Carla: Geez Caryn. Talk about a buzz kill. What happened there? 3 comments? 3? I mean, I didn’t think your post was bad per se, but 3?

Well I’ll just have to see if I can salvage something here. Thankfully, one of my FB friends is currently at a Christian conference of some sort and posted a picture that has my dander up. It’s a sign announcing a seminar called, “How to Awaken Spiritual Parenting in Today’s Families.” If you’ve been hanging around this blog long enough, you can probably guess why I’m irked by this. If you are just joining us, here’s a short explanation:

The title of this seminar implies that “today’s parents” are asleep, or at least not overly involved in/interested in/capable of “spiritual parenting.” Really? Really? Which parents are those? It’s none of the women and men here, I can tell you that. Because the parents who comment here are pretty awake, pretty involved, pretty capable. In fact, I’d be willing to guess that most of us are so sick of hearing about how not awake and not spiritual we are as parents that we’d like to run our little selves down to wherever this conference is and have a word with the presenters.

Now I have no idea what this seminar is about. For all I know it was wonderful and insightful and all things helpful. But that title is just the kind of thing that the Revolution is bent on overthrowing. The seminar was aimed at church leaders–children’s pastors, senior pastors, etc. And to me, that almost makes it worse than if it had been aimed at parents. Because the last thing we need is more sermons on how we don’t take parenting seriously enough or how we are missing the mark when it comes to passing our faith on to our children. The last thing we need is more messages about how what we’ve been doing is insufficient.

More and more, I find seminars–and books and conferences and magazine articles–like these are aimed at straw parents. They hit at a perception of a problem that I don’t think really exists. It makes good sales copy to say things like “How to Awaken Spiritual Parenting.” It creates a sense of crisis, urgency, and fear. And that sells.

But are there really so many sleeping parents out there that there needs to be a seminar about them? Aren’t most of the families sitting in churches each week there because they are truly trying their best? Adding more guilt and fear about the ways they are failing isn’t the way to “awaken” them. It’s a way to add more pressure and more expectations to their lives. Support, encouragement, affirmation, ideas, HOPE–that’s what parents need.

Caryn: Enough about the 3 comments. I guess no one likes to hear about a happy mom (I know I never do!). Glad you chose this topic to awaken our spiritual readers.

Seriously, though,  I’m still trying to figure out what “spiritual parenting” even means. Sounds like something God does—not us. I’m a fan of human parenting myself.

That said, you’re probably right in guessing that they’re talking about those lazy parents who aren’t “being intentional” about passing the faith on to their kids, hence all the back-talking, all the hell that’s breaking out in the schools, and all the Democrats who keep getting elected.

What always makes me nervous about stuff like this is that I’m guessing that I’d be one of the parents they look at as asleep. I mean, my kids have been baptized (which may or may not be seen as a good thing), go to church, Sunday school, Christian school, extra-church-ricular activities, and every election season at least one of them is out canvassing the neighborhood with my husband spreading Republican cheer. So you’d think we’d be good!

But, alas, I’m terrible about doing family devotions (read: we never do them). Are you ready for this? Half the time I don’t even THINK of praying with my kids when I put him to bed. I was going to say that at least we always say grace before dinner, but you know what? We just had pizza and we totally didn’t pray.

Oh, boy.

But as you said: this doesn’t mean I’m not awake spiritually with my kids. And it doesn’t mean I need guilt about it. Or even more structure for that matter.

We talk about God a lot. Just not formulaically. I think my kids are going to learn to follow Jesus and love him like mad not because we did X,Y, and Z every day or because I came up with really fun, crazy-campy activities to demonstrate a Bible verse (not knocking this if it works for your family!).

They’re going to want Jesus as a part of their lives because of what they’ve seen him do in mine. So I talk about that. I let my kids see what a mess I am, and talk about how God has shown up in unexpected ways. I let them that it’s by his grace alone that I am able to make it through a day in the house with them without knocking heads into walls (I don’t really let them know this part….).

I want them to see me grapple and question and wonder and be amazed at what it is to believe in Jesus. Because frankly, I don’t want them just to be passed the faith, I want them to believe it on their own, to embrace it, to own it, to die for it, really.

So now I’m about to go down a road about how much crazy I am about  Jesus (Carla, remember when I was NOT like this? What happened to me?!?!?), which I’ll spare you all right now. (But seriously, how great is he?)

