Community, Faith, Ministry, Roy Baldwin

Let’s stop trying to fix each other.

This past week through multiple interactions with people, reading different articles and posts, and listening to a few different podcasts, this one thought has permeated through my feelings: “We need to stop fixing other people and start truly loving them.”

Context

For those who know my story, its a journey of coming alongside families and youth who have experienced some sort of trauma, loss or neglect. This includes our own journey as a family, with losing parents, 4 major moves and dealing with our own brokenness (conflict, stressors, sin, etc.) as a couple and as a family.

In a post I wrote a few years ago called, “The Beautiful Messiness of the Gospel,” I shared my understanding of the Gospel (which is important to this post):

You see, If the Gospel isn’t radically changing me, is it truly the Gospel? If I have good news to share and I am unwilling to share it, does it mean I never received it? If I cannot do what Christ did: leave his home and comfort and to take on the grief and sin of this world, to bind the wounds of the broken, provide a voice to those who are marginalized, to love my enemy, has the Gospel truly changed me? These are hard questions for me to not only ask myself but to ask God. But I have to ask them. And not only should I ask these questions but I have to find ways through my actions and words to share with others that the Gospel is the only answer to the fear, doubts and hate we see in our world today.

This perspective of His work in and through my life and my own brokenness is important context for what I want to share next.

A Sense of Belonging

In his book, “What Happened To You?” Dr. Bruce Perry shares,

“Love, given and felt, is dependent upon the ability to be present, attentive, attuned and responsive to another human being. The glue of humanity has been essential to the survival of our species-and to the health and happiness of the individual…It is in the small moments, when we feel the other person fully present, fully engaged, connected and accepting, that we make the most powerful and enduring bonds.”

“What Happened To You” (page 81-82)

We see this so clearly in 1 Corinthians 13…:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 13:5-8

We use the word “community” a lot in Christian circles. We talk of its importance and the benefit of being in Christian community to help grow faith. I think this is especially true coming out of a pandemic but I wonder if we truly know the purpose and significance of community. Typically when we speak about community we do it through the lens of programing and activities (small groups/life groups, Bible studies, men’s and/or women’s groups, etc.), but that isn’t really getting to the essence of community.

If I asked you for words to describe the benefits of community, we might use words like; authenticity, trusting, safe, united, a sense of belonging, etc.

Unfortunately for many people this never becomes their experience in many of the programming mentioned above. Programs in and of themselves cannot produce the kind of faith many of these programs hope to achieve. Programming cannot replace relationships. For these initiatives to work we actually need to have a deeper understanding of what it means to produce healthier people and interactions. We need to have a fuller and deeper understanding of how faith is transmitted and strengthened.

Let’s Stop Fixing Each Other

One thing I often see, especially in men, is our desire to fix things.

I know I struggle with this at times, especially with my wife and kids, to always having an answer or response. We do this a lot in churches. We throw a Scripture verse at someone or use some Christian cliché.

I had hoped that a lifetime of coming alongside other people would help me be more empathetic and a better listener, but I always have work to do in this area. I do like to think that some of my greatest growth over the past few years is to give up trying to constantly managing others perceptions of me and just being fully present in the lives of other people.

What does it mean to be fully present:

To listen. To empathize. To not only ask good questions but the right ones (Jesus was amazing at this). If correction is needed, to do it with gentleness and grace. If you speak truth…do it in love.

I am struck by the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2. Despite much opposition from the locals Paul shares his intentions:

We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children[a] among you” and then he shares an incredible image, “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2: 6-12

“Just as a nursing mother cares for her children…” Paul is describing the bond of attachment a mother provides for her children that goes beyond just the physical benefits of nursing, but the emotional and relational attachments that are also forged and the benefits such as lower stress, increased calmness, a feeling of safety, etc.

Research has shown in multiple studies, such as The Mills Longitudinal Study and the Harvard Study of Adult Development, that people who feel connected to others is critical to healthier outcomes. These relational pictures of mom and dad that Paul is writing to describe his relationship with the Thessalonians as one of safety, healthy, nurturing, loving and caring. You don’t see judging, fixing, shaming, condemning. You see gentleness. You see in verse ll and 12, “as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging to live lives worthy of God…”

Maybe what we desire more than community is actually connection. And not just any connection: Healthy connections. Safe connections. Godly connections. Gospel-centered connections.

