What Are We Teaching Our Kids?

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

In early April, we started a discussion between me and my daughter on the church, the generational divide, and world peace.

Not really that last one. But it sounded good. In a good lead-in to Mother’s Day, we then talked about what we appreciate about one another’s generation. Now, the saga continues.

What Are We Teaching Our Kids???

Jill: Let’s talk about the idea that we don’t really have to worry about the next generation returning to church. You will, as every generation has done before you, come back after a requisite season of rebellion. 

I’m a little concerned about that laissez-faire attitude for a few reasons.

jesus doesnt want you to be good. Jesus wants uou to be his.

First of all, church is increasingly not a core value in our society, or in your generation. Being a good person and showing love are what it’s all about. Unfortunately, those values are divorced from a foundation in knowing God, largely because we Boomers in the church have taught that being good is the goal. We’ve told you that Jesus wants you to be good, when really Jesus wants you to be his.

Rules versus relationship.

According to that flawed theology, “praying the prayer” and leading a good life are the elements of being a Christian. Not surprisingly, younger generations have latched on to leading a good life and largely dispensed with the praying the prayer part. It sounds like magical thinking to you, and there is therefore no need for it in your efficient, ethics-based world.

Will you really, like the Terminator, will be back?

Emily: Did they have children’s ministries when you guys were kids? When did Sunday School in the modern sense become a thing? I mean the time when it just became a place that kids were sent because otherwise they would be bored or would cause a disruption or wouldn’t understand what was going on. 

That’s where your “do good” stems from. “Be good for mommy, and daddy, and Jesus, too.” True and simplistic as it might be, it lacks action. It lacks depth. It lacks roots.

So, yeah, you’re right. Without the roots leading us back to the church, we can go off and do more than we ever got to in Sunday School (or Children’s Ministry, if it’s a hip new church) and without the restraints of the church to tell us who or what to do good for. It leaves us in control over how we use our resources.

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Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

Jill: Well, I remember my parents sending me up the street to Sunday School. I vaguely recall something about a guy in a blue robe involving lots of flannel.

According to Christian History, the original philanthropic Sunday Schools always had an aspect of religious education, as they used the Bible for learning to read and write. They also imported moral behavior into the curriculum. When the government established mandatory public education in the 1870’s, churches moved to teaching solely Christian doctrine and behavior rather than general education.

Given that Rational Theory (i.e., human society is perfectable through the use of reason) still coursed through the church’s veins at the time, moral education would certainly have been the focus. Be good for mommy, daddy, and Jesus, indeed, has a long history.

Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, laments the present disinterest in church among children she has interviewed:

“These are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible stories. These are children who probably also know all the right answers — and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all. They have missed what the Bible is all about. It is a picture of what happens to a child when we turn a story into a moral lesson. When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it all about us. . . . When we tie up the story in a nice neat little package, and answer all the questions, we leave no room for mystery. Or discovery. We leave no room for the child. No room for God.” –Sally Lloyd-Jones

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So she seems to be saying what you are. We need to start young to let children explore the Bible story — not simple or simplistic Bible stories, but the entirety of the Big Story. We need to let them ask questions, see how the smaller stories, and their story, fit into God’s big picture, and give them something to do about it now.

Emily: I mean, I wouldn’t recommend certain stories from the Bible told straight up to four year olds (Jezebel comes to mind). But when the Bible becomes a tool or vehicle with which to deliver a human-devised moral, it not only puts God in a box, it puts us into a box too. And that box can get kind of constricting as we grow, until finally we break out and, believing the box itself is religion, we walk away, refusing to ever be constrained again.

Jill: There’s this book by some lady where she says something like this.

“Research tells us that 75 percent of young people in our churches today will leave them when they leave home. Why? Because they increasingly believe that church is irrelevant to their daily lives and out of touch with the culture. In other words, they don’t see the point. And in ever-busier lives, everything we spend our time on has to have a point. 

What would happen if, instead, our churches taught kids from the time they could walk that they were ministers? That they were the hands and feet to make the church relevant? That the ends of the earth weren’t as far away or impossible to impact as they thought? I truly believe we could turn those statistics upside down.” –Jill Richardson, Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids

Emily: Blatant self-promotion.

Jill: Yeah. But I completely agree with you. Teaching kids to “do good” divorced from the grand story of why only creates people who know how to follow rules. Once they internalize those rules, who needs the church to continue doing good? You can cut loose from the strings now that you know the rules. Plus, you can create your own rules. Christian education has got to be about a connection to the story more than a moral to it.