So yeah. Some of the most awake Christian parents I know are not the ones in seminars and in classes, but the ones in the trenches. Down and dirty with their Jesus.

Carla: So now the comment count is up to 5, but one of them is from me, so we’re at 4. Granted, they are 4 really great comments, but still.

19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Steve B. on May 2, 2009 at 5:34 am

    Well, I have been waiting as well for a topic like this one, after sitting on the sidelines for the last few posts. I guess I don’t feel quite as strongly about those “Spiritual Parenting” conferences as the two of you. I just never really figure that they are talking to me and I kind of see it like teaching CPR – even if you’re doing it wrong, it’s better than doing nothing. That being said, I cannot overstate the importance of our roles as parents in the spiritual lives of our kids. Caryn is right – does my daughter see Christ in my life? I believe that will have, and has had, the most impact on her. If I explain systematic theology to her, what good is it if my life has not been changed by the love of Christ? It’s the same witness we should be living out to everyone around us.

    Don’t get me wrong, we do the other stuff as well – pray, read and memorize Scripture, Sunday School, Awana, etc. I thank God for the kind and loving spirit He has given our daughter and have seen how this has ministered to the other kids in her life (and adults too). She is 6 1/2 and has she prayed “The Prayer” to “Accept Christ”? I don’t know, I haven’t asked her. Maybe I’m a sleepy parent in that regard. I remember when I was her age, that seemed to be the primary goal of every children’s ministry I ever attended. We never got too much in the way of discipleship, however. The first verse our daughter ever committed to memory was Romans 1:16, which begins “I am not ashamed of the Gospel…”
    I have seen her live this out by telling others about Jesus and how He loves them. I take no credit for this, nor could I take credit if she “prays the prayer”. I believe that is the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the only One that can lead her to salvation.

    It’s good to be back, and I will now step down from my pulpit.


  2. As much as I hate to admit it, I would be intrigued by this seminar. Not because I don’t think I’m teaching my children about God , but mainly because I’m #1 open to any help I can get and #2 didn’t have this modeled for me when I was growing up and really have NO idea what I’m doing. And, it would seem to me, that alot of parents might be in my boat. Not all of us grew up in church. Some of us went so sporatically that we couldn’t even glean the basics of our faith. What I learned: God existed. That pretty much sums it up. I didn’t even understand the Jesus is Son part. Truly.

    Though I’m totally committed now, I look at my children sometimes and am terrified that I don’t know how to help them “get” it. And, it seems from listening to Christian talk radio shows (which I’ll admit, I may do too much) that every other Christian family in America IS having campy little meetings with fun games and song-singing every single week.

    So, don’t forget about us. Some of us are TOTALLY clueless. And, though we are truly, truly trying to do the best we can, we need help. We need suggestions. And, yes maybe, we need seminars.

    I’m still learning on this journey…


  3. Posted by Carla on May 2, 2009 at 7:02 am

    I want to clarify my point a little. I don’t have a problem with the idea of a seminar on how to help parents with the spiritual formation part of parenthood. I absolutely believe that what we do as parents–everything from formal prayer to how we handle our frustration–is part of the spiritual formation of our children. What bugs me is the implicit sense of panic in the way the seminar is presented. Like I said, the information might be great, but why do they have to use fear and failure to bring people in? The name of this seminar reinforces the idea that parents are failing and that message gets carried from the seminar back to the church and back into the ears and hearts of parents who are looking for help, not condemnation. If they would have called it “10 Ways to Encourage Parents As They Participate in the Spiritual Formation of Their Children” I wouldn’t have had anything to blog about.


  4. I have a ton I could say on this. Shocker, huh? Will try to keep it short….

    I think this is all due to fear, unbelief, not seeing that God has His own relationship with each of our kids, us trying to not screw our kids up, us wanting them to not have pre-marital sex or smoke pot or other really horrible things that are bad for them and/or make us look like we are bad parents.

    I promise I’m not picking a fight with anyone on this. And, I’m not saying all parents who want parenting Sunday School classes and children’s catechism classes for their kids and Scripture memory classes for their kids, and worksheets with specific, tangible results for their kids are acting out of this fear and whatnot. But I see a lot who are. I used to be one of them.