We do not necessarily achieve connection by always trying to fix each other.

So…the next time we feel like we need to fix someone… we need to stop and listen. Identify with their humanity as an image bearer of God. Be fully present. Care for them. Love them…yes, even our enemies. Ask clarifying questions. Be safe for them. If we must disagree or correct…do it with a spirit of gentleness and care for them. We need to care for them as much as we care for the truth…because what we see in Christ and in research…healthy relationships and connections are the key to healing and restoration.

Culture, Family, Hardship, Roy Baldwin

“Building Trust or Walking on Eggshells…”

Let me start off by saying that I am not always approachable.

If I was truly candid, which I am about to be, I would tell you that my most important relationships seem to suffer the most when I am not approachable: My wife and my kids.

I am sure if they were most honest, which they usually are, they would say, “dad is loving but sometimes being near him is like walking on eggshells.”

“Walking on eggshells…” I am wondering how many of you can relate to that feeling or phrase.

RABBIT TRAIL: Did you know the phrase, “walking on eggshells,” first started out as “walking on eggs.” Considering how trauma is passed down from generation to generation…I suppose eggshells are all that’s left.

This idea or phrase of “walking on eggshells” implies “to be very careful not to offend or upset someone” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Patterns like these can leave lasting damage in our homes, although mood swings are a natural part of life, it is important for all of us to deal with and manage appropriately.

We see this in foster care, especially when working with vulnerable children and families. Did you know that witnessing abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, neglect) between parents/adults in the home carries the same risk of harm to children’s mental health as being abused directly?

How we emotionally regulate in our homes is critical to the health of our children. If only 4 out of 10 kids are currently flourishing (pre-pandemic) how much of this comes back to our homes and the closeness and connection occurring in our relationships? Oftentimes it’s our dysregulation that leads to fractured relationships. In his book, What Happened To You, Dr. Bruce Perry writes, “Regulation is the KEY to creating safe connection. And being connected is the most efficient and effective way to get information to the cortex (page 144),” meaning, “getting to the place where you can communicate rationally with someone (page 143).” He goes on to write, “If we don’t feel safe, we become dysregulated (page 148).”

Here is a great article on this, “Walking on Eggshells” by Dr. Steven Stosny. He shares, “Everyone in a walking-on-eggshells family loses some degree of dignity and autonomy. Half suffer from clinical anxiety and/or depression. (“Clinical” doesn’t mean feeling down or blue or worried, it means that the symptoms interfere with normal functioning. You can’t sleep, can’t concentrate, can’t work as efficiently, and can’t enjoy yourself without drinking.) Most of the adults lack genuine self-esteem (based on realistic self-appraisals), and the children rarely feel as good as other kids.

Side note: I was reading an article recently that tries to tackle the mental health crisis in our schools…but I feel they miss the point entirely…which is to hire more mental health workers for schools. Make our schools safer by addressing grief and trauma. Although necessary this is tertiary intervention at best. We need to make our schools and communities healthier by seeing emotionally healthier parents leading and loving their children. We need to address the root of this grief and trauma which is happening in the homes…and not to be cliché…but we need to address fatherlessness.

A Fatherhood Class

During the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I had the pleasure of facilitating a fatherhood class at Lincoln Berean Church here in Lincoln, NE. We had dads and some single men from all walks of life and different experiences participate in the class. It was full of amazing conversations and interactions. We spent a great deal looking at data from different studies about dads, looking at some Scripture and unpacking its application in our lives.

One key truth we unpacked came from the book, “Families and Faith Findings: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations” by Vern Bengston (which I have also mentioned before in multiple posts). The study found this to be true – “Parental warmth is the key to successful [religious] transmission” (p.186).

As I reflect on this idea of parental warmth, I think of relational or emotional safety. I think of closeness. I think of connection. I think of trust.

I love what Dr. Henry Cloud says of trust, “Trust fuels investment…trust is built when it is reciprocated (gives/receives).” Trust or relational warmth helps grow and fuel any relationship and its not optional. We are giving or receiving this emotional “currency” in every interaction.

Is it any wonder that our faith grows in proportion to our trust? Think about all the areas in your life where you do not trust. What lives there? Fear. Anxiety. Control. How much of that fear then carries over into the areas of my life and into the relationships most important to me?

