It was a rainy day outside of Chancellorsville, Virginia. I had just turned thirteen. To my left across the train tracks was a non-descript 19th century home where a man died 134 years before. The man’s name was Stonewall Jackson, and despite his being a general for the Confederacy, he was respected by all to be one of the best General’s America has ever produced.
My dad and I were in our car soaking wet. After having ran out to peer through the windows of the General’s final resting place, we now sat in the car with the rain pouring around us reading Jeff Shaara’s chapter on Jackson’s death. I was a Civil War buff growing up, so I had read about his death before. But this was different. This was a moment that someone writes into stories, and I was living it.
Every child is writing his or her story. The school they go to, the friends they have, the hobbies they maintain will all be a part of the legacy they leave. As parent’s, we have a role in writing their story. My dad could have brought me an article to read about the battle of Chancellorsville and Stonewall Jackson’s tragic fate, and I may have remembered the facts just fine. But instead he helped me live the history. Instead of the knowledge being the boring part that always gets glossed over, it became one of those moments in a movie you rewind and watch over and over again.
Our children’s generation is in need of a better story. Their generation is desperate for faith to be an adventure not a statement, for values to mean more than a catch phrase, and for education to be more than a series of books, tests and papers. I am no expert and this is merely a ventured guess, but I think one of the most glaring problems facing the youth of today when it comes to religion and Christian values is boredom.
Our kids are bored with the story we are helping them write. The religious interactions we provide are often times cliché, the means of learning trite, and the Bible we present has no more depth than the felt board Bible Studies presented in Sunday school. So how do we change? How can we help our children write a better story that will draw them closer to God’s heart? Here are a few things you as a parent can write into your child’s life to help cure the pervasive boredom of this generation.
1. Risky Adventures
One of the most important elements of a good story is the presence of risk. Indiana Jones would not be a good story if instead of finding treasure in the Amazon with stones rolling at him he just analyzed the treasures in the museum. This may seem counterintuitive to your role as a parent, but its important to allow some danger into the life of your child. I’m not suggesting you let your kids run around with knives. What I mean is that by protecting them from any and all scenarios through which they could get hurt, we are hurting them more by making their story boring, especially when it comes to faith.
When I was 17, I traveled to India for two weeks with a Missions organization by myself. People thought my parents were crazy for letting me go. There were risks in traveling, dangers in the area I was going, and the chance that things could go catastrophically wrong. But on that trip I learned about faith, human need, poverty, and courage in a way I had never learned before. I preached my first sermon in India and felt a call into ministry that helped dictate my life’s direction. As risky as that trip was for me, the greater risk would have been not going and missing out on an adventure that changed my life and deepened my faith. To write a better story for our kids, we need to encourage risky adventures.
2. Serve Together Consistently
The usual M. O. for spiritual training as a family is go to church together on Sundays, AWANA or Youth Group during the week, and maybe family Bible studies on Saturday morning. These are all good things, but I’m going to suggest these are not enough. As Christians, we can’t truly experience God’s passions unless we are consistently expending ourselves for the sake of others.
It’s great that our kids memorize Scripture, but if they don’t see how it is lived out in a way that costs something it will have a difficult time connecting. Volunteer once a month with an inner-city ministry together, go on a short term missions trip as a family, cook meals for refugees and immigrants in your cities, give up things you’re family wants to help hurting friends. Consistently serving together as a family will help the Bible come alive to kids and enrich the spiritual story being written into their lives.
3. Seek out Opportunities to Experience Knowledge
My wife and I live in Dallas. As our son Kyler gets older, I could easily pull up a website or get a book teaching him about Kennedy’s assassination. We could probably find the Zapruder film online and watch that together. That would be sufficient, but it wouldn’t be best. It would be better for me to put him in the car, drive him twenty minutes to Dealy Plaza, and show him where it happened. Kyler could stand where Lee Harvey Oswald stood in the Book Depository Building and look onto the street at the two subtle stripes painted to commemorate where Kennedy was shot.
The same goes for faith. If we really want a child to learn, whether they are young or teenagers, we need to do everything we can to help them experience the truths we’re trying to teach. I may have remembered that Stonewall Jackson died in a little bungalow outside of Chancellorsville, but after the experience, it’s a fact I will never forget. A good story is full of experiences that shape character. As parents we have the privilege of building those unique experiences into our kids and healing the boredom brought on by the predictable serial novels of Christianity lulling our children to sleep.