sporting events? Their academic success? Making sure they’re “nice” people (whether or not they believe in God)?
As this survey demonstrates, too many Christian parents don’t have their priorities straight. How will we ever collectively impact society when raising our kids to follow Jesus is only “somewhat” important for many self-professed Christians?
If you would answer the question with somewhat agree, I encourage you to really think right now about why you wouldn’t strongly agree. If it’s because you’re not fully convicted of the truth of Christianity, it’s time to sort that out. Christianity is either true or not true. There’s no point in living as if it’s “kind of” true and raising your kids with a half-hearted belief.
If you would answer strongly agree, be sure your actions match your intentions…read on.
Third, we need to commit to working harder on our kids’ spiritual development.
Telling busy and overwhelmed parents that they need to work even harder on something is about the least popular message there is. But in a spiritually declining society, it should go without saying that the challenges to faith will be stronger than ever, resulting in the de facto need for parents to do more to keep their kids close to God.
That more means:
- More time spent becoming aware of the latest headlines and related faith challenges. If we live in a bubble isolated from this knowledge, we won’t be able to address it with our kids.
- More time spent on personal spiritual development. We have to continually grow in our relationship with the Lord and our understanding of Christianity if we’re going to be in a spiritual and intellectual position to raise firmly rooted Christ-followers.
- More time intentionally spent on our kids’ spiritual development at home. That means praying together, studying the Bible together, and engaging in the deep conversations about Christianity that are necessary to raise kids with confident faith in a secular world.
Fourth, we need to work smarter when it comes to our kids’ spiritual development.
Working harder is necessary but not sufficient. It’s not about simply doing more, but doing more that matters.
For example, let’s say you want to climb a steep mountain over several days. You get really serious about the goal and are ready to work hard toward it. However, you don’t bother to get any specific information about that mountain—you don’t get maps, learn about the elevation change, identify the necessary water sources, or check the temperatures in order to dress accordingly. Instead, you decide to work “hard” based on your own understanding and prepare by running two miles each day. Relative to what you were doing before, that may indeed constitute working harder. But it would be a waste of hard work because it wasn’t the hard work that was needed for the goal at hand.
Similarly, we can spend more time every week doing something spiritual with our kids, but if we aren’t doing the specific things that are critical for helping them remain faithful given the world in which they’re growing up, our efforts can easily be in vain.
You could start reading your kids a Bible story each night. But mom, dad, how do I know this actually happened? Everyone around me says the Bible is a book of fairy tales.
You could tell your kids each day about a way you’ve seen God move in your life. But mom, dad, how do I know God is real if I haven’t experienced that? Everyone around me says there’s no evidence for God.
You could serve the homeless together for Jesus. But mom, dad, my atheist friends are good people too. They want to help the homeless and they say they don’t need God to do that.
You could go outside at night and point to the beautiful sky as God’s amazing creation. But mom, dad, in school I’m learning that God wasn’t needed for any of this – science can explain it without Him.
Friends, there are some very specific conversations we need to have with our kids today and challenges we need to address (in Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith I explain 40 of the most critical). I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t serve the homeless with our kids or read the Bible every night (we should), but I am saying that we can’t just wing our Christian parenting with whatever we happen to think is most important for our kids’ spiritual development.
Specific guidance is necessary, and specific guidance is available.
To conclude, I just want to remind all of us (myself included) that God is still in control. This is still His world, and we are still part of His plan. We have to avoid the extreme responses of either resigning to inaction because He’s in control or wallowing in despair because we’ve forgotten He’s in control. We must live out our calling to “train up our kids” and take responsibility for understanding what that means at this point in history.
Regardless of how uncertain this earthly future is, we can always be confident that at the end of time, God wins.
In His love,