• James Werner

TWO MAJOR THREATS ATTACKING OUR FAMILIES

10 Strategies to overcome them


Parents, our children are growing up in a culture that has abandoned truth, morality and strong biblical principles. While there are many influences, I see apathy and lack of training as two primary threats attacking the family unit today. However, I have a message of hope and would like to share 10 strategies that will help us overcome these threats.


APATHY

"Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. State of indifference or suppression of emotions"


I was recently talking to a youth leader on a college campus here in Southern California and he said that most young people today are more excited about their new pair of Nike's than talking about anything related to God or religion. This is a sad commentary on our culture and there is probably a lot of truth to this statement. However, from my experience (and there seems to be research to substantiate it) there is still a ray of hope. There are many young people that are still open to reasonable explanations, but they also want authentic relationships. This should give courage to those of us who have a heart for the youth of today's generation.


So how do we address this apathy? It all starts with us!


1. Be Enthusiastic


Show your passion and excitement for God in front of your children. They are very observant and you generally cannot fool them. They know where you spend your time and what you are excited about. Even if they do not share your same commitment, they cannot deny a consistent life that is on fire for the Lord. I have experienced that passion and enthusiasm can be very contagious. The origin of the word comes from the Greek word enthousiasmos, from "en-theos" which means in God, or possessed by God! Nobody should be more enthusiastic than a Christian who is walking with and possessed by God. We should be living our lives in such a way that people want what we have!


2. Be Consistent


Put a high priority on fellowship and spiritually focused activities.

The Christian life isn't just about Sundays!

Of course going to church on Sunday is very important and our children should see that this is a critical and consistent part of your routine. However, Sundays are not the only day we should be focused on God. And it is not the responsibility of the pastor or youth leader to train our children. While they play an important role, it is up to us parents to be the primary influence training our children. I am reminded of the passage in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 that reads:


"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

This passage tells me our faith and relationship with God is part of our daily life. It is so critical to implement this into our own family units. We should be taking every opportunity to share and equip our children to know and love God. We can find "life lessons" in our daily activities. God's handiwork is all around us. A special note to fathers: You need to be the spiritual leader of your home. Spend time reading the Bible together as a family. Pray regularly together. Talk about life. Initiate deeper conversations. Spend time together as a family and have fun. Love and cherish their mother, your wife. Avoid being hypocritical. Again, your children will be quick to observe your behavior. Hypocrisy will always destroy your testimony for Christ.


3. Be Relevant


Talk about issues that they are experiencing every day in their world. It is surprising what our young people have to deal with on a daily basis in school, in the workforce and in their general interactions with their peer group. Here are just a few of the characteristics of this current Generation Z:


  • They live in a post truth culture.

  • Only half of teens today believe gender is defined by one's sex at birth. They believe it is a social construction that culture creates. You choose what to identify as.

  • Over 80% of students agree that same sex couples should have the right to marry.

  • They have a different view of the family unit

  • Their worldview is post-Christian

  • They feel overwhelmed. They are impatient.

  • Social media is one of the defining characteristics of this generation

  • They are drawn to causes and movements

  • They are diverse and have an entrepreneurial spirit.

  • Only 4% of Gen Z has a biblical worldview

  • They are exposed to more competing worldviews-at earlier ages-than any generation in history.

{Source: So The Next Generation Will Know - McDowell & Wallace}


These are just a few characteristics and some great issues to lovingly and patiently communicate about with your children. Remember, these are young people that God loves. Everyone has a unique story. Take the time to invest in their lives. We need to build relationships and listen. Stay positive, stable and always point them to truth, but remember to speak the truth in love.


4. Be transparent


Tell your stories that they can relate to. They want to see you are real and have imperfections and weaknesses. Show how God has used you in spite of these imperfections. Ask questions without judging and try to find things you have in common. My children have enjoyed when I share experiences when I was their age. Since they were not there, it seems intriguing to them. Also share your excitement about when they entered your life. Relay stories about their birth and different experiences you remember when they were very young. A favorite activity is to go through old photo albums with them. These "old fashioned" pictures are "new" to them. They have grown up in a digital world. All of this shows you are real and genuinely care about them. It is just another tactic to help diminish the apathy that is invading our families.


