Parents, Make Christianity Big—EPIC

I don’t have a teenager, but here is the greatest advice in shepherding them to love and follow Jesus for life. Don’t worry the advice didn’t originate with me, but when I read it a few years ago my jaw dropped to the ground. I actually saw there was hope that a rebellious teen son or daughter could be rescued. There was a strategy that could help my young daughters stay on the right path through High School. And this famous advice was not even in a parenting book, actually the author was talking about a totally different subject.

The advice happened to come from my favorite author, Donald Miller, in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

In the book, he told of his friend sharing how that the friend’s teenage daughter was headed down the wrong road. She was starting to date the wrong kind of boy. She was getting in trouble. She was being a pain at home. She was on the wrong path. The father lamented about his daughter who had gotten involved in a Gothic lifestyle and was dating a guy who was bad news. As a frustrated dad, his technique for dealing with the situation was to yell at her and make her go to church. When he came to Don for advice, Don told him, “I think what your daughter is doing is choosing a better story.”

The father thought about the story his daughter was living and the role she was playing inside that story. He realized he hadn’t provided a better role for his daughter. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family. And so, his daughter had chosen another story, a story in which she was wanted, even if she was only being used. In the absence of a family story, she’d chosen a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence.

Donald continued, “We’re all designed to live inside a story. Your daughter was designed to play a role in a story. In the story she has chosen, there is risk, adventure, and pleasure. She is wanted and she is desired. In your story, she’s yelled at, she feels guilty, and she feels unwanted. She’s just choosing a story that is better than the one you’re providing. Plus, in the midst of placing her in an awful story, you make her go to church. So, you’re associating a bad, boring story with God, who has a great story. Don’t do that anymore. You have to tell a better story.”

The dad became inspired and within a week he had made contact with a small village in Mexico that needed an orphanage. The orphanage was going to cost about $20,000, so he proposed to the family that they raise the money. He painted the picture for them: “Here’s the deal, you guys. I found this village in Mexico that needs an orphanage. Awful things may happen to these kids if they don’t have a place to go, so I think we need to build this orphanage as a family. It’s going to cost over $20,000, and I know we don’t have any money, but we need to do it within two years.”

He brought out a whiteboard and asked his family—who all thought he had lost his mind—for ideas. His daughter piped up and said, “I have a MySpace page and lots of friends; maybe we can use that.” His son added, “We’re going to have to go to Mexico because if we’re going to do this, we need to see the village. And we’ll need passports.”

The father changed the game. He gave his daughter a better story. He gave his family a better story. He also made Christianity bigger than just going to church. The family got caught up in the real story with risk and adventure. Within three weeks, the girl had broken up with her boyfriend. She wasn’t asked to do it, she did it on her own. She found a better story, one in which she gets to play the heroine. She gets to sacrifice and give of herself to accomplish something that’s great, and she’s wanted and needed in this story. Her father made Christianity big.

I completely believe this approach works. If you can make Christianity big and real for your children and your teenagers then they will buy in. Maybe not as quick as the daughter in the story, but they will.

When ISIS began to roll through the Middle East, they successfully were able to recruit young girls from western nations to come and be wives of the soldiers. It’s crazy that some American girls even did it. They did it because they were given a big story. Someone is going to give your kids a big story—the world will for sure. Why not make Christianity big to them? Why not make it EPIC?

 
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