Can I Share My Faith With My Kids?

Certain conversations have a way of staying inside my head.

One such conversation was about faith and its meaning. We were speaking with Duncan, a Chinese man who was visiting my parents’ home in West Michigan. I was in high school at the time. It was 2003.

Duncan was the father of our exchange student and visited to spend time with us, the hosts, and with his daughter, who we had supported during her time in America.

During his brief stay, we delved into the topic of faith.

Amidst the conversation, Duncan told us that one of his biggest regrets in life was not having imparted faith to his daughters.

That’s the part that stuck with me.

And now, over a decade later, having witnessed the first six months of our son’s life, I have become convinced that imparting faith to one’s children is vital.

Why? Because I have experienced God. I have witnessed God’s work in the lives of others. Jesus Christ is my role model yet also my Savior. He is also a friend. I really do want people to know about this, and our son is one of those people!

Now let’s take a step back.

Various families take various approaches when it comes to parenting. Some families allow their children to sort of “make their own way” and figure things out. Telling themselves they don’t want to restrict their children, they allow them to explore and encourage them to check out all kinds of faith systems, allthewhile making sure they assure their kids that no religion is superior to the other.

That’s one approach. Here’s another.

Some families are terrified that their kids will question their faith. They’re scared that another faith system will become attractive, so they make sure to create barriers against those other faiths. They may emphasize the negative aspects of other faiths and underscore the truths of their own beliefs and the significant leaders in their own theological and spiritual leaders.

Both sets of parents care about their kids and desire for their progeny to flourish. That’s not in question. What’s in question is this: how should a family guide their children spiritually?

This NPR interview tackles this question. I end up thinking much like Kara Powell, author of Sticky Faith, an influential book [and blog] on the process of imparting faith to the young. Listen and check it out if you have time.

Anyway, as a Christian, I think of Jesus as the ultimate. His teachings are true, and his provenance is divine; he’s God’s Son. But how should I communicate this to my children?

Here are several key steps I feel compelled to take ::

  1. Trust God.

When Silas was baptized, it was a mysterious way for God to say, “I’ll take care of Silas.” We took him to the feet of our Savior, and we trust that God will work through his power to bring Silas to an awareness, first, then a simple trust, and then strong confidence in his Creator. And we trust that God will use us in this process.

  1. Model the spirituality that I desire for my child to eventually own.

It starts very close to home–in my soul, actually. My wife and I need to be the kind of people who embody faith in every aspect of life. It’s how we treat strangers. It’s how we talk about people who aren’t in the room–especially people with whom we may not fully agree. It’s our deeds and our words and our inner predisposition.

  1. Connect to a community of faith–in my case, a church–where other people are doing the same thing, and allow them to help with the parenting process.

Asking other Christians to intentionally mentor our son is one way to mitigate the problem of family systems. See, no matter how hard Kaile and I try, we will unwittingly pass on our bad habits to our son. In our tradition, it’s called “sin.” When we humbly admit our own issues and permit other people to speak into our child’s life, there are new opportunities for transformation, and we trust and pray that God will work through our community.

We cannot foist faith on our children; instead, we invite.


And the alternative is terrifying. Think about how many systems for understanding the world exist! Peruse a newspaper or Flipboard or Instagram or turn on the tube and you’ll be greeted with a host of organizations seeking to disciple your child and offer their spiritual wisdom:

*Exercise is the key to happiness!

*Money is the goal, for it brings about so much opportunity for relationships!

*The right job will bring you the sense of purpose your heart longs for!

If we are unintentional with our childrens’ faith formation, we leave the task to the next most attractive influencer. Maybe their peers will be the ones who guide them in uncertain paths. Maybe it will be a really nice group of people that get lost in mind-altering substances. Maybe it will be a questionable website. Maybe they’ll stumble into Zoroastrianism. Hard to say, isn’t it?

I think we’ll introduce Silas to Jesus.

Top 10 Things I Learned in Seminary [#1] [Final Post in Series!]

Theology has teeth.

This is what I’ve learned throughout seminary. Here’s why.

Having graduating seminary, I have continued reading books within the world of theology. But I have also ventured into new territory. Recently I finished Annie Dillard’s classic Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Before that, I devoured Eric Metaxas’s eponymous 2010 biography of Bonhoeffer.

