Four Ways to Come Alongside Your Kids to Strengthen Their Faith

If you’re paying attention to what’s happening in America today, you’re probably aware of the challenges facing young Christians in their teens and twenties. It’s a simple fact: most young Christians will walk away from the Church during (or before) their college years. Like other Christian parents, I’m animated to work as hard as I can to address this dilemma, for my own kids and for the next generation of believers. I’ve authored books, written blogs, recorded podcasts and videos in an attempt to help young people evaluate the evidence for Christianity. I also speak to local congregations. Following a recent church presentation, I was approached by a mother who was concerned for her high school children. We began discussing several ways parents can prepare their kids before sending them off to college. Here are four simple guiding strategies:

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Four Truths About the Universe You Can Share with Your Kids to Demonstrate the Existence of God

If you’ve raised your children to believe Christianity is true, you probably want them to continue to believe it’s true, especially through their critical university years. There are good reasons to be concerned for young Christians once they leave our care. Statistically, most will walk away from the Church (and their belief in God) during their college years. What can we, as parents, do to address this growing problem? How can we help them know that God exists?

As a cold-case detective, parent, and prior youth pastor, I have a suggestion: master the case for God’s existence and start sharing it with your kids at an early age. Sounds simple, right? Maybe, or maybe not. If your kids asked you to defend the existence of God right now, what would say? What evidences would you provide? Are you ready to make the case for what you believe, even as the world around us often makes the case against God’s existence? Don’t panic, you don’t have to be a theologian, philosopher or scientist to defend the truth. All you need to be is interested.

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Learning Grace and Love from a Baby

Justice is 16 months old now. His personality is beginning to reveal itself and I'm starting to see glimpses of the man God created him to be. He's observant and pays close attention to detail, noticing nuts and bolts, light bulbs and wall clocks. He's relational and playful with our friends’ kids. His greatest joy is to pick up handfuls of dirt which he then meticulously transfers to a nearby location only to drop the dirt, watching its granules slip slowly between his pudgy baby fingers. He's full of life and joy and I absolutely love being his momma.

He's also full of opinions and never hesitates to tell my how he really feels. Like, when he kicks his legs at turbo speed in protest to being carried indoors after so many outside adventures.

Dealing With an Attitude

Family bike rides are similar to a toddler’s birthday party. They can be fun and filled with great memories, or they can be a disaster with random family members melting down in the middle of it. Unfortunately, you never know which one you’re going to get – you’re in the middle of it and it’s too late to turn back.

We had great weather in Boise yesterday so we decided to attempt a long bike ride with the kids. Our plan was to bike out so many miles, stop, eat lunch and give everyone a break and then return home. Fortunately our kids have outgrown toddler meltdowns but we’re heading full swing into the pre-teen moodiness and know-it-all phase.

Oh mercy!

Mark led the way, followed by Noah and Anastasia with me bringing up the rear (I’m trying hard to be mature and ignore the many uses of a pun here). Noah began to fall behind (oh the potential puns). His legs were spinning fast but producing little speed.

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Learning by Degrees: How Mommy Earned a New Diploma

My daughter isn’t really the one graduating. It’s actually me. 

My other degrees suddenly seem cheap, just small-time tokens of my own ambition. But the one I’m earning this month? It’s the big one--the one from a preparatory school known for the hardest tests on the planet and the highest number of credits. It’s the diploma that I never really thought about eighteen years ago when I enrolled at 12:17 a.m. at St. Agnes Hospital on the sixth floor, Maternity Ward B. 

The other mothers and I whisper about it quietly in between the graduation parties and awards nights. None of us knows quite what to do, even the ones who have two or three of these honors behind them. It’s not because we lost the graduation instructions, but because for us, it’s the season of loss. Diplomas are supposed to get you somewhere. They’re supposed to launch you into another galaxy of opportunity. But this new honor I’m earning seems, at least for now, to be taking everything away from me, just as it’s giving my daughter everything I prayed for. 

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Sometimes a Sick Day is the Therapy We Need

It’s been a rough week, health-wise, in the Russell household. Anastasia’s been dealing with the coughing funk the past two weeks and I finally had to take her in (to the doctor, not the house, even though at times I was tempted to leave her outside at night, but I fear I’m sharing too much right now) last Thursday.

Noah’s cough started up this past week and today it was his turn to head to the doctor. When I signed him in at the doctor’s office, I swear the nurse looked at me funny, as if I were using my kids to get drugs or something.

Maybe I’m just being sensitive. Either way, I’m sick of the sickness and long for life to be back to normal.

However, I’ve noticed something different in Noah today…he’s talking with me more and even cuddling! He’ll turn eleven next week and each day he seems to pull more away from me and more towards his friends and his room.

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Guarding Your Boundaries

The other day, while grocery shopping, I turned down an aisle and faced a roadblock. A two-year-old boy was flinging around on his back. If I were deaf, I may have thought he was in the middle of a seizure, but my ears were working well and I immediately recognized it as a temper-tantrum.

The mom, at her wits-end, grabbed him off the floor and forcefully put him in the shopping cart. He squealed loud and she barked louder (figuratively that is). Twenty years ago my heart would have been with the kid, Poor little guy. What a mean mommy.

However, today it was with the mom. I now have kids and have been there and done that. My busy schedule, lack of sleep and responsibilities had collided and it pushed me over the limit. My patience flew out the door and I said and did things I later regretted.

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Dodgeball and Common Grace: A shot at long devotion

   I got a call from Lily’s kindergarten teacher asking if I would come in and volunteer at lunchtime as a playground dad. Someone else could not make it and they needed a replacement. It was early September and the year had just begun.  I agreed and showed up the following Friday for duty.

            Somehow, that one afternoon has turned into four years of Friday lunches, countless dodge ball games and amazing opportunities to let kids know they matter.

            More then anything, it has been a chance to be available—available to my daughter, available to her friends. I never show up with an agenda and I don’t really consider it ministry. It is just life. It is my daughter’s life, and I get tobe a part of it in a way that matters to her.

Parental Discipleship

Most parents have no clue how to disciple their kids. I’m not saying it is their fault; they are as much victims of the crisis of discipleship in the church today as their children.

Here is a good way to figure out if you are measuring up in discipling your son or daughter. Imagine that your child is not your own. Rather, Jesus has introduced them to you with a commission of discipleship. Until he or she turns 18, you will be given 3-5 hours per week to show them the way of the Savior. The sky is the limit, but you only get these 3-5 hours to create a sustainable faith in this kid—to make sure he or she knows Christ in the depths of their soul.

What would you do? How would you do it? Would it be different then what you are doing now?

When we think of a discipler we often conjure up a much different picture than that of a parent. Parents can easily turn to provision and protection and miss the parallel call of discipleship. You can be a fantastic parent and fail as a discipler; non-believers do this all of the time.

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Babies: Born This Way?

I was recently quite disturbed by this story of a couple in Toronto who have refused to divulge the gender of their recently born child, who they named Storm (how perfectly gender ambiguous!). Though Storm does indeed have a gender, Storm’s parents–Kathy Witterick and David Stocker–aren’t telling anyone, not even family and close friends, what it is.

“We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now–a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation,” wrote Witterick in an email. “In fact, in not telling the gender of my precious baby, I am saying to the world, ‘Please can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s (he) wants to be?!.”

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