My children are so very tenderhearted. They squabble and fight and do all those things siblings do that annoy their parents. But deep down, they have sweet hearts. Parenting is hard. Add in the faith aspect to parenting, and sometimes I can feel overwhelmed.
One of our main concerns with changing churches was our children. How would the change affect them? We were so deeply connected at our former church, and I didn’t want to upset them. We’ve had several family discussions since Eric and I made the decision to go elsewhere.
And I tell you what, our kids are troopers. They had questions, we answered, but they have been really cool during this season of change. After each church visit, we debrief over Sunday dinner (or Saturday dinner for that one group that meet on Saturday evening). During the week, we’ll check back in with them. See if they have further thoughts. It’s been a nifty little family adventure these two months. A good one that in the end is opening doors for all sorts of new discussions and lessons in faith.
My kids are being exposed to different traditions in the Anglican church, and that’s pretty cool. We’ve had amazing discussions on the Lord’s Supper. A theme we’ve heard (and loved, loved, loved) repeatedly at the 4 different Anglican tradition churches we’ve visited has revolved around Love God, Love Others in tangible ways. Jonah has really caught on to this and asked us why we hear that everywhere we go. It’s led to some interesting lessons on just who is our neighbor and how we can show God’s love to them in so many ways.
And now, as we are observing Lent, we’ve been able to educate our children – as we ourselves are learning. I’ve said previously that Katie has decided to give up some chocolate for this Lenten season. My almost 9 year old is making a huge sacrifice there – she’s all girl when it comes to her love of chocolate! We’ve reminded her that we give up things in order to remember what Christ gave up for us on the cross. Thus, every time she wants chocolate or turns down some candy, she can silently thank God for His son’s sacrifice. Even my 5 year old has gotten into Lent a bit by supporting her sister’s chocolate fast. Anna specifically requested no chocolate at her birthday celebration this week… because Katie couldn’t eat it. Warms a mother’s heart, no?
So, today, I read something pretty cool, linked from the blog of the pastor of the church plant we’ve been attending the last few weeks. Phillip, the pastor of Trinity Church Summerville, has young kids of his own. So, I really resonated with his blog today. It linked to a great article from The Fuller Youth Institute, entitled The One Truth I Want All Kids (and People) to Know About Lent
In it the author states:
I didn’t grow up observing Lent, but once I got married, Dave helped me understand its significance. But the biggest mistake I see families and churches making when they talk about Lent and sacrifice is that the sacrifice slips into somehow feeling like we have to earn God’s approval.
We don’t. What separates Christianity from every other religion is grace. One of the core findings of our Sticky Faith research is that young people have strayed from the true gospel and adopted a version similar to what Dallas Willard called the “gospel of sin management”. A gospel that’s all about behaviors and giant “Do” and “Don’t” lists.
So tonight, as our family gathers in our living room to talk about Ash Wednesday (we would normally attend our church’s Ash Wednesday but its 7:30 pm start time is a bit late for our 7 year-old on a school night), I plan on getting a whiteboard and writing 5 words—what we at FYI call “The 5 G Gospel”. Our 13 and 11 year-old kids have heard us talk about this before, but this will be the first time explaining this to our seven year-old.
GOOD – We are created in God’s image, and God was pleased with humankind.
GUILT – Our sin, or our guilt, has separated us from God.
GRACE – God couldn’t stand that separation, so God sent Jesus that we might have real life in the present and eternal life with God.
GOD’S PEOPLE – We live in community, experiencing and advancing the Kingdom with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
GRATITUDE – We serve and obey (and practice Lent) not to make God like us more, or love us more, but because we’re so grateful for all God has done for us.
In short, we honor Lent not to earn God’s approval or to feel better about ourselves, but so our lives are great big Thank You Notes back to God.
I just love that… And I am praying that as we go through our first Lent together that my kids “get it.”
Discipling our children is one of those really big deals to Christian parents. And I’m praying that we get it mostly right.
To read the entirety of the article quoted, here’s the link:
The One Truth I Want All Kids (and People) to Know about Lent by Kara Powell