The Secret to Raising Faithful Kids

By Jessica Wolstenholm

I want you to pause for a minute and ask yourself: what is “faithfulness?”

I tried to answer this question the other day, and it was surprisingly hard to define. Although “faithfulness” is a fruit of the Spirit and a basic Christian term, I struggled to pin it down. Maybe it’s this, I thought. Well, on second thought, maybe it’s this. I went back and forth for awhile.

I checked with Merriam-Webster, which defines faithfulness as “steadfast in affection or allegiance.” Then, I asked my husband, who has a Ph.D. in theology, and he answered, “It means conformity to Christ.” These are two very different ways of defining faithfulness, but I think both are correct: “faithfulness” is a steadfast devotion that shapes every aspect of our lives.

Perhaps one of the reasons “faithfulness” is so hard to define is that it’s not a virtue our culture esteems. Not in practice, anyway. Within the last generation or two, we have become a people averse to faithfulness. Take my grandparents, for example. My grandfather had the same job for thirty years because he was faithful to his company. My grandparents went to the same church for fifty years, because they were faithful to their church. And my grandparents were married for over 60 years because they were faithful to each other.

That was my grandparents’ generation, but in my generation, things have changed, and faithfulness is a dying discipline. We float from job to job and church to church, searching for the ones we like best. Our marriages are struggling under the decline in faithfulness as well.

All of this begs the question: how do we turn the tide? How do we raise up a generation of children who know how to be faithful to Christ, and each other? Here are two suggestions:

First, model it. We cannot expect our children to understand faithfulness, let alone embody it, if we are not practicing faithfulness ourselves. This means we need to get serious about committing to God and His church. If we bounce from church to church, our children will probably do the same. If we go to church once a month, our children will probably do the same. And if we model a faithfulness to Christ that is inconsistent or hypocritical—such as attending church every Sunday, but neglecting Christ in the details of our lives—our kids will probably do the same. The pull of culture is strong, and faithfulness is not a societal virtue, but we can resist that influence with our own priorities and lives.

Second, pray for it. Faithfulness is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22), which means faithfulness is just that: a fruit of the Spirit. In other words, we cannot produce faithfulness in our children. Faith is always a gift from God (Eph. 2:8), so we must plead for it in ourselves and our kids.

Now, the second point is an important counter-balance to the first, because it relieves parents of a burden we were never meant to bear. On the one hand, we must be faithful stewards of our children, and do our best to model faithfulness to Christ; on the other hand, we cannot make our children faithful. We cannot put something in them that is only the Spirit’s to give. Between that truth, and the truth of our children’s free will, parents must remember that even when we do our best, our children might stray. They might reject the faith, and this is not our fault. Even the most faithful Christians have had children leave the faith.

That is why the “secret” to raising faithful kids is, ultimately, the grace of God. We are dependent on Him alone, and all the best parenting tactics in the world cannot disqualify us from needing His mercy. It’s a paradox of sorts—the balance between personal responsibility and God’s sovereignty—but it’s a tension we are called to parent within. So go on modeling faithfulness with everything you’ve got, resisting the pull of a culture captivated by instability and whim. But at the end of the day, surrender your children to God with the knowledge that He alone is the giver of faith, and He is not a stingy giver.

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