By: Martha Clay, Special Events Director With many studies stating that 50-80% of churched kids walk away from church after high school, it seems imperative to find a way to help our children develop a desire for a lifelong, growing relationship with Jesus. I would suggest that the transitional period of 4th and 5th grade is a great time to influence the faith of our children while we still have their heart. We can leverage this time of transition to help our children develop an authentic faith as they prepare to leave our home after high school.
So how do we influence faith?
- Have an end goal and develop a plan to get there. What do you hope your child’s faith will like? How are you going to get there?
- Have an authentic faith of your own. Admit when you’re wrong, ask for forgiveness, and wrestle with how you should live your life. As stated in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, make your faith part of your day that you share with your children. Not in a holier than thou kind of way but as an adventure that you share together. Acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers as your children ask you questions about God and the Bible. As your child is exposed to beliefs contrary to the Bible, such as evolution, this may be a time of questioning what they have been taught all along. Welcome this! They are making their faith their own. You may need to go find answers together.
- Make being a part of the body important to your family or Go To Church! Fellowship with friends and other adults at church can be so important to your child’s spiritual growth. Try to not let your children opt out of going to church. Church friends, Sunday school teachers and small group leaders can fill in the gaps especially in the difficult times. They can be a great support to your family.
So you want to influence your child’s faith and you have a plan. How do you maintain a relationship with your child? One that will allow you to influence their faith?
- Pray often and frequently. Pray with your spouse. If you are not married or your spouse is not available, find a prayer warrior. Pray with your child. Let them know what you are praying for them.
- Make the most of opportunities. 4th and 5th grade is a time of great change for children. If there are no signs of puberty already they will learn about their body when they have sex education in 5th grade. It is not comfortable but it can be one of the best times to talk about God’s design for our body, dating, sex, and marriage. How we handle our body, dating, sex and marriage is influenced by what we believe.
- Honestly answer questions, gently probe. I have heard that children want an answer so they google it rather than ask their parents. The internet may not be the safest place to find information especially sensitive information. Make sure that you work to have a relationship where your child can come to you with any question – no matter how embarrassing. Use the opportunity to share how you live out your faith. If you are a trusted person then you will be blessed when your child comes to you in times of difficulty or when they have done something wrong. By the way, it is okay to say, “That is not something that you need to know right now. Ask me in a couple of years.” Our goal is to preserving innocence while recognizing their need to grow up.
- Find a connection with your child – (Share their world). Know what is going on in their culture and find a connection. This can be a great way to show them how to live an authentic faith. Some of the connections can be around:
- Music – Music is quite divisive amongst Christians. Some Christians only like secular music and have no filter for what they should not listen to. Some avoid secular music all together. I can understand that but most teenagers will find a way to listen to some secular music. I have found music to be a great way to connect with my son and to discuss having an authentic faith. We talk about what a song is saying, whether that is in alignment with God’s word, and whether we want that to express our beliefs. He teaches me about styles of music.
- Movies – What is your filter? Do you discuss what is appropriate or inappropriate and why that is? Do you talk about what the movie says about God or faith or heaven, etc.?
- Sports – What are the characteristics of a quality player? How does God want us to act on the field?
- Video games – What is an appropriate game? What do they teach?
- Serving together both at church and in the community. – This can be a way to help your child feel connected at church.
- Books – There are many books that are popular with teens and pre-teens. If it appropriate, read them together and discuss the story.
In conclusion, it is easy to hold too tight and lose the heart of your child. It is also easy to let go too early and lose our opportunity to influence faith. So have some spiritual goals for your child and develop a plan to get there. Live an authentic life of faith. Go to church as a family. Pray often and frequently. Make the most of the opportunities that you have. Answer questions honestly and probe gently. And make a connection with your child.
So, what are your spiritual goals for your child? How do you plan to work towards the spiritual goals? How do you hope to connect with your child?