“Tell us about your weekend at the shore,” my hubby and I asked our daughter.
She filled us in on the details (at least as many as a 14-year-old willingly gives up), then she added, “Oh, did you know my friend is a wiccan? Isn’t that a witch?”
Calmly trying to not choke mid-chew, I replied as calmly as I could, “Yes, I think it is.”
“She had a maiden ceremony or something like that.”
“So, she worships nature and goddesses?” my equally alarmed husband inquired.
“I think she’s a ‘P’ something,” our daughter added.
“Pagan?” I guessed
“Yeah that’s it,” she confirmed.
Dan and I instinctively reacted, defending our Christian faith. (In hindsight, we may have come off a wee bit authoritative.) The mama bear in me struggled not to proclaim, “I never want you to talk to this girl again!” Yet, I think in our haste to establish our viewpoints, Dan and I fumbled a golden teaching moment and an opportunity for deeper conversation on spirituality and truth.
God created us all as spiritual beings. As such young people (and grownups too) yearn to find their place in the world, find meaning in life and connect to something bigger than themselves. In response the world offers an all-you-can-eat spiritual buffet from which to feast.
As parents how do we root our children in the gospel so when journey from our nests they can discern life-giving "food" from junk—and desire to partake of it? It’s easy when they’re younger. because we can exercise our control We bring them to church, enroll them in Sunday school, sign them up for Christian summer camp and drive them to youth group. Up through high school young people tend to mimic the faith they see played out in their homes. (Guess what spirituality my daughter’s friend’s mother embraces?)
But what happens to our teens’ faith as they transition to adulthood? Will their Christian upbringing hold up to their burgeoning intellect, new-found freedom and worldly experiences? How successful will they be in making their faith their own?
Statistically speaking, not very.
A dramatic shift occurs in the spiritual lives of young people as they venture out on their own. According to a study by The Barna Group (Ventura, California), “despite strong levels of spiritual activity during the teen years, most twentysomethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years—and often beyond that. In total, six out of ten twentysomethings (60%) were involved in a church during their teen years, but have failed to translate that into active spirituality during their early adulthood.
“Only one-fifth of twentysomethings (20%) have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences.” The study adds, “There is also a substantial amount of unorthodox spiritual activity: three-quarters of America’s teenaged youths have engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity during their teen years (not including reading horoscopes).”
We parents face an uphill battle to give our children the roots they need to make their faith their own. I haven’t made it to the other side of this battle, so I can’t offer any personal experience. But, I can look to the greatest book on parenting ever written. Here are some nuggets I discovered.
As parents we need to:
- … equip our children to live IN the world but not OF the world. (2 Corin. 10:3)
- ... be prepared to defend our faith. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)
- … actively get involved in growing our kids’ faith. (Ephesians 6:4)
- … show them how to be a light in the world, not a curser of the darkness. (1 Peter 2:9)
- … teach them to “love their neighbor,” but be wise when it comes to choosing friends. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
- … open up dialogue about our faith and be willing to talk about tough topics without reverting to pat or “Because I said so” answers. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
And most of all:
- … teach our children about the amazing grace of Jesus. There is nothing this world has to offer that can compete or compare! (Romans 8)
As parents, we need to put on the armor of God and prepare for battle! Are you up for it?