Am I trustworthy? “Am I approachable?” If not, then why am I not? What inhibits my ability to be that trustworthy person to God, to myself and to those I have a direct impact on?

“Fire can warm or consume, water can quench or drown, wind can caress or cut. And so it is with human relationships: we can both create and destroy, nurture and terrorize, traumatize and heal each other.”

Dr. Bruce Perry (“The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog…”)

Practical Application:

I know I have been processing a lot about how I can be more approachable to my family. Why should everyone else get my best? They shouldn’t. I have to become so much more self-aware of my own emotional fuel tank and make sure I am not just physically present at home. I have to be emotionally invested. I have to be aware of my emotional triggers.

Side note: As a follower of Christ, I have to take some ownership of my own walk but what I cannot do is think I have the ability to change myself…or clean myself up. I need Jesus to do the work in me that I often try to do myself. I must offer myself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2)

I shared a critical perspective of this in my post, “Sincere Faith Cannot Be Outsourced” and the important role the Gospel and my sincerity plays in this work of trust and emotional warmth.

Below is an exercise I recently did through a small group my wife and I are a part of with some other couples. The 9-month experience is a program through Trueface Ministries called Trueface Journey. The “Trust” exercise provides a prayer as well as an assessment that I found to be quite challenging and convicting. It exposed some areas where I am not trusting the Lord… I hope you find this helpful. It’s a great self-reflection tool… and an exercise you could discuss with someone you trust to be loving and honest with you.

FINAL THOUGHT:

I wonder if the areas in my life where I am not trusting God are the very areas that cause others to “Walk on eggshells” around me? Scripture speaks of this. “Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect…so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7) and “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). Does my lack of trusting Christ lead to my stress and anger? Yes it does. Truly trusting His work replaces the eggshells I offer with the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

My prayer is that those we love most would feel the warmth of His love through the sincerity in which we live our daily lives and taste of the fruit His Spirit.

Faith, Family, Roy Baldwin

Sincere Faith Cannot Be Outsourced

This is a follow up to a previous post I wrote entitled, “We Are Failing Children.” This post tackles the subject of passing faith down to our children.

Sincerity

Being sincere is important to me. Sincerity is a character trait in which I want others to see in my life. I want others to see it in the way I interact with them, listen to them, how “present” I am with them and what they have observed in me as I interact with others. I would want this to be true of me regardless if I am with my children (who know me better than anyone else) or with a complete stranger.

Let me define sincerity.

Sincerity is defined as “the absence of pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.” One example would be found in the life of Ben Franklin. He saw sincerity as one of 13 virtues in which to live by. He defined sincerity as, “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.” Living a sincere life is seen as a virtue in most cultures and faith traditions over the centuries. Confucius stated, “To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.“

Sincerity is an incredibly important part of our Christian faith as well…in fact I believe it is the lynchpin to faith transmission.

Sincerity…a lynchpin? YES.

Why is sincerity so important? I believe sincerity brings to life (demonstrates) on a daily basis, in our words and actions, the very things we have placed our hope in. I love what Dallas Willard writes about living the Christian life. In Renovations Of The Heart In Daily Practice he writes, “Our lives are a result of what we have become in the depths of our being-what we call our spirit, will, or heart. From there we see our world and interpret reality. From there we make choices, break forth into action, and try to change our world. That is why the greatest need of collective humanity is the renovation of the heart…The Revolution of Jesus is one of character, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through an ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. It changes their ideas, beliefs, feelings, habits of choice, bodily tendencies, and social relations.” (p.15)

This change as Dallas suggest impacts every aspect of our lives. The sincerity of which we live this out internally and then in relationship with others becomes a critical part of how faith is transmitted.

If sincerity is a virtue and a pursuit we should all be after…what does this have to do with faith?

Having worked with many parents over the years, I often ask parents what their deepest longing is for their children (Both Christian and non-churched parents). Two answers would typically surface: for Christian parents it was for their children to know Jesus (eternal life) and to be happy or fulfilled in life (aspects of flourishing), and for non-churched parents it was for their children to be happy or fulfilled typically by what they could attain (career, money, etc.) In some ways, Christian or non-Christian parents alike always expressed the following sentiment, “I want my kids to be better off than me.”

