Should you teach faith or train on faith as a parent?
There is a difference and let’s go over that now.
Over a year ago we wrote a post on what to do when your child starts to question faith.
The post has driven a ton of discussion on social media because of what Mark Gregston, co-founder of heartlight ministries and host of the Parenting Today’s Teens radio show had to say.
What is Faith Today?
According to Wikipedia, “one can define faith as confidence or trust in a particular system of religious belief, within which faith may equate to confidence based on some perceived degree of warrant, in contrast to a definition of faith as being belief without evidence.”
When looking specifically at Christianity, Christians believe that faith is not static but causes one to learn more about God and to grow.
But things have changed a LOT over the years.
As Mark Gregston explains, when he grew up, it was expected that you attend church weekly, and that you were there at least 52 times a year. Today, you’re considered a regular churchgoer if you attend church 17 times a year.
And while most adults today were just told “how things are,” kids today have been raised to challenge what they hear. Which means they’re struggling with faith more than past generations.
So how can you, as a parent, help your child to struggle and still come out with a strong faith?
The key is to know when to stop teaching and start training.
How to Teach Faith vs. Train Faith
Now, I realize that the word “train” can be kind of misleading. (You may be envisioning your children marching in unison in the backyard right now.)
But actually, the definition of train is teaching a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over a period of time.
When you have young kids, your job as parents is to teach them, to share information. But that has to change as your kids become adolescents.
Teens want to take all of that information that you’ve been feeding them throughout their childhoods and apply it. What’s the real-world application of the scripture that they’ve grown up with