I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4
For the past 2 weeks we have had Youth Sunday’s at church. Youth Sunday’s continue to be one of my favorite Sunday’s of the year. It reminds me of when I was in high school, being up on the pulpit giving a message, or singing. It also is one of my favorite Sundays because I love watching a younger generation lead with passion for Christ. Weeks like these give me hope when Mike and I pray to raise children who have the same passion and faith for the God Mike and I do our best to follow.
It takes a village
After high school my passion to follow God’s path quickly faded. Unfortunately the Christian ministry on campus didn’t exactly feel very welcoming when I visited, but the members of the sports teams were. Not having community, and strong Christian role models close on campus made it easy to stray from the life in that I thought I was so solid in. Our faith is our own, but God also created us in community to encourage each other and spur each other on.
There is a question that my time that I wasn’t walking with God has had me thinking about for some time now. How do you raise up a generation that has a lasting passion for Christ? The answer that I come back to always seems simple, but not as simple or fool proof as you would hope or as it seems, because free will is involved. Still the answer I keep coming back to is that it is essential to lead lives that reflect the character of Christ. This does not just apply to parents. It goes for grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. You may be the only witness to Christ that the younger generation has as an example. It’s time to step up. We need to be examples to the younger generation of what following Christ looks like, because there is a world that is waiting to influence the younger generation by showing them the way of the world. I don’t want to spoon feed my children, I want them to know they have a choice, but I also want to show them why following Christ is worth it. That has to begin with you and a genuine growing relationship between you and God.
Over the years, Mike and I have discussed how we would want to raise our children, and some of the decisions we have made (some that have not been the popular decision in others eyes), have been based on our Christian values. I have only been a parent for a little over two years, so we don’t have much experience with this, but we desire to be Christ-like influences on Charlie and Olivia when she arrives, and these are some ways that we live our lives in hopes that our children will come to know the God that we follow.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
We are intentional about surrounding our family with other Christian influences. One of the reasons that we chose to be members at the church that we worship and serve with is because of the incredible programs that they have for children of all ages and beyond that! We know many of the people who serve in the children’s ministry at church, and we are so blessed to have so many committed Christian’s who desire to serve the children of our community and teach them about the Jesus we know. One of Charlie’s babysitters who is another mom, prays with him before his nap time. When I heard she did that my heart melted. It gives me so much security knowing that Charlie has so many solid Christians surrounding him, and the same will be for Olivia.
We surround ourselves with Christian community as well. This is not something that we do because we think it should be modeled, but something that we know we need and it is a God given gift. Desiring community is not something that I valued much for awhile or something that was modeled for us growing up, but has been something that I have come to crave as I have witnessed the beauty in how Christian brothers and sisters listening, praying, encouraging, and growing together. This is the same community that will be witnessed by others.
We are mindful of our language and how we talk. It’s no secret that children mimic their parent’s facial expressions, movements, attitudes, and words. I used to swear like a sailor. I am not proud of it, but it is true. There were 2 things that happened that opened my eyes of my need to clean up my language. The first thing happened at church camp a few years before I actually did clean up my language. I said a dreaded word in front of the camp director, Kathy. Whoops! I was so embarrassed, as I knew I was at church camp and I shouldn’t say it. Kathy went and got a bar of soap from the bathroom and jokingly said I needed to clean my mouth out. She was right… I was mortified. The second event was my best friend said that I shouldn’t swear so much, because I swore too much! For my best friend to say that, that’s bad!
He gives us a voice and a choice
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
One of our prayers for our children is that they will have pure hearts. Pure hearts will lead to pure language, but we believe that needs to be modeled well. God has given us a choice and He has given us a voice. We can use our voice for His glory and to build others up, or we can use our voice for the opposite. I am not perfect at this. I get frustrated, I don’t build others up as I should, but I strive to because I know it matters.
We get Charlie involved in loving others, even at his young age. It is true that he is young, and there is a lot that he can not do. But on the contrary there is a lot he can do! When Mike goes to get bagels sometimes and brings Charlie, there is sometimes a homeless man that sits outside. Mike and Charlie will buy a bagel for him, and Mike will have Charlie give it to him. Also, when we prepare food for others, we have Charlie help as much as possible. A few weeks ago, our neighbor had a baby and we all made brownies for the family, letting him know what we are doing for the family. We want to teach him at a young age what it means to serve and love others, as that is a staple of our faith.
Lastly I will close with asking God to fill you with the fruit of the spirit. When I was pregnant with Charlie I asked a few seasoned parents if they could give me parent in tips. I received some great answers like “begin to pray with your children on day one so that it will be part of their upbringing” (that came from someone who still prayed with each of her children through the teen years until college). But one answer wasn’t what I expected. The couple said that there wasn’t really a formula that they could offer me. What they have done with their family worked for them but it was more about who they were and their relationship with Christ. That answer surprised me, but when I thought back it is true. I shared with you how we desire to raise our family and things that we are intentional about that are part of our life style, but our biggest hope is that our children see Christ in us.
I want to challenge you all to pray for a passion for Christ that will inspire a generation to know the Jesus that you know, and to also take time to think about how you will be intentional in your lives about leading the younger generation.