If we long for our children or grandchildren to flourish in life, which by the way, requires the “right” character traits (sincerity as one) and behaviors that will last, there are certain things we cannot outsource or abdicate as I tackled in my last post. Are you going to trust just anyone with your deepest longings for your children? If a sincere faith or character isn’t near the top of the list, I would hope by the end of this post it would be.

Let me explain my thinking

Let me define sincerity from a Biblical perspective. A gospel-centered sincerity is an intentional, transparent, and honest pursuit of grace (undeserved favor that we cannot earn) and truth (consistent with the nature of God’s character and His design of all of creation) in all of life. The pursuit of grace probably needs to be unpacked more, but for the sake of this post, the sentiment I am after is found beautifully in the words of Dallas Willard, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning.” This includes grace and truth about ourselves, grace and truth about others—but most importantly, the impact of grace and truth as we experience the work of Christ in our lives. Our attempts to achieve true sincerity are experienced and revealed as we unpack these three aspects – self, others, and God.

For a growing Christian, desire will always outstrip performance or, at least, perceived performance. What is it then that will keep us going in the face of this tension between desire and performance? The answer is the gospel. It is the assurance in the gospel that we have indeed died to the guilt of sin and that there is no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus that will motivate us and keep us going even in the face of this tension…That is why I use the expression “gospel-driven sanctification” and that is why we need to “preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” (Jerry Bridges)

“Gospel-centered sincerity” is not achieved when we try to discover our real selves and throw it into the microwave of personal feelings, performance-driven results, and cultural opinions as we strive to “be real” although these responses at some level are a part of the process. This lifelong process of sincerity as a virtue is only achieved as it collides with the Gospel that hopefully we are preaching to ourselves daily.

Some Key Scriptures:

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.” Joshua 24:14

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:17

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5

We know our faith is truly sincere or authentic when people are drawn closer to the heart of God by witnessing the process of our pursuit of grace and truth.

The verses above demonstrate the nature in which we live out His work in our lives. This process should be transformative. This transformation is not just for a Facebook and Instagram world where everything looks great or I have all the answers.

This process is messy and broken. It is never sanitized. Faith is discovered and tested in those moments when I am prone to get angry, fearful, or selfish.

Hopefully those closest to me (my wife and children) can “give testimony” of my growth as they see the Gospel come to life as I sincerely allow His grace and truth to transform me.

What I have come to learn in my life is that this kind of sincere faith is deeply personal and drives my convictions and beliefs. I cannot outsource my faith to anything or anyone and this is also true for my children (Deuteronomy 6). I need them to see and experience His work in my life.

If Christ’s people genuinely enter Christ’s way of the heart, they will find a sure path toward becoming the persons they were meant to be: thoroughly good and godly persons yet purged of arrogance, insensitivity and self-sufficiency.” (Dallas Willard)

How do I pass faith onto my children then?

I am no expert in this, other than I see the data and read His Word and I am pursuing it the best way I can for my own children and family. The programs we offer in church are not necessarily producing the outcomes in regards to faith transmission…and as I mentioned in a previous post it is because we have forsaken the impact that mom and dad have on their homes and the sincerity of which faith, love and hope are transmitted.

According to a study by Vern Bengston (Longitudinal Study of Generations), they found that faith is transmitted through the emotional warmth exchanged between parent and child. Learning the practices of faith such as prayer, attending church, and studying the Bible are critical. But what makes it “sticky” and brings those practices to life happens within a flourishing relationship between parent and child.

Here are a couple of the big takeaways from Vern’s book, “Families and Faith Findings…”

“Parental warmth is the key to successful [religious] transmission” (186)
“Families do matter in determining the . . . religious outcomes of young adults, and they matter a great deal” (195)
“Fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad” (196)

PERSONAL APPLICATION

This past year I sat down with my family and I acknowledged that I was sorry for not being the dad they needed me to be. Anger. Moodiness. Tension. All of these things in my life were influencing the safety felt in my home. My children were quick to say, “Dad, you are not failing us,” but the reality is that I was being a poor example of Jesus in my home. I have to own that. Since that time, I have been working really hard to be a healthier person in my house and in my car.