    Now, my hope for my kids is the same hope I have for everyone in my life. I want them to love God and love their neighbors. I want our family to have an atmosphere that leaves room for the gospel to work & that notices the gospel at work. My husband & I screw up all of the time. But we apologize, ask our kids to forgive us, and set aside money for them to have counseling when they are 20 or 30 or whenever it all hits the fan. We pray sometimes, we read the Bible together sometimes, & we talk about spiritual things pretty often–mostly when they ask questions. We respond in a way that encourages them to keep thinking while speaking truth. We don’t pretend to have all of the answers. We talk about joy and sorrow and heaven. We talk about mystery. We talk about how we need Jesus. We talk about how the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that is in all Christians and how it allows us to choose to not sin. We follow the Church Year and talk about the different seasons of waiting, fasting, and feasting. We do other things, too, but I guess my point is that it’s all just part of our ordinary family life, routine, etc. We are just living how we think God is calling us to live and including our kids in that. We read parenting books every now and then–there are a few good ones out there. But I have to believe that God has given me the ability to be a good mom without having to find that magical formula somewhere. I just can’t search for any more magical formulas. It’s too exhausting.

    I don’t know. I might change my mind on all of this one day. If my daughter gets pregnant when she’s sixteen I might have a fleeting thought that maybe more scripture memory when she was 6 years old would have done the trick. But I doubt it. I’ll love her and love that baby and hang on for whatever ride God has for us all.


  5. OK. So that wasn’t very short… I did try, though.


  6. Posted by Abby on May 2, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    A good title would have been “How to Disciple Your Kids.”
    Awana and sing-alongs are fine and dandy, but I know many teens who did all that and still fell away. In fact, I think those things are more dangerous than they are helpful b/c Bible memorization can become something you do to get candy/treats. Bible study becomes something you go to in order to see friends. It can be dangerous for many parents too because they fall back on the assumption that the kids are being taught spiritually at these places, when all they do is recite information. This is a huge problem in Christian schools.

    The kids who stayed Christian had parents that maintained open spiritual communication. The parents who asked their kids questions, who shared their own struggles. The parents who said it was okay to be a genuine Christian (trust me, its TOTALLY uncool). The parents who didn’t shy away when the kids asked why bad things happen to good people, or how can we trust the Bible. In other words, parents who treated their children as fellow Christians who were just a little newer to the walk.

    And why was this aimed at leaders? Pastors kids can be HUGE hypocrites.
    How about the pastors’ job to spiritually disciple and make sure that God’s word is taught and not some cotton candy gospel? How about the youth leader’s job to teach the gospel and not whatever is popular at the time? Many of those I sat through insulted my intelligence.
    P.S. My parents didn’t ask me if I was a Christian until I was almost 17. By that time I had struggled, and asked questions, and was old enough to own my faith.


  7. Abby–Yes. That would be a good title. I want to echo Carla’s comment that this isn’t about it being wrong to have to learn how to disciple our kids, how to help them form spiritually….. Especially for those of us who may not have grown up in Christian homes (or those of us who grew up in Christian homes but didn’t see a lot of discpling), these are important to learn. And I, for one, am kind of a classic learner, so seminars and classes are my thing.

    But like Charlotte rightly pointed out (and what me and Carla were trying to say), it’s the fear tactic–sort of the roll-of-the-eyes, shaming thing of, “Oh, today’s parents….messing up everybody”–that we’re reacting to.

    This poor class. It probably is like the best thing ever. I hope the presenter has a google alert set up for it so they can chime in and tell us how great it is and how dopey we are to pick on a title!


  8. Sorry your last post did not get many replies- I don’t think it was because the material was uninteresting or lacked applicability. I think you just said what you meant so well, that there was very little to add.

    I do have a few comments on this one, though.

    Parenting and teaching our children to love Christ should be an “intentional” act, as Caryn said. However, I don’t think there is any “right” way to do it. I think that if our children see our passion and love for Christ, then they will be forced to at least consider his presence and function in their lives. They are like little sponges, soaking up our victories, our defeats and our near-misses and (hopefully) learning from them.

    However, I fear that a few too many people are not intentional in their parenting at all- in fact, I often wonder how many people are intentional about their faith in general. How many times do they carry on habits and traditions more than celebrations and honest conversations with God as a friend, confident, and father? Certainly I am not talking about anyone here, but in general people just seem disconnected and disengaged from life (look around church next Sunday and count the glazed expressions.)

