As a father, I want my kids to see the goodness and kindness of God represented in my life. I think most Christian parents feel that way. At the same time, I want to cultivate the integrity of God in my kids… and in myself, including traits like justice, purity, excellence, and compassion.
If you’re a parent, you know with each new generation, it becomes increasingly difficult to foster good character in your kids, who are constantly bombarded with messages of seduction, greed, materialism and self-centeredness.
So, how do we fight the good fight? How can we raise kids, who love good values and hate evil, in a corrupt world?
You can make hundreds of choices to shelter your kids:
- Some families homeschool their kids, to avoid exposing them to the public system.
- Others forego cable TV in their homes.
- Some make sure their kids stay active in church and community groups.
Personally, I think the best way to cultivate that love for goodness and truth in your kids, is to let them see it in action – in the REAL world.
Real Faith In the Real World
If you’re like me, you probably scoot your little ones behind you, like a momma hen. The idea of sending your children out into the world feels like an episode of one of those dark, dystopian, post-apocalyptic shows people watch. You know, the ones where brooding, vindictive bullies harass the innocent. Doesn’t sound very safe, does it? But that’s where the Gospel comes to life – out in the trenches, where people need it.
You may go to an amazing church, filled with kind and selfless believers, who encourage one another to draw closer to God. I’ve been to that church and loved it. But if I’m really honest with myself, it’s easy to take the transforming power of the Gospel for granted, when I’m always safe. I don’t have to grow my faith if my needs are always met – abundantly!
Safety breeds complacency and our kids grow bored with it. How do I know this? Because middle school youth groups are smaller than those in children’s church. High school youth groups are smaller than middle school groups, and after high school, the retention rate for college-aged young adults nationwide is in the single-digits.
Kids who grow up seeing faith-in-action through love – laying of hands on the sick, praying for addicts, caring for the poor, feeding orphans and rescuing slaves – have a different kind of energy fueling their faith than do their peers. Seeing God move in supernatural ways – first-hand out in the world – far outstrips watching superheroes in a computer-generated fantasy. Participating in the Gospel makes it REAL to young minds.
I have met many teens who rejected the greed and self-centeredness of western culture. The one thing most of them have in common, is their parents allowed them to see real poverty first-hand and it opened their eyes to how shallow and empty a self-indulgent life truly is.
Take Reece, for example.
Reece Gets Real
Reece and her mom recently spent a week in Nicaragua, where we’re building 1,000 homes for the homeless. She smelled the burning stench of rotting garbage and saw the children picking through trash at the local dump, looking for something to eat. She saw the mothers with babies, digging for something they could clean-up and sell for a meal. She walked into the ramshackle huts they had cobbled together from scraps of wood, rusty sheet metal, and old tarps.
In the face of that reality, she forgot about the material things she wanted at home and began caring about these people. Here’s an excerpt from a speech she later delivered at her school:
“I have a dream that there will no longer be homeless people in the country of Nicaragua. When I recently went down there I saw parents who were homeless, that were fearful to meet us because they were ashamed of how they couldn’t afford a home, clothes or food for their family. I also experienced something that no one should ever have to go through.
“I saw people living in a dump, rummaging through garbage to find food, water, or possibly, even a toy that a child wanted. I saw kids playing with a toy that they got out of the dump. My younger brother got that exact toy as a gift. Guess what they used out of a fire truck, school bus, dump truck and construction site? They used the dump truck because that was all their knew, sadly. The kids down there would think that a day-old throw-out piece of chicken was a treasure, and what do we do with food? We throw it away because it doesn’t taste good or we refuse to eat it because it looks gross. Sadly, the only difference between us and them, is that they were born into poverty in Nicaragua, and we were blessed to be living here in the United States, where we don’t go through the dump for food, instead we go to the store and find it. Think about how you could have been that kid in the dump, wouldn’t you want a home that you felt safe and secure in?
“So I have a dream to build them homes by raising funds. There are 2 million homeless and poor people in the country of Nicaragua, causing them to be the second most poor country in the western hemisphere. Each home for the homeless costs very little, $5,200 per home. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” I have personally campaigned to build five homes for them, and this is just the beginning; my dream is that one day all 2 million homeless or poor people in the country of Nicaragua will have a home.”
Grown-ups, what are WE doing for others? More importantly, what are we teaching our kids to do for others? How do we inspire them to live out their faith? How do we sow our values into them?
Let’s start by following Reece’s lead. She set up a simple fundraising page and built a brand for her homemade laundry soap – after school and on weekends. So what can WE do? Visit KingsRansom.org to learn how you can make a lasting difference in a hurting world – and in the lives of your children.