I have been working really hard to be emotionally warm and present with my kids. I have been intentional in truly listening to them and loving them. I have also been sharing with them my devotions and having conversations and sharing thoughts about the work God is doing in my life. I want them to see it…I want them to know that the change they see in me isn’t my own work…but His. (“The Revolution of Jesus”)

I want them to see the sincerity of my faith shine through my imperfections as much as my perfections (what I get right). You see if they don’t see it…they will walk away from faith because they will see the hypocrisy in it. This is THE BATTLE for families and for the church. To see sincere and authentic acts of faith lived out in homes. Sincere and authentic faith is transmitted when my family can truly see me being my most sincere self in light of the redemptive work of the Gospel. If my kids can’t see that… then I have completely missed the point of not only my faith but what it means to be a parent. 

As the world continues to fail my children, I will keep pointing them to the One who will never fail.

Community, Culture, Faith, Family, Ministry, Roy Baldwin

We Are Failing Children

The intent of this post is not to blame, shame, or politicize data. I also don’t want to oversimplify a very complex issue. I simply want to share a perspective I don’t hear talked about a lot in Christian circles. (This is the first of two posts.)

It is difficult for me to watch the news and scroll through my social media feeds nowadays without a sense that at some level we are failing children and youth on an unprecedented level. It’s everywhere. Postmodernism is redefining everything. Yuval Harari in his book, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” provides some excellent descriptors of postmodernism: “Modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarized in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power...Since there is no script, and since humans fulfill no role in any great drama, terrible things might befall us and no power will come to save us or give meaning to our suffering. There won’t be a happy ending, or a bad ending, or any ending at all. Things just happen, one after the other. The modern world does not believe in purpose, only in cause.”“Meaning and authority always go hand in hand. Whoever determines the meaning of our actions – whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly – also gains the authority to tell us what to think and how to behave.”

If postmodernism contends that there is no objective truth…is it any wonder that children are suffering?

I typically have the following filters: a deep transformative view of the Gospel (good news); the sacredness of every life; the loss and trauma of our world. I have worked with at-risk and vulnerable children for decades and in multiple venues and situations. These filters I have are not just merely sentiments…they have been forged in the fire of life.

So, as I think about the sentiment of “we are failing children” there is a deeply personal part of this for me that comes out and that I have to process.

There are stories and faces of the young men and their families that had a huge impact on my time at EGA (residential care facility serving the 5 boroughs of NY City). As I served as a houseparent with my wife at a residential school, loving and supporting a home of 8-10 girls (70+ girls in 9 years). The lives, the stories, the joy, the loss. When I think of our own family journey of 27 years of marriage and three kids. It’s been a hard but beautiful adventure. There have been some really amazing and beautiful moments but there have also been hardships and losses.

Why are children failing?

I firmly believe that the family unit has been outsourcing and abdicating its responsibilities for decades (generations) because the very institutions meant to support and partner with families, such as schools, churches, and government, have effectively neutered the authority of the family by telling families, “we can do it better than you,” and “we know better than you.” (Whoever determines the meaning of our actions – whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly – also gains the authority to tell us what to think and how to behave.”)

In essence, how dare you show up to a school board meeting and express your concerns about what is being taught or talk about the safety of your children without being labeled or looked down upon.

How are we failing children you ask? Let’s look at some of the data:

  • Prior to the pandemic less than half of children in the US were flourishing according to a study out of John Hopkins. Children who are flourishing are directly connected to the strength (resilience and connection) of the parent/child relationship.
  • Since the pandemic, these indicators of children failing have gotten worse. According to the CDC: a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health; 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless; 55% reported experiencing emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including swearing at, insulting, or putting down the student.
  • 11% experienced physical abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including hitting and beating
  • 29% reported a parent or other adult in their home lost a job.
  • Teen suicide is up (31% increase from 2019-2021) – and a fivefold increase in suicide attempts in children ages 10-12 (2010-2020)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that hospital visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17 jumped 51 percent between February and March 2021. For boys, that number increased by 4 percent.

If this data is true, (and there is so much more data) then why are we not talking more about this? Why are children, after spending more time at home during the pandemic, seem to be worse off? Research tells us that the healthy parent/child relationship is critical to the long-term resilience of children and leads to better outcomes in children and adults than anything else. If children are doing worse, then what does that say about the health of homes and families? Our children should not be worse off…

This doesn’t mean we start shaming parents, although there is plenty of blame and ownership to go around with how parents are raising their children today. If you ask most parents, they would probably tell you, “I was just following the norm and expectations of taking kids to school, loving my child, being involved in their activities, occasionally taking them to church and they will turn out ok.” At some level, the pandemic ripped open these norms and expectations and the data doesn’t lie…our children are in trouble.

