Vintage is so in right now.
As a kind-of-hipster parent, I have even caught myself buying vintage toys for my son. Whether it’s the old wooden blocks, the classic jack-in-the-box, or a good old fashioned rubber ducky, I tend to be more inclined to get him something if there is a bit of nostalgia attached to it. I know he’s 1 ½ right now, but I think he appreciates the nostalgia as well.
This might surprise you, but the vintage movement—the desire for something old, pre-modern, pre-bigger, better, flashier—is not merely a fad. It’s not just some hipster trend. The desire for a return to pre-modern things is an important element of understanding raising kids in a postmodern world.
As I communicated in my first postmodern parent post, the postmodern world is characterized by a rejection of the modern movement (amongst other things). It’s not just because rejecting things is cool. The culture we live in has lost faith in modern culture’s ability to do what it promises. Included in this modern rejection are a lot of the current church trends.
I’m going to suggest something that might seem counterintuitive to many parents. If we want to connect our children’s hearts to God, if we want to cultivate a long term, life-directing relationship with Christ in our children, older is better.
Let me explain. For the last 20 years or so, the trend has been to isolate youth culture within a youth group setting for church, to make youth groups feel like Miley Cyrus concerts, and do everything we can to make sure they are doing the things Christians do. Given the amount of time and money spent on trying to reach children, most church leaders now are being met with overwhelming disappointment in the results.
Recent studies, such as Fuller’s Youth Institutes Sticky Faith, have explored this phenomenon and come back with the same suggestion. Older is better. There is a postmodern push for pre-modern religion that we as parents need to take seriously.
Here are three things I think can help us use vintage faith to form our children into lasting disciples of Christ:
- Small is the New Big – Our kids don’t want church to be a rock concert. They don’t want to be a nameless face in a large crowd. One of the most significant things we as parents can do to help instill lasting faith in our children is to incorporate them into a smaller community of believers. This doesn’t mean we need to leave our mega churches, it just means we need to be at a church that values breaking the discipleship process into smaller group settings. Our postmodern kids want to be known by the people leading them and know those they are growing with.
- A Clear Gospel Basis – When being a Christian means accomplishing a to do list, the postmodern generation loses interest. Behaviorism is subtle. There is the obvious legalistic religion—don’t’ smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do—but there is also the spiritual discipline legalism. Read your bible, go to church, pray, serve. All of these things are hopefully things our children will do, but if that is how Christianity is defined they will lose interest. When our children asks us what it means to be a Christian, don’t answer, “Being a Christian means I try to follow Christ in how I act. I read my Bible and pray. I serve in church and give of my time to others.” Instead, answer them, “I’m a Christian because God loved me enough to send his only Son to die a sinner’s death on the cross and conquer death through his resurrection.” The focus needs to be placed back on Christ and away from our response to Him.
- Intergenerational Spirituality – Probably one of the most significant and surprising findings by studies like Sticky Faith is the importance of intergenerational spirituality for the long-term spiritual health of our children. The modern push to create an alternative youth religious culture to meet the direct needs of children might be the very thing pushing them away from the faith as they get older. Postmodern children need to see faith working in older people. They don’t care if the truth of the Bible is consistent or logical, they just want to know that it works. Because of that, we as parents need to work hard to involve our children in the religious life of multiple generations. Have them meet with some of your Christian friends, let them observe you in community group, make it a point for them to come to “Big Church” as well as go to their youth groups.
Our children need a vintage faith. They need church practices with nostalgia attached to them. So while we’re considering the 1940’s style Lincoln logs for our children, let’s be sure and throw in some old time religion while we’re at it.