ReImagining the Church: Sticky Faith #4 and #5

Observations from the Sticky Faith Webcast: LINK

I am including this in my reImagining the Church series because I believe that the conversation coming out of the Sticky Faith research is born from the same Spirit that is moving through New Life Christian Fellowship, calling us to reImagine what it means to be the church in light of Jesus.

Observation #4: Parents are “bar-none” the people with the most impact on the life and faith of a teen even through their teen years.

It’s November 16th, and I’m itching to hear some Jingle Bells. The song, the actually jingly-bells, the head-elf at Santa’s workshop, and everything else that goes into the bizarre and unique season of Christmas. I want to listen to choirs sing of the glory of the coming of our savior, and I want to hear artists who I will never listen to the other 11 months of the year sing about chestnuts, and talking snowmen, and the dangers of venturing out in the snow late at night. Plastic trees, and candy canes, cookies galore, and snow! While people bemoan the arrival of Christmas already, I’m biting my nails waiting until the pre-Thanksgiving ban is lifted and we can get this show on the road. December is my favorite month of the year.

What does this have to do with observations four and five from the Sticky Faith webcast?

I’m glad you asked. 

You see, I love the Christmas season, because my parents (especially my dad) love the Christmas season. It’s always been important to them and it was always important to our family, and therefore it has become important to me. We organized our time differently at Christmas. We had rituals that we had to do each year, like driving around looking at lights, or eating Swiss Colony sausages and cheeses. We used our resources differently so we could buy gifts and plan outings and visit family and friends. Lights are hung, and fake snow put in place to create just the right Christmasy atmosphere, even to the extent that despite the fact that the football season isn’t quite over yet, and the the basketball season is just under way, Buckeye decorations (in the Buckeye room) are routinely replaced with Christmas decorations because Christmas trumps Buckeyes, every time.

Much like my parents passed along a love for all things Yule, parents in the church have the ability to pass along a sticky faith to their kids, if the parents’ faith is actually important to the parents. Rituals and symbols of the faith that are important to the parents can be pressed into the fabric of the kids’ own lives. [What rituals can you begin with your kids that will help them hold on to the faith?] When parents have a faith that actually impact their lives and their decisions, it becomes something that is easier to pass along. Just like my parents made different decisions because it was Christmas, we as parents can show that our faith is more than just the things of story books when we actually make decisions that are based on our faith, and make sure our kids know why we’ve made these decisions. [How has the gospel impacted your decisions as a family? Do your kids know that was the motivation?] Creating an overall atmosphere within the family that is shaped by the gospel and faith in Jesus is important as well. Allow your kids, especially your teens, to ask questions about the Bible and Jesus without feeling like they are doing something wrong. As students wrestle with their faith and questions about how to live it out, offer them a place to question instead of an atmosphere of fear. Walk alongside of them and seek answers together. [What is the one question about being a Christian that would scare you the most if your teen asked you? Why?]

This point is worth lingering on. One of the my favorite things about working with teens in the church is that when they are given a space to ask questions without fear of condemnation they will be bold in their questions. They will ask questions about God, the Bible, Jesus, Faith, the church, everything. All the questions that we learn as adults and good Christians not to ask ever become the opportunity for real and rich conversation. In fact one of the findings in the Sticky Faith material is that students who are allowed to ask the hardest questions about the faith when they are in high school have the stickiest faith when they move on into college and beyond. Doubt can be scary, but it can also be a tool that God can use to allow us all to grow closer to him and own our faith on a deeper level.

One last way to pass along sticky faith to our kids is actually observation #5 from the Sticky Faith webcast:

Observation #5: Parents need to SHARE their own faith journey with your kids, struggles and victories included.

This one floored me because I don’t think I’ve heard much of the story of my mom’s faith journey, despite her undeniable influence on my own faith. I watched her get up every morning and pray for her family, and she took my sister and I to church nearly every Sunday to make sure we knew who Jesus is, but I don’t know that I ever heard her own story of faith. I would love to know what she struggled with when she was in her teens, her 20s, her 30s, and what victories she’s seen in her own faith along the way. When we share our stories with our kids we shape their own experiences of the journey. When my dad tells stories of his Christmases as a kid, it gave me a context to understand why it was so important to him. When they talk about meeting each other in high school I understand how important young relationships can be, and it changes the way I see the world. So it is when we share our faith stories with our kids.

I can’t wait until next weekend when the tree will go up and the Christmas music can be played for all to hear and not just in silence. It’s woven into who I am, and it reminds me that I have the opportunity to weave the gospel of Jesus into the heart of my own son Micah even at a young age. What a joy that Christmas offers us one of the greatest opportunities to be intentional about passing along a sticky faith, not to mention to do so with delicious cookies.

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