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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Parents, Teaching Your Child Bible Isn’t Hard

You care and want to teach your child the Bible. You want them to know the truth, but coming through is not so easy.  And it can be intimidating, but teaching your child Bible isn’t hard as we make it. 

In college and seminary, while training for ministry, I initially thought I might be called to family ministry. I took every family, marriage, and children’s ministry class I could. I’m reminded of this anytime my wife and I get in a disagreement. I hear, “Jake, is that what you learned in ALL those marriage classes?”

Along with learning great marriage practices, I don’t always put into practice, I also made lofty plans of all I would do to raise my children up in the Lord. We were going to have family devotionals in the morning and family worship services at night—every night. My children were going to be lil John Pipers. They were going to be able recount the Westminster Catechism, have all the Bible memorized, and be able to explain the Trinity.

Eventually, I had my first born. And it was time to start on the endeavor I had planned several years earlier. It was also time for me to hit—reality. It was not so easy. Not easy to fit in all that Bible teaching to my daughter. And life was busy. Also, newborns aren’t too interested in reading through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. I had spurts where I tried, but I was not consistent—my wife was consistent though. Each night she made sure one of us read our sweet Andrea three books, one of which always being the Bible. She would stack two books and a children’s Bible by the rocker. Then she would tell Andrea that not all these books were the same. She would say, “Although the two ‘random’ picture books, might tell a story that could be true, they were mostly just stories that had been made up. But the Bible was a special book. Everything it said was true. God guided people to write it.”

Every night. Three books, maybe a fourth. Always that children’s Bible. Always a comment about the specialness of the Bible. Always reassurance of the Bible pertaining truth. Always a reminder the Bible came from God.

I wish I knew exactly how many times we have been through that one hundred story children’s Bible. It’s close to twenty times. In future posts, I want to share the benefits I have found through this system with children receiving a foundation of the Old Testament. A foundation of the Bible stories themselves. And especially hearing them in chronological order.

Although, I have not even scratched the surface in accomplishing my lofty goals, I made for my future family while in seminary, the Scriptural foundation my daughter has is beyond my wildest dreams. It’s not hard. One brief page a night. One story a night. Consecutively. Chronological. Consistent. Powerful.

If you have young kids start this today. Seriously, 5-10 minutes a night. Make it part of the “night routine”. It’s easy. It’s far easier than we parents make it—just do it.

If you have older kids, then it is more difficult, but once you bridge a way to start, again one passage a night. Then watch God work because–parents, teaching your children the Bible is not as hard as we make it.

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Parents, Get Caught

Now there are things we try to keep from our kids catching us doing—
you know like hiding Christmas presents or yawning when they are reading to us. What were you thinking?

But, I want to tell you an act your kids need to catch you doing—your Quiet Time. You getting caught doing your Quiet Time (devotional time, Bible Study, prayer time—whatever you want to call it) and continuing to get caught is the BEST thing you can do for your kids, regardless of their age. Even if your children are grown they need to know you have an active prayer life. I have the times I “caught” my Mom or Dad, praying and/or reading the Bible, burned in my brain. Seeing them do that on their own time beyond just church expressed to me their faith was real. Therefore, it was likely God was real.

Scripture does tell us to go into our “prayer closet” to pray. Our time alone with the Lord is just that, time alone with the Lord. We aren’t to do it for show, but even Jesus got caught getting alone with the Father. If a devotional time is habitual for us, then others are going to pick up on it at some point.

In my time as a youth pastor, one of the testimonies that impacted me the most were two sisters who shared how every morning they woke up and went to the fridge, passing their mother at the table reading her Bible. As they grew older they followed in those footsteps. Reading the Bible each morning wasn’t an awkward thing, but just was part of life for their family. My wife and I decided when we had kids we hoped to create that same dynamic.

Four years ago, my wife and I committed that our Quiet Times would be become the most important things in our lives. The most important item on my pastoral to-do list was to spend time with God. At the time, my wife was a stay-at-home mom, and she decided if the only thing she got done that day was to have her quiet time, it was okay for that mattered most. She also decided that if she had to do it with our kids climbing on her head and running circles around her, she would. And she did!

Our kids now know the first thing we do in the morning is our quiet time. I’m going to be in my home office with headphones on my head, armed with my prayer journal, Bible, and a devotional book. My wife is going to be in the living room or on the deck with her prayer journal, Bible, and devotional book. Most mornings they don’t get up in time to catch us, but there are those when they do. My oldest may pull up a chair next to me and borrow one of my ear buds as I write out my morning prayer. My youngest may crawl in the lap of my wife as she reads Streams in the Desert. They also hear us “report” on what we learn or “hear” in our quiet times. They know our filled prayer journals are sacred, holding guidance God has given our family.

They have caught us over and over again. I’m so glad we were doing it because we got caught. They know we have an active prayer life. They see it just as part of life.

So, much so, my oldest asked for a “prayer journal” for Christmas and has started her own morning quiet time.

Parents, would you please let your children catch you having a quiet time.
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