Things are not ok and these very institutions have betrayed (intentionally or not) the sacred trust that should exist to help protect the family and children even if it means calling out the very unhealthy behaviors that probably should be addressed in families. I know many teachers and school personnel that feel absolutely helpless in dealing with many of the behavioral issues and challenges in schools either by their own policies and/or what is tolerated for fear of reprisal and threats by parents. It’s not healthy on any level.

The Role of the Church

As I process what is happening culturally, what role does faith and the church play in all of this? Is this another institution that has missed the mark? I often hear the following sentiment from parents whose children are no longer in their homes and who have “walked away from the faith” yet attended church most of their lives and wrestle with regret about not being a better parent to their children: “I just wish I knew sooner what they needed from me.”

Well, why didn’t they know sooner?

It’s because their primary and life-giving role is not elevated within the walls and programs of the church. It’s a secondary or tertiary intervention at best to help parents when it should be a primary role of the church to equip and inspire families to thrive and flourish.

On a regular basis, parents need to be reminded from the pulpit that they are their child’s number one pastor and then offer and design innovative ways to help them do that. Church Programming such as Sunday School, Youth Group, Retreats and Camps, and many other programs are meant to support the role of the parent, not replace.

Somewhere along the line, we have bought into the idea that a youth leader is better suited to teach our children about Jesus than parents are. We let them handle it – after all, they’re “cooler” than us. They understand scripture, have a better understanding of the pressures teens face, and probably have some training on how to make a better impact on their lives.  Most youth leaders I know play a huge role in teens’ lives and in most cases the previous descriptions are true (cool, relevant, and can teach the Bible).

But that doesn’t mean I outsource my child’s faith.

I hope you do not hear criticism of the amazing work we are doing in our churches, that being said, we can no longer pay lip service once a year to a child’s dedication of the important role parents play and then never mention it again.

How is Faith Actually Transmitted?

Research (i.e. Families and Faith, Vern Bengtson) and scriptures (i.e. Deuteronomy 6) instruct us that parents play the most important role in faith transmission. As Christian Smith (professor and author, “Souls in Transition”) has stated about the role parents play, “Parents are their child’s number one pastor.” I don’t believe that is hyperbole.

We are failing children because we are not respecting the design God has created in the way faith is transmitted.

If my main role as a man (husband and father) in my house is to be pastoral in my home, how would that change and influence my everyday life? I would suggest that being pastoral is not optional. It’s a part of the design. As a dad, whether I am present or not, I am passing some sort of “faith” tradition down to my children. They will then live their lives accepting or rejecting the truth which I have modeled and taught them by the way I have lived and loved them. Do I lead with a Gospel centered worldview or a postmodern worldview?

The truth is we are impressing something onto our children. If not us, someone is waiting to impress something onto them.

There is no substitute for the direct investment a parent has on their children. As many scholars and researchers will tell you, no one can replace or even come close to the impact a parent has on the faith of their children. Our faith is something we cannot outsource to someone who has them for one to two hours a week. We need to find partners in youth leaders and in the church to help reinforce a strong faith, but their key role is to come alongside to support.  It is my job as a parent to find key adults and communities to speak truth, love, and grace into their lives, and trust me…most youth leaders want to see you involved.

Final Thoughts

This is a complex subject and at some level, I have not given it justice. Working as the CEO for a faith-based child placing agency (foster care and prisons) where we stand in the gap between many of the institutions I described above, I see every day how we are failing children. Every day I am tired of the poor outcomes despite the many amazing individuals who work in these fields working desperately for better outcomes for kids. The truth is… it starts with these very institutions to stop playing the hero… and focus their strategies and programming around inspiring and equipping moms and dads in their families with the tools and truth that actually lead to better outcomes in them and in their children AND ultimately point to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus (who is the ultimate “hero” of this story). There is no way around this truth. There is no way around its created design.

Look for post #2 on this topic as I go further into defining a critical aspect of faith and how faith is transmitted.