My college chaplain, Ron Kopiko, always said that we say what we believe but we do what we value. If one is interested in finding someone who genuinely did what they valued, look no further than the unassuming Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


Born early in the 20th century, he grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men just as a then-obscure Austrian man grew in hate and anger and favor not with God but with a few nationalistic henchmen. As Adolph Hitler carefully assumed control in a debt-laden and politically compromised Germany, Bonhoeffer pursued his vocation in pastoral ministry and professorship.

Before it dawned on most of the elites in Germany, Bonhoeffer sensed Hitler had the worst of intentions. Wooing over the clergy in Germany who were willing to pay a high tax for a very fragile peace, Hitler did his best to spiritually legitimate his actions by subverting Christian beliefs. Attempting to obscure the reality that Jesus himself was Jewish, the Hitler-subservient Reich Church of Germany tossed out essentially the entire Old Testament. It simply didn’t fit with their current goals of destroying lives and calling on the German people to denigrate and destroy the Jewish people. Jewish theology, to them, had no place in their version of “Christian” practice.

True, many leaders in the church bowed to Hitler’s increasingly uncompromising demands. But there were many brave clergy who said no to Hitler. Risking income, status in the community, and their lives, Bonhoeffer carefully coordinated a resistance plan to Hitler’s grab for spiritual power. He leveraged his influence in various international church councils while petitioning his fellow German believers to practice a bolder faith. Bonhoeffer helped sift out the true disciples, the true Christians whose faith meant coordinate action.

Eventually, Bonhoeffer realized Hitler was politically unstoppable. The way he had managed to leverage nationalistic fervor through propaganda made any kind of resistance futile. Begrudgingly and with great fear for his soul, he became a part of a plan to assassinate Hitler. This was for the sake of the Jews, the disabled, the homosexuals, and all other people groups Hitler sought to exterminate, but it was to him a duty to God.

Bonhoeffer’s beliefs were strong enough that he risked everything–even his standing before God, the way he saw it–to live out his discipleship after Jesus.

There are few people who, like Bonhoeffer, have taken Jesus literally when he said, “take up your cross and follow me[1].” He was imprisoned for several years and eventually hanged on April 9th, 1945. Bonhoeffer’s no to Hitler meant a yes to the call of Jesus Christ.

May we, as Christians living in the 21st century, search for ways to take up our own crosses. Theology is not abstract or distant or irrelevant; at its core, our theology informs how we act in the world. And whether or not we talk about theological things, we say what we believe then do what we value.

Bonhoeffer valued Jesus.

That’s the start. Then comes the taking-up-our-cross part.


[1]Bible, New Testament, Matthew 16:24.

Top 10 Things I Learned in Seminary [#3]

Hilariously, as a kid I’d mistake the word “seminary” for “cemetery.” Naturally, later in life, there was the mental connection that ensued: were these two terms more similar than different?

Theological studies may not sound exciting, just like chemistry or math or art history may sound boring. This all depends on the hearer. I have a relative who is fairly wealthy on account of his recording studio. His studio does jingles and background pads for the likes of Apple, McDonalds, and Kelloggs. This may sound boring to some. But it may sound exciting to others. It’s all in the hearing.

Whether or not theological studies has its share of excitement is beside the point. What I want to get at is this: can theology professors profess both academic biblical knowledge and spiritual vivacity?

My answer is an unequivocal yes.

Though I cannot speak for every seminary out there, I can speak from my own observations during my six years at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

One professor I had was very heavy-handed about his beliefs. He respected the people with whom he did not see eye-to-eye, but he had a very strong opinion on all things theological. Another professor had a lot of baggage from his ultra-conservative background, and at times it showed.

Each professor had their share of difficulties. But even the professor with the strong opinions and the professor with the ultra-conservative background clung tightly to the message of Jesus. They really do seek to love their neighbor, and their enemy too. They really do seek to bring every action into alignment with their heartfelt beliefs.

The modeling I saw during my seminary years was probably more important than the content of the teaching. I saw women and men teaching who genuinely and passionately pursued the holiness of God made clear in Jesus.

I recall often the phrase my spiritual formation professor would use. She said, “spiritual practice is getting up to see the sun rise; it’s happening whether or not we take the time to see it.”

Spanish Sunrise

Indeed this is the case. When it comes to knowing God, there is a seeking involved. My professors understood Matthew 7:7-8:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

That’s Jesus speaking.

There is a whisper of Paul’s example found in I Corinthians 11:1:

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Something powerful, something resonant, exudes from those living the kind of life that is worth being imitated. I thank God for the women and men who, in the beginning of the 21st century, have sought to follow Jesus.

Especially, today, I thank God for my seminary professors.