5. Pray Constantly


While these are not in any specific order, this should probably be at the top of the list. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "pray without ceasing". Also, James 5:16 assures us that "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." This is so important. I try to make a goal of daily spending concentrated time talking to the Lord about everything. I share my desires, hopes, fears, thankfulness, etc. I ask for wisdom and direction. I pray for my wife and children for safety and wisdom as well. My goal for my children is to raise joyful, secure, well balanced and confident children that want to serve the Lord and are growing and developing their own God given talents. I certainly cannot do it on my own and I need to ask God for His help. I know He loves them even more than me and wants what is best for them.


TRAINING


Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."


6. Equip them with truth


Teaching is a part of training but there is a significant difference. Teaching your children is providing them with information and helping them gain knowledge. Training takes this knowledge and equips them to apply it in the real world. Teaching is important, but we must train our children if they are going to engage the culture and be effective.


Recently my son was trying out for a spot on the Little League Roster in our city. He is relatively new to the sport and has little "real life" experience. I spent many hours "teaching" him about the game of baseball. We talked about the various positions on the field. I explained to him about outs and innings. We discussed singles, doubles, triples and home runs. We talked about bunts, walks and sacrifice fly balls. I even drew him various diagrams. We watched YouTube instructional videos. I explained how to swing a bat and the importance of shifting your weight and driving the ball with your back foot planted. I explained the importance of charging a slow ground ball hit in your direction. This was all "teaching". It is a very necessary part of learning the game.


However, we took it to another level when we started to "train". We knew there was a date on the calendar for the upcoming tryouts. I took my son to the baseball diamond at our local park. I started hitting him ground balls. We played catch. I pitched him live fastballs and trained him in every facet of the game I could think of. This was as close to the "real thing" as he could get. We did this for many days and several hours at a time. Then the day came when he was really put to the test. All of this training paid off as he successfully performed and completed the drills that the coaches had prepared. He passed the test and made the team! The training had prepared him to accomplish his goal.


As parents, this is our responsibility when it comes to the more important areas of life like our faith and commitment to God. We need to equip them with knowledge, but then we need to train them and equip them with a biblical worldview so they can successfully navigate the culture with a confident faith. When the tests of life come, they will be ready. We need to prepare them for what they can expect. That leads me to my next point.


7. Expose them to bad ideas


This may sound confusing at first. We love our children and want to protect them from harmful exposure, right? So why would we want to expose them to bad ideas. The fact is, they are going to be exposed to bad ideas anyway. I want to be able to be proactive and have them hear the "bad ideas" from me first. I also want them to know there are answers to these questions. They do not need to be afraid. Even if they don't have all the answers, it is comforting to children to have a resource and know there are good answers.


I want to be the best Christian apologist that my children know!


For many years I have been breeding high quality AKC Golden Retrievers that have brought much enjoyment to their owners. Many have become service and therapy dogs that have provided much needed guidance and comfort. Obviously, we care for our animals and want to protect them. When my puppies are about 6 weeks old I start a regimen of vaccinations. Have you ever considered how a vaccination works? I am actually administering a small amount of controlled "poison" into their system such as Parvo, Distemper, Hepatitis, Adeno Virus, Parafluenza, etc. Why would I do this to a precious vulnerable puppy? Well, what happens is that their system builds up an immunity to this disease or "poison" or evil or whatever you want to call it. That way, down the road when the real disease comes their body is ready for it. They recognize it. They have "seen this before" and are equipped to handle it and usually it is not fatal.


Well, I am sure you understand the greater meaning to this illustration. This is what I want to do with my children when it comes to the lies, evil, or "poison" of our culture. I want to expose them to these bad ideas such as, if God is so good why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? The Bible is full of errors. Truth is relative. There are no moral absolutes. Faith is not compatible to science. Why would a loving God send someone to Hell? I want to have my children hear these claims from me. I want to teach them the truth and equip them to be able to answer them on their own. That way when they hear these things in high school or college it is not new to them. Like our puppies, they have built up an immunity. When these real challenges come, they can say "I have seen that before" and it will not destroy their faith. In fact, when you are equipped with the answers, it will produce a confident faith that you want to share.


