Fathers, don’t over-correct your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment. Bring them up with Christian teaching in Christian discipline (Ephesians 6:4, Philips Translation).
Who is ultimately responsible for the spiritual environment required to raise kids to live godly, Bible-oriented lives?
At Bethel, our belief is that the Lord places the primary burden of spiritual training on parents in general, and fathers in particular.
Bible training and Christian modelling has to happen first at home.
Then, our pastoral elders and ministry workers (specifically in Youth group, teen Sunday School class, AWANA Trek program) will support and supplement what is already happening at home, both in what we teach and how we live. We are to be the living, breathing faith-community that lives out what the Bible teaches.
So the question is: are teenaged Christ-followers being discipled at home?
A recent article by CNN* gives reasons for some pessimism, at least in the U.S.
The article interviews Kenda Creasy Dean (a minister, professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and author of “Almost Christian”). In her book, Professor Dean interviewed 3300 American teens between 13 and 17 (all “denominations” from across the spectrum including Roman Catholics, Mormons) who would consider themselves confessing Christians.
Essentially, the results indicate most American teens are indifferent about their faith, and can explain little about what or why they believe; most thought that God wanted them to simply feel good and do good in some very general and vague way.
This distortion of biblical faith has been labelled “mutant Christianity”.
From the article: “Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.” (note: deism is the belief that although He exists, God is not really involved in our lives or in our world in a significant way; additionally, He has not revealed Himself through special revelation like the Person of Jesus or in the Bible.)
But Dean warns about parents or churches underestimating teen kids and their ability to understand and explain important issues in their lives: “They have a lot to say. They can talk about money, sex and their family relationships with nuance. Most people who work with teenagers know that they are not naturally inarticulate.”
And reasons for optimism: Dean said that kids from evangelical backgrounds tended to fare noticeably better. Back to the article: “No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.”
So what? We are determined to build into the lives of Bethel’s teens, continuing to see them as outliers!
Takeaway: At Bethel, we are committed as a fellowship to teaching our teens the truth of God’s Word through a variety of platforms. Successfully raising kids for Christ is a responsibility of parents first, but heavily supported by the entire local Body of Christ. Am I (parent, grand-parent, teacher, friend) within our faith community engaged in supporting the discipling of these teenaged followers of the Lord to the degree He would want?
*CNN article here: http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/08/27/almost.christian/index.html …and if you want to hear Dr. William Lane Craig’s response to this article, you can hear or read it here:http://www.reasonablefaith.org/mutant-christianity