Maybe you wouldn't exactly say everything I said…maybe you would leave off the self-centered ending, but I am taking an educated guess that you are in fact a lot like me. Maybe you aren't willing to write it down or say it out loud. I do want good things for my children. I do want them to be love, obey and serve God. I am selfish and I want a Godly legacy that can be traced all the way back to me and Scott.
Over the last few years, there have been numerous studies that reported that "Christian" teenagers are stepping away from their faith when they leave the home. The trend is that a large percentage leave with some returning to their faith when they start their own families.
I read an article the other day by The Gospel Coalition that reflected on a study Focus on the Family conducted. Their results are less alarming, and as I read, my anxious mommy heart slowed down and I started to feel confident that my children would not become part of those who walk away. When they asked the youth who walked away from their faith if they had a strong faith as a child, only 11% said that they did. This means that the other 89% said that their faith was not strong. They had been exposed to church. They may have attended children's camp, DiscipleNow weekends, and small groups. Or any of the various church ministry programs that are offered. But they didn't classify their faith as "strong."
So why would they walk away?
Our daughter Emma Grace (age 12) came home from church camp last year and told us that she wanted to be baptized... again. She was baptized when she was almost 6 years old. We knew at the time that she was young, but she could articulate exactly what she believed and why she should be baptized. We asked our children's pastor to talk to her and make sure that she wasn't simply answering the questions correctly. Everything indicated that it was time…that she was ready…that she understood what it meant.
When we questioned her as to why she now wanted to be baptized again, her first response was that someone at camp said that it didn't count because she was so young. WHAT! Why do people say things like that? We told her that we didn't want her to doubt her decision or decisions that she makes in the future because of someone's careless remarks. I shared with her that there will always be people who will make comments that challenge your spiritual truths. We told her to keep praying about it.
Scott grew up in a church tradition where you didn't get baptized again… it was a rare thing. Once baptized, always baptized…so to speak. His gut reaction was no…there was no reason…what message would that send.
Emma Grace prayed and prayed. Three months later, as the next baptism at church approached, she asked. We told her not yet. I reiterated my fear that it would set a precedent for future years of doubt and uncertainty in her salvation. Three months later, same story...
NIne months after camp, it was time for baptism once again. Emma Grace said again that she would like to be baptized. I asked her to explain to me one more time why? Why now? This time I listened to what she said. Really listened. She said, "If baptism is a public way to tell family, friends, and my church that I am a Christ follower, shouldn't I remember it? I want to be able to share with my children one day about the day I was baptized and what it meant. I have grown so much. I know more. I want it to mean something to me."
I know that she knew as much as a 6 year old can know the first time around.
I don't doubt that Scott and I placed onto her our preconceived notions of what it would mean for her to get baptized again…what that could possibly imply about our parenting decision to let her at almost 6 or what it means about us to let her now.
I know this isn't news to anyone, but Emma Grace's desire to be baptized again was not about me. It was not about Scott. It was 100% about a young lady wanting to transition from her parents' faith to making this faith her own. I spent 9 months telling this sweet girl no...are you sure…don't doubt… She was sure. She did doubt. She knew that it was time to own her faith. We were holding her back.
We go to church every week. We take our kids on mission trips. We serve the needy and homeless. Scott is in ministry…it is his job to share the saving grace of the Savior and encourage thriving relationships with Christ. Yet, we overlooked the importance of our children owning their faith. We were gently pressing the brake on Emma Grace's faith.
In this article, there was a quote by a Notre Dame Sociology Professor, Christian Smith. He wrote, "Parents are huge, absolutely huge, nearly a necessary condition" for a child to remain strong in their faith into young adulthood. He concludes "without question, the most important pastor a child will ever have in their life is a parent."
Emma Grace's persistence to follow Jesus and be obedient to His calling for her walk is the most amazing reminder to me as a mom and Christ follower.
- She taught me to stop worrying about what has always been done, what should be done, and to only be concerned with what the Bible says.
- She taught me to follow God. To be persistent when someone tries to keep me from following God's direction.
- She taught me that her faith…Jacob's faith…Scottie's faith…Zoey's faith... is ultimately not about me. It is about their personal relationship with Jesus and if I am faithful and obedient I will get to have a small part and the privilege of watching their faith in action.
- She reminded me that our children need us to pastor them. Listen. Shepherd. Encourage.
- She taught me that I must stop putting the brakes on our children's faith. If I continue to apply the brakes, I will keep them from discovering their faith and making it their own. I am pushing my children into the 89% who walk away because their faith was never theirs…it was simply another to do on the long list mom expects of them.
It starts with me.
Today I pledge to lift my foot from the brake. Will you join me?