share this post

4 Ways to Help our Kids Own Their Faith

It was an intense conversation.

I’m not sure exactly how it started, but I do remember the “not-so-subtle” feeling of being placed on the defensive before I knew a verbal fight had even begun.

I think the initial volley was something like, “Why do you believe so-and-so are going to hell?” At which point I responded, “I didn’t know I believed that.” After about 5 minutes of interaction, or mostly accusation, I finally asked the question, “Do you want to know what I actually believe?”, to which I received the quick response: “No.”  

My son and I were working through the deep waters of adolescent formation known as “differentiation.”  Yes, he was trying to figure out what he actually believed when it came to his faith, but part of that process was pushing away from my faith to create space for his own beliefs.  

While the home is the most important environment for healthy faith formation, it is not the only one. Helping our kids grow up in faith is a community endeavour. At certain stages, the community may have a louder voice than the home.

In Renegotiating Faith, we defined differentiation as the process of setting out identity markers between you and your family of origin and sometimes your close community of origin. It is the idea of trying to create space to make identity and faith your own.

It could be as simple as pursuing a sport or activity that is different than the one other family members engage in and enjoy. (For our son, it was not wanting either parent to coach the sport he was playing.)

Or it could be as complex as exploring new options for faith, new environments of faith practice, or simply environments of faith where our child was known more by his first name than by his last name.  

Of course, this journey can be unsettling for us as parents. We get the sense that we are losing control (which we are... and probably need to be), and at the same time feel like we are being rejected (which we probably aren’t, and don’t need to be).

Our tendency during these times can be to enforce more rules, but what we probably need to do is pursue more relationship: both our own, and the presence of other healthy relationships we trust.

So, what does that look like, specifically when it comes to faith?  Let me give you a few ideas:

Avoid being defensive

For our teens, sometimes constructing their own faith includes trying to deconstruct our faith. When the hard questions come (and sometimes accusations), fight to not become defensive. 

Ask follow up questions, like “Why would you say that?” or “What do you mean by...” or “Have you thought about…?”

Don’t feel like you need to win the moment. Sometimes we win by simply extending the moment, or keeping the doors of conversation open by not becoming defensive.

Invite others into the journey  

While the home is the most important environment for healthy faith formation, it is not the only one. Helping our kids grow up in faith is a community endeavour. At certain stages, the community may have a louder voice than the home.

Encourage others in the community that share your values to continue to be present with your child.  And encourage your children to lean into communities that share your values. 

Affirm healthy environments of faith where you are not present 

As has been said before, places where adolescents are known mostly by their first name instead of their last name can be places where faith grows deep.

While some kids love having their parents volunteer at their youth groups, many need space they can call their own, and that is okay. Sometimes that space is youth group (and it could be with a different church than your own), or a retreat like Youth Quake where they can figure out faith alongside youth workers and other youth their age. Sometimes it’s mission trips, and many times it is camp.

Encourage your kids to embrace and enjoy these spaces, and make them their own.

Continue to model authentic faith in the context of authentic relationship  

When we did the Hemorrhaging Faith research project, we found that most young adults with deep faith grew up in homes where they observed authentic faith modelled by their parents. If our kids are going to observe authentic faith, we will need to be in spaces where they can see it modelled.

That means continuing to embrace shared experiences. Create opportunities to talk about successes and failures when it comes to living out our faith in the mundane. Be cognizant of the fact that the small practices and habits we hold do not go unnoticed. We are always being observed.

Our win is when our kids make their faith their own. But that journey can be unsettling. Stay the course. Embrace community. When they seem to be pushing away from us, know that God is at work, drawing them to Himself.  

For more Parent's Blog, subscribe to our Parent's Newsletter emails! Do you have questions for Sid about parenting and Renegotiating Faith? Email them to communications@briercrest.ca!

Sid Koop

Sid Koop is an alumnus of Briercrest Seminary who has been involved in youth ministry for over 19 years. He is the founder and executive director of Truth Matters, a ministry devoted to helping the next generation see and experience the truth of Jesus Christ. He is a key member of the Renegotiating Faith research partnership. Currently, Truth Matters runs 8 youth worker training conferences across Canada each year under the title Canadian Youth Workers Conference.

share this post
Renegotiating Faith Discipleship Church
  • Photo courtesy of Robin Worrall on Unsplash
    June 8, 2020

    Making Friends with Social Media

    beta_sid_1.jpg
    By Sid Koop

    As social distancing continues, many families feel forced to live on social media in order to stay connected. Sid Koop discusses how families can build lasting digital discernment habits and why now is the right time to start.

  • Baptized at camp
    May 12, 2020

    Church, Don't Forget About Camp Ministry!

    willdmytrow.jpeg
    By William Dmytrow

    This summer, we all face the uncertainty of what distancing measures will still be in place due to COVID-19. Camps are no different, and their important ministry to this generation of youth and young adults needs our continued support.

  • Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
    April 21, 2020

    Closing the Gap on Social Distancing

    beta_sid_1.jpg
    By Sid Koop

    Even in a time of social distancing, activities related to smartphones and digital media are linked to less happiness in youth. Sid Koop shares advice on how to close this gap and help our kids towards social, mental, and spiritual health.

Anyone who wants to leverage their ministry, and influence for the Kingdom should take the MALM (Master of Arts in Leadership and Management). If you are serious about making a difference in this world, Briercrest's MALM is a great experience.
Andy Gabruch (Seminary)