One of the biggest challenges for parents of faith is to maintain a strong, consistent culture of faith in the home especially when they are parents of teens who may be more focused on finding themselves and differentiating from their parents.
Parents passionate about their faith really understand why they do what they do, and create a culture in their home which reflects their beliefs, attitudes and values. This strong culture enables an environment that encourages behaviors which are aligned to achieving, understanding and promoting their beliefs. When exercised in love and genuine caring their children experience a consistent approach which increases security and confidence as they face the challenges life offers.
So what happens when they begin to waver and challenge the culture you have been setting forth? In periods of growth, particularly through adolescence, their faith can be seriously diluted. Different values and beliefs are introduced, the purpose of their childhood faith is not as clearly understood or is challenged. As their parent you become less able to influence their ever-increasing independence.
Remember, a culture of faith is caught not taught… especially with teens where the culture that is loudest often prevails. This means that you must continually and consistently promote your faith culture, reward them when they embrace it, “I am so proud that you chose a sport that doesn’t require practices or games on Sundays” and share a similar experience you had as a teen and how God blessed you.
Address the behaviors that are not appropriate immediately and without exception. No action should suggest that you are condoning the activity. Don’t let them be confused by an inconsistent experience. Walk the Talk. Understand what the culture needs to look like, what values are not negotiable and what behaviors you are encouraging. Be open to giving your own examples of failure and your own experience when you compromised inappropriately.
Recognize the influence of others and support the involvement of other committed believers investing in the life of your teenager. Encourage healthy youth activities within the church. Help them to experience giving to others, and set the example by showing them what you do and bring them along. Help them to see biblical teaching as relevant and see the church as essential to their decisions.
Don’t be shy… promote the Bible which underlies your faith without apology. Share your struggles and joys with honesty and humility. Model Christ-like behavior. Don’t just talk the talk but WALK THE TALK. They may not act interested but rest assured that they are still listening. It is critical to incorporate your faith into their everyday experiences from a young age. Memorize scripture with them, share how God moves in your life. Strive to be what Jesus would do not just ask them “What would Jesus do”? This is critical to how serious you are about your faith and will translate into a very powerful example of “Walk the Talk”.
Written by David S. Smith, Ph.D.