Dear younger me,
Be prepared when you leave home for college. I don’t just mean have your shower caddy, shower shoes and cute robe for the dorm showers. I mean, be prepared for the hard questions from the skeptics and the doubt and the temptation that is sure to come while living on your own for the first time in this hostile culture.
You may think you know Jesus Christ, you even believe that you are saved and a good Christian. However, once the questions begin, such as “why do you believe in Jesus?” and “how do you know there is a heaven?” you will soon realize you could have done more to prepare and should have paid closer attention in Sunday school and memorized more scripture. When the popular, ever so cute guy down the hall begins to show interest in you and persuade you that its ok to have a drink or sleep over, you will need to remember your true values and why you have chosen to follow Christ in the first place.
I love you and I want you to succeed in life and most importantly in your Christ driven purpose.
Where did I go wrong?!?
I was eighteen years young when I first went away to college just ninety miles from home at Colorado State University. It was the fall following the mass shooting at Columbine High school in Littleton Colorado where I graduated in 1999.
I was raised in a Christian home, always knowing Jesus and attending church regularly, and I was a proud Christian when I walked through those university doors for the first time. However, it was those precious seasons that followed my senior year of high school and first time away from home that I began to realize just how cruel the real world could be.
At the tender age of eighteen I had not only just experienced the most traumatic event in my life when I survived the hateful mass shooting at my high school, but all the sudden I was among thousands of other people just like me searching for meaning to life and a purpose to live for; but were they really just like me?!?!?
I found myself seeking love and community in all the wrong places. I wanted to be liked and accepted, but rather than go a local church youth group I found something that seemed more convenient and more intoxicating at the time.
During the next few years I found myself more and more unhappy and further and further from the person I once was and doing things I would have never imagined myself doing. I was no longer the proud Christian I was when I entered those doors at eighteen and I had almost walked away from my faith entirely.
Years passed before I found my way back to church and studying the Bible again. It was almost fifteen years later; now married and raising three young children; when I came to the difficult understanding that I had never fully surrendered my life to Christ and therefore had never fully experienced what it was to be a true follow of Jesus.
After years of complaining about my “less than perfect” circumstances the Lord brought me to a point in my life and relationship where I fell to my knees and gave it all over to Him. It was at this point that I first experienced what it truly meant to be surrendered and unapologetically me in Christ Jesus.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20
The Lord began to work in and through me and it was at this point in time when I heard the distinct calling to “go and make disciples” of our little people. Now that I had come to know Jesus fully, I became aware of how naïve I had been and how unprepared I was leaving home at eighteen. It weighed heavy on my heart that these precious children of mine had been entrusted to me and it was my responsibility to be pro-active and begin preparing them now for the hostile world that awaited them outside my door. But how?? This can be a daunting task, with all the outside influences and instant access to social media and more, but as I began to pray about this and learn more about how to best prepare my children, I realized I was not alone in my experience:
Natasha Crain shared in her book Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side that 61% of kids who were involved in church as recently as their teenage years become spiritually disengaged by their 20s- not actively praying, reading the Bible, or attending church.
This finding, based on the extensive surveys of researcher George Barna, is the alarm that has sent pastors, youth leaders and young adult ministries searching for answers. Why is this happening? Having studied the various survey results in depth, I think it’s fair to summarize the collective problem in one sentence: A lack of robust spiritual training has resulted in a featherweight faith for many of today’s young adults, and that faith is being blown away by attacks from our secular culture.
Establishing a Deep Rooted Faith
This is a much greater issue spanning further than just my experience and my home, so I felt it appropriate to share what I have come to know and trust as my resources and support in this extremely important parenting topic:
- Controlling their influencers:
My husband and I decided one of the most imperative action steps we could take to help prepare our children for the real world and insure they had a deep rooted faith, unlike myself, was to take the huge leap and homeschool our children.
I know some people would disagree, but we felt led to homeschool so that we could control who was influencing them the most at this point in their life (since it will be more difficult when they are older). We desired to focus on character building and studying the Bible and truly living the word. As a result of our family-led school schedule we had the opportunities to travel and experience people and cultures across many countries and have constant dialogue about family and faith and how to apply it daily.
- In addition to homeschooling, we enrolled other adults to partner with us that shared in our family mission. It had become apparent to us that as parents we had a lot to learn as well. So with the help of mentors and unlimited parenting books and most importantly prayer, we take each step in faith that the Lord will guide us and give us the wisdom and strength. (My favorite daily devotional is Praying through the Bible for your Kids by Nancy Guthrie).
- We partnered with a great local church and enrolled the leadership in a partnership to disciple our little people. You may be reading this feeling you don’t have the knowledge, time or resources to disciple your children, but allow me to encourage you, it is ok to tell your kids you don’t have the answer and that you can find it together, and that is exactly what the Pastor and leadership team exists for at the local church (and your don’t have to be a member or regular attender to ask questions).
- Reading the Bible together as a family is a crucial part of teaching the love of Jesus to our little people and our family really enjoys the Story Book Bible. I personally love sitting in the hallway reading the scriptures between the kids’ bedrooms as they drift off to sleep. I started doing this as a recommendation from one of my mentors and I have personally grown and learned so much reading the Bible this way.
- We are committed to turning off our devices to allow the best scenario for us to be present and allow for conversation with our little people. A great time to engage in deep conversations is in the car or while watching a sibling at baseball practice. Author and speaker, Natasha Crain offers some great resources in her books Keeping your Kids on Gods Side and Talking with Your Kids about God and on her blog http://www.Christianmomthoughts.com (In her books she offers simple conversation guides and questions to get the discussion going).
- Finally, and possibly the most important aspect of our family mission is to lead by example. Our little people will do what we do, so we are actively seeking opportunities to grow and learn in our own faith life. This includes attending church together, reading the Bible and praying together and for one another regularly, and actively serving in our church and community as we display and live out the love of Jesus.
I have come to realize that the Lord allows us to experience different circumstances in life, as difficult as some can be, to allow for us to be used for His greater purpose. As a result of my featherweight faith I believe I had to grow through those hard years and suffer the consequences of my poor choices, but I stand affirmed today that it was for great gain in others. I believe that it was most crucial for my family’s legacy so that I can better support and prepare my little people to grow up and be loving and confident Christ serving leaders in the world.
“God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16