    That is not to support the title of the sermon, of course. Fear is never a good way to approach Christ.

    Oh, and go easy on the Democrats here. We could debate politics and religion till the sun sets (not a worthy cause anyways, since such debates usually end in two angry and unconvinced people, thus making it overall not worth it). I just want to say that “Christian” and “Republican” are not always synonymous. Democrats are not the devil and should certainly not be associated in the same sentence as such atrocities as school violence and disrespectful children. That was pretty harsh.


  9. Kristi–I am a Democrat and Caryn is not. We have talked about our political differences in the past on this blog, but for those who are new to our conversation, it might not immediately be clear that Caryn’s comments are absolutely meant in jest. She is mocking the ridiculous rhetoric that both sides get caught up in. And I know she agrees with you completely–Democrats are not the devil nor “Republican” and “Christian” synonymous. We have both benefited by having a friend on the “other side” of political conversations and never want politics to get in the way of the great community we are building here at the Revolution.


  10. Posted by Carol H. on May 3, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I am someone who would have like to have attended that seminar. But then again it happens to be my line of “work.” (I put work in quotes because I am a volunteer at church so I don’t get paid.) One of my passions is to teach parents about how to talk about spiritual topics with their kids. It may not be true of the folks who visit this blog but what I see is that some parents don’t realize that they should be involved in the spiritual education of their children. (For too long the church has been giving parents the message: “that’s our job.” Well, no it isn’t. It can’t be; look at how few hours the kids spend at church compared to the time spent with parents.) The other piece is that parents don’t know how to talk to their kids about spiritual stuff. They are embarrassed to admit that they don’t know much about the Bible.
    Hopefully that seminar was just poorly titled. It’s not suppose to be about ramming something down the parents throats or lambasting them for what they’re not doing. It should be about supporting those parents and saying, here are topics (words) that you can use to bring up a topic on xyz. That’s what I’m trying to do anyways.


  11. Oh, yes. Sorry, Kristi. I was kidding.

    I don’t think Republican equals Christian any more than Democrat does. Any Christian worth her salt knows Jesus would vote Liberatarian. : )

    And I actually wasn’t even talking about violence in schools. I was thinking more sex and drugs and rock-n-roll type stuff. And the back-talk was a direct reference to my own mouthy kids.


  12. Posted by Robyn on May 4, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Well, I guess I’m out on this one, Caryn, since I’m a Democrat. Might as well just give up now. ROTFL. I love you, ladies!


  13. Thanks for this forum!
    I have been struggling with auto-pilot parenting the last few weeks. We’ve been busy with Easter and family and all had a case of the flu so maybe it’s down time we needed. But I know we haven’t been connecting as deeply as a family and there’s no way we’re spiritually healthy this way. I’m not going to be to hard on myself about it. We’ll find some Shalom each day and work our way back from the fog of flu.
    Because my daughter is 18 months old, every day is very different from the day before and what worked then probably won’t now. Life with her has helped me see my relationship with God the same way. Still, zombie mom resurfaces from time to time. (“Here’s a sippy cup and some cheerios, watch Sesame Street while mommy gets her caffiene on.”)
    I was at a church outreach committee last night and someone said he doesn’t want to go to “audience” church. The topic was Children’s Sunday School and how, with our small band of diverse aged and abilitied kids and small congregation, are we going to pull this off next year?
    I sought out our “no spectators” church for our family so that my daughter could grow up in a community where we are all responsible for each other and for sharing god’s story, vision, and love. No one gets to just sit and watch. No busy work allowed. Zombie moms must return to the living.
    So while I am struggling and learning how to have a family – I don’t want someone to tell me how to do it. I want to live in a christian community that cares enough to know us and love us and learn with us. I guess it’d possible these kind of seminars can facilitate that kind of connection but I have some doubts.


  14. To be honest, I’m kind of a “slacker” parent. I’m of the opinion that too much structure actually gets in the way of authentic learning and growing. Yes, we pray together. Yes, I read bible stories to my daughter. But I really think she learns more from watching and experiencing real life, day-to-day stuff than she will by sitting through “lessons.”

