The Heart of Awana
The challenge of discipleship at home
Written by Eric Provost – Associate director, Awana International Canada
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” — Proverbs 22:6
Whether this is an absolute promise or a general indication of the way life goes, there is no denying the correlation between the way a child is brought up and the outcome for the child as they grow up.
While no parent is perfect, we shouldn’t hold back from doing all we can to share the Gospel and walk through the Bible with our kids, even if it’s our first time reading it. We should be having ongoing conversations about faith, and training them to do the same.
So why do we hold back?
I am very thankful to work with Awana here in Canada. On a daily basis, our team connects with pastors, leaders, parents and youth. We also get to connect with other great ministries here in Canada and they share with us what they are hearing and experiencing. Through all these conversations, we consistently hear the same comments regarding if and how the Gospel message is being shared in the home and whether discipleship is actually happening. There seems to be certain consistent barriers to these two things happening in the home. This article focuses on the common things that we hear.
“Faith has got to be their choice!” I truly believe this comes from an honest desire that parents have to see their kids “own their faith.” “We want our kids to be confident believers in Christ, not to push religion on them. Our hope is that the Holy Spirit gets ahold of them and we see a radical transformation in their lives from an early age. So we attend church, take them to youth group and pray they get their faith in order.” The family simply continues to do the scheduled “Christian” activities they normally engage in and never deepen their faith relationship together. In the end, the individual family members never practice sharing the Gospel to each other or tackle questions of faith—instead they wait for the transformation moment that they hope their kids will someday have. This leaves them vulnerable to trials in life that always come.
Going to church together and praying at dinner is not enough. If we truly want our kids to own their faith, we need to be showing them how to do it. We need to be discussing what the Gospel means to us and journeying through the tough questions in life together. If we believe the Bible has the answers to our biggest questions, we need to dive in as a family. And if we don’t know the answers or where to find them, we need to talk to a pastor together and learn together.
“My parents go to church regularly and take me to youth group but that’s about it.” The Hemorrhaging Faith study by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and its partners shows us that there is a relationship between a parents’ commitment to prayer, community involvement, Bible reading and engagement in other spiritual disciplines, and a young adults’ commitment to their religion. Young adults with highly engaged parents are 5 times more likely to attend church on
a weekly basis. If we aren’t modelling our relationship with Christ as a priority, how are our kids going to see what this looks like and develop these habits themselves? Our kids need us to live out our faith alongside them. I believe vulnerability goes a long way in developing a healthy relationship.
“I’m not trained to disciple kids and I don’t want to mess it up!” This is a very common comment from parents when we are discussing how they teach their kids about the Bible or ask how they discuss faith in the home. There is notable anxiety from parents when they consider what they would say if their child asked them a biblical question, what the Bible says about a certain topic or how they can have assurance in faith. No one wants to misdirect their kids or answer them incorrectly. If we are completely honest, we don’t know how to answer our own questions most of the time. How do we answer the complex and seemingly never-ending questions from our kids from a biblical perspective with confidence? “That’s a great question for your youth leader.” That’s the answer I received from my parents.
We are all on a faith journey. Parents and kids alike should not worry about what stage of the journey they’re in. What we should all be concerned with is asking the right questions and being open to finding good answers. Consider the impact on a child if they asked Dad a question and the response was, “Great question! We should do some reading and figure that out, or let’s chat with Pastor Mike about that, I would love to know the answer to that as well.”
Instantly, that child has experienced the true nature of relational-discipleship. Journeying together to strengthen our faith and be open to learning from others.
The millennial generation and younger have less recognition of position than past generations. What they value are honest and transparent relationships. A person who is willing to receive questions and acknowledge that they may not have the answers; people who are willing to journey with them towards the answers. This goes a long way to building trust and credibility between youth, parents and leaders.
“We just don’t have time!” Ok, bold statement time – The glorification of busy has got to stop! If we say our faith and the development of our children’s faith is important, why are we not making time for it?
Everyone is getting busier and everything is competing for our time. In my own home we struggle to carve out time to sit and read our Bibles and pray together. We have tried multiple approaches at different times, but there are always things in our schedules that eventually get in the way. My wife and I continue to strive towards a dedicated family discipleship time and to be transparent, sometimes we are really good at it and sometimes we aren’t.
We have had some really hard conversations with our kids and had to make some tough calls. When it seems like the rest of the world is planning hockey and doing gymnastics, it’s hard to tell your kids they can’t because it would take too much time away from the family being together and being available for people and other opportunities. When I changed jobs because I was traveling too much and my wife quit her job because she was too invested in work, those were really difficult decisions to make.
We make time to better ourselves in school, work, health, sports and other personal interests. We need to add the same value to our faith and the faith of our children.
We also need to be present in the small moments. You don’t need to change a job or shatter your daughter’s dreams of going to the Olympics everyday, but you do need to carve out enough time to listen to the questions, model service in the home and let your kids see you reading God’s word. Your kids may present you with the greatest opportunity of all by asking “what are you reading?”
The question is, will you take the time to share it with them?
As we continue this conversation about relational discipleship at home and in the church, we will present ideas and tools for you to use as you strive to do this better. Join us on our journey to present the gospel in meaningful ways and disciple children as they learn about Christ, engage with the church and find ways to change the world for Christ.