8. Provide Security


All of this needs to be done in a safe and secure environment. Children need to know that they can ask any question and it will be taken seriously and they will be treated with respect. We need to make sure we are being "age appropriate" with our kids and not giving them more than they can handle. We need to provide the answers they need to hear. I recommend giving the AAA treatment to your children. That is: ATTENTION, AFFECTION,APPROVAL. This is an important part of the training process that builds confidence and security and will benefit them in their adult years. Spend lots of time with your kids, individually and collectively. Cultivate meaningful relationships. You will never regret the time you invest in your children. Your time lets them know they are important and valuable. Show them appropriate affection. Give them lots of hugs and let them know you think they are beautiful and handsome. Let them know you are proud of them. Catch them doing things right. They need to know you will always be there for them. You love them unconditionally. This security leads to a quiet secure confidence.


9. Create opportunities for them to engage the culture


This is one of the most important areas of training. Get creative and look for unique ways for them to get involved and help equip them to engage in the culture. This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few ideas:


Challenge your children to defend their faith


This may be in your family Bible reading. Read a chapter and then ask them specific questions about what you just read. You may also do some role playing. Ask them questions like, "Why do you believe there is a God?" "Why do you trust the Bible?" "Who is Jesus Christ? Was He just a man or is He God?" This is a time not only to teach "what" you believe, but "why" you believe it. This is a very valuable exercise and an opportunity to test your kids in a safe environment.


Take them to another church


This can be a great opportunity to reinforce what you have been teaching them, but sometimes it makes more of an impact coming from another source. It is also a good idea to take them to a church that may have a completely different worldview. This gives you an opportunity to discuss it later and test why this is or is not the worldview that lines up with the Bible.


Get them out of their normal environment and interact with the public


This may mean a visit to a college campus to talk to students about their worldview. It could be a trip to the beach or a local street fair or Market Night. Our church has regularly done this and I have seen fantastic results. We set up a booth and just pass out Bible tracts and give the gospel to those who will listen. We may ask a thought provoking question like, "Where are you going when you die?" It generates many great conversations and generally results in you digging into the Word of God to make sure you know what you believe and why.


Take your family to an apologetic conference


This is another great way to expose your family to some great training that is available. There are many fantastic Christian apologists that have a passion and desire to equip young people and parents alike to be prepared to defend the Christian worldview. This is also a great opportunity for your children to invite their friends and connect with other young people in a very intentional and structured environment.


Have a youth night in your home


This is another great way to connect with your local community. Your children can invite friends and you can be prepared to share some things that will help equip them to have a stronger faith. It is also a great way for parents to build bridges and develop relationships with your children's friends. You could even show a faith based movie which will plant a seed that God can use. Provide a friendly casual environment that is conducive to building bridges and gaining trust.


Find ways to serve


Go on a missions trip. Or get involved in your church's children ministry. Teach a class, which will force you to learn. Go to a hospital or visit elderly people in a senior care facility. It could involve serving food at a shelter or preparing care packages to the homeless. Get creative and find a need and fill it. This is a great way to show the love of God in a practical way. The Bible is true when it say that it is "more blessed to give than to receive".



10. Set the bar high


I have found that my children can do more than I generally require of them. That is why I have set the bar high and have seen great results. I have noticed many parents expect great things when it comes to academics or sports. They expect them to thrive in the workforce. So why when it comes to the more important matters such as their faith, would we expect anything less. I have tried to do this with my children. If you believe in them and properly equip them, they generally will do what it takes to be successful. I treat them like adults and they rise to the challenge. I think this approach makes our young people feel valued and respected and they want to please and are excited about the challenge.


IN CONCLUSION:


Many of us want to have a huge impact and change the world. While this is a lofty goal, I recommend something a little more attainable and quite frankly I believe more in line with Scripture. I believe the greatest impact we can have is within the walls of our own homes. Our culture is destroying the family unit. God has given us very clear instruction on how to build a Godly home. Proverbs 3:5,6 instructs us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path."


If God has blessed you with a family you have a tremendous responsibility. It all starts in the home. If we impact our family and motivate and equip them with a biblical worldview it will have a tremendous impact. Think if every family took this challenge seriously and obeyed the Scripture of bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Families make up communities, counties, states, countries and the world. Let's all focus on our individual responsibilities and just "bloom where we are planted." Focus on your immediate sphere of influence. If we implement the above strategies I believe the apathy will disappear and we will be trained and "equipped for every good work."


God Bless!

James Werner

Generation Equipped Ministries