    My 2 1/2 year old loves to wander and explore our back yard. While I’m sipping lemonade and ignoring her. Every once in a while, she says, “Look at this, mommy!” and I jump up and go wonder over a spider or flower with her. Would her time be better spent with me shoving flashcards of the alphabet in her face? I kind of feel the same way about “spiritual formation.” It will happen, naturally.

    Not to say that structured learning isn’t important. It is. I’m a teacher for goodness sake. But every minute of every day does not need to be structured and “intentional.” We need to make room for spontaneity, go with the flow sometimes.

    I think that parents are far too hyped up about worrying about every little thing. I don’t think that previous generations of parents worried so dang much? Maybe I am wrong about that. Seems like most kids turn out pretty ok. Even the ones that “stray” from the path of righteousness. I know a lot of people my age who had a period of rebellion from their Christian childhoods. They’re all devout Christians now.

    Maybe every little action we take or don’t take doesn’t need to be imbued with so much import that we live in constant fear of making mistakes. Where’s the room for God to work? For grace?


  15. Robyn, I totally agree. My sincere hope is to help my children develop a genuine 2-way relationship with God and Christ and not some recited, memorized fact sheet of a Christian education. The only way, I think, to do that is to model it. To discuss our challenges. To discuss our ethical dilemmas… to model how to problem-solve using Christ’s examples (at an age-appropriate level, of course!) Besides, what a better opportunity for showing the magnificence of creation than to marvel at that spider and its home, or at the flower? To point out that those were made by God, the beautiful colors, the symmetry, the asymmetry (whichever applies). That will teach the glory of God so much more quickly then memorizing verses…


  16. Posted by Cindy on May 5, 2009 at 8:37 am

    I can’t help but think that how we approach spiritual formation in our children has a lot to do with our personalities. Those who are structured and disciplined will take that approach with their children in every area. Those of us who are laid back and not terribly structured and disciplined will bring that into our parenting. God knows how we are made and that we are dust–all of us. For me the key has been trying to live out my faith daily not only in my public life, but in my private life. My children know me. They’ve been in church every Sunday (for the most part) and Sunday school. We’ve prayed together–a lot. And they are finding their own relationships with Jesus. They are now 16, 19 and 22. They are all walking the way I would, but at their core they know the truth, and that God loves them and Jesus died for them. They are working it out. Just like in every area of their lives, I’ve tried to give them the tools to live the life that God created them to live.

    I think as parents we think we have a lot more “control” over our children and their choices than we actually do. They have free will too, and will have to make their own choices. I believe our job is to provide them with example, and love, and the knowledge that God has a purpose for them that only they can fulfill and only through Him. We really can’t control what, in the end, they choose to do with all that.


  17. Posted by Carol H. on May 5, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I second what Kristi said. I wasn’t advocating work sheets! It’s all about modeling language that parents can use with their kids. Believe it or not there are some parents (me included) who didn’t know that the words you should use out loud should sound something like: “Wow, what a beautiful flower. God sure made beautiful flowers. I wonder why God made that flower red?” Or to bring in Bible stories to things that happen in everyday life. For example, your family is going on a trip. Bring up the trip that Jesus took to Jerusalem as a young boy. Ask questions like: What do you suppose Jesus brought on his trip to Jerusalem when he was a boy? What do you suppose his parents told him to look out for?
    Remember how the Samaritans were despised by Jews.  What do you suppose Jesus had to say about them as a boy? …
    The kinds of questions that enable digging into a story and what it teaches us about God.

    I wish someone had taught me this sort of stuff when my kids were younger.


  18. Posted by April G. on May 7, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I am of the opinion that some things are more out of our control than we think they are. I know plenty of parents who kill themselves trying to do everything “right” and their children chose to make bad decisions anyway. Adam and Eve were the first children to stray, and every child has been doing the same since. My parents were far from perfect. I grew up in a single-parent household with a mentally unstable, acoholic mother, but yet I have chosen to make healthy decisions (for the most part). I chose to become a Christian young in life and that decisions has sustained me through many storms. It certainly wasn’t my family life that did the trick.

    I like Robyn’s description of sitting in the yard watching her daughter play. I do the same thing. And I agree that spriitual formation is a lot more about God working in the lives of our children than us. We can help facilitate, but ultimately the relationship doesn’t include us. It is between God and the child. It is my goal to be as transparent and encouraging as I can as I model Christian life to my kids – failures and all.


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