Last year I did something with some families that gave me a lot of understanding into some common family rhythms. Each year parents are asked to attend Parent/Teacher Conferences. Hearing some other friends had I tried it, I decided to do Pastor/Parent Conferences. Those 45 minute windows with parents really helped me to affirm some of the things I have learned in Sticky Faith.
One question I would ask had to do with the ways their family either talks about faith or prays. Outside of praying for a meal, I often heard how intimidating praying or talking about faith actually is for some of these parents even when some of these families had grown up in the church.
Again, many of these families had never sat down and shared their stories of faith or the time in their lives where they started to take Jesus seriously.
I often hear parents say they desire for their children to have a faith that is deeper and more authentic than theirs was. This is a really GOOD desire. The Sticky Faith research indicates that parents still have the greatest influence on the faith formation of their children. The heart-wrenching truth is as parents “we tend to get what we are” as Christian Smith the sociologist would say. Kids and people mirror what is modeled. A deeper and authentic child comes when they see it modeled in the strongest places of faith formation, the home.
Myth of the Green Light
I like to invite parents to places of authentic conversation and honesty of their brokenness with their children in age-appropriate ways. Without a doubt when I invite them to be honest with the ways in which they have lived destructively, the most common response I get is, “If I am honest about what I have done in the past, I am giving a green light to my children to do it to.” Again, Sticky Faith research indicates parents have the greatest influence on the faith formation of their kids. The reverse tends to happen because of this research. When parents can be honest about who they are and what they have done, they are stepping off the pedestal that many of their kids have placed them on.
Pedestal parenting is when the only things we talk about are the things that we do that are good or only show the good side of ourselves. We talk about the good things we do and only allow our kids to see that side. That is a good thing, but when it is the only thing they see, they are raising them up in unrealistic ways and creating a sense they can never be like their parents because they have never made any mistakes. This can major a major effect on faith development.
When we are honest about our brokenness and show our real humanity to our children, we become more relatable to them. There is no guarantees they still won’t use it against you or actually do what you don’t want them to do, but the next time they are tempted, I place my confidence in the research that says my kids will think about the ways their own brokenness has shaped them in life and how they have grown from it.
I was talking with a friend not too long ago and we were talking about this very thing. He began to share about how we have done this with the Biblical characters as well and placed them on pedestals themselves. We never really tell the parts of stories of these characters about how broken many of them were. We only tell the good stuff and then the local church is feeding the impossibility that is happening at home in faith formation.
They two pedestals to wrestle with in their lives, I’m embarrassed to admit the ways in which I’ve conveyed an impossible understanding that kids can never live up to and confess the ways I have contributed to the machine of this formation, but all is not lost.
There is hope! This has always been His church and he desires to use broken people for the sake of the Kingdom of God. That puts all of us in play. You and I are invited as parents, pastors, friends, and strangers to embrace our stories of brokenness and to allow the transforming work of the Spirit to use us as we share it to kids and people that feel they can never live up to what the church says they need to be. We’ve just got to step off our pedestals.
You are loved.