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Photo by dimas aditya on Unsplash

Emily: But the box isn’t God. I think we worry that if we try to teach kids God as God is, that their heads are going to explode. Or maybe our heads will explode if we have to start thinking of God as God is.

Jill: So if we want future generations to stay in church, we need to start connecting them to the whole gospel, and the whole God. We need to teach them how being Christian isn’t about rules and being good but about the entire creation to redemption story of why we are trying to do good things and what our role is in the story.

Emily:

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3 Ways to Raise Generous Kids

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 4.15.32 PMA generous spirit is the linkup topic this week on Live Free Thursday. It’s a topic near to my heart, and one I’ve written on often. So here, just in time for thinking about being generous during the holiday season. Or any time.

Raising Generous Kids

When we took our three kids on a mission trip twelve years ago, I didn’t expect to become an expert on raising kids who serve generously. Seriously—at that point I was concentrating on raising kids who survived our family’s particular brand of insanity.

Through the wonder of watching our kids’ compassion and courage blossom while holding the hand of an abandoned orphan 6500 miles from our home, I learned. Raising generous kids—generous with both time and resources—is a goal most Christian parents have. But it’s an art whose technique not many understand.

Art is complex—but here are three ways, mindsets really, that will help parents in their goal.

Start Small

You don’t have to travel to China right away. (But hey, if you like a challenge, go for it. You won’t be sorry.) You don’t have to commit to one thing for the next five years. Dip the toes in the water. Find a couple small things you can manage quickly. Let the adrenaline from that move you toward bigger ideas. There are websites that offer suggestions for small projects you can even do at home. Through that, you may find something that releases a passion in your family, and you’ll want to find a bigger project. Don’t let the idea that you have to tackle world hunger overwhelm you and keep you from finding one thing you can do, right now.

Empower Your Kids

Currently, at least 75 percent of young people will leave the church when they leave china 8home. One of the major reasons for this heartbreaking attrition is their feeling that church is irrelevant to and out of touch with their daily lives. As well, young people cite a feeling that older generations prefer to condescend to them and refuse them meaningful service until they’re “ready.” For a generation bent on making a difference, this is understandably frustrating.

What would happen if, instead, we taught kids from the time they could walk that they were the hands and feet to make the church relevant? That the ends of the earth weren’t as far away or impossible to impact as they thought?

I’ve not yet read the Scripture that said children had to wait and watch until they’re old enough to “handle” using their gifts. In fact, several passages relate how God did use children who had been trained to listen to Him.

Find a cause your family can all get exited about and pursue that mission together. Trust them with meaningful work, not busyness to keep them occupied. Let them decide what you’re going to do together. Let them own the work, and give them credit. Take their lead. You will be joyfully surprised.

Be What You Want To See

Parents get kids who resemble them—in more ways than hair and eye color. If you want generous kids, be a generous person. Bottom line. Dropping kids off at a service project for children’s church or a mission trip for the youth group will not magically convert them to eager servers. Kids willingly go along with programs, but they watch, and imitate, you.

If you model a lifestyle that is too busy to volunteer at that community event, go with them on that mission trip, or visit a lonely person, your kids will compartmentalize service as “something adults do when they have time. Which is never.”

Model a way of life where generosity and service happen as a natural part of who you are. Make it something you’ll stop everything to do. Let them see you willing to do without something so you can give to someone else. Talk about that choice.

As my daughter recently said, “You never taught us that serving was a “thing” you had to do as Christians. You showed us it was a way of thinking and observing the world, 24/7.”

Be the generous person you want to see in your kids.

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Websites to try:

http://penniesoftime.com

http://www.pinterest.com/startasnowball/kids-in-action

https://www.volunteermatch.org

http://www.handsonnetwork.org

http://www.bigheartedfamilies.org

http://www.crafthope.com 

http://www.pinterest.com/jimari/causes-i-love

Books to read:

When More Is not Enough: How to Stop Giving Your Kids What They Want and Give Them What They Need

Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids: Short-Term Missions for Your Whole Family

Teach Me to Serve: 99 Ways Preschoolers can learn to serve and bless others, Kristen Summers

Small Things with Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor, Margot Starbuck

Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places, Susie Larson

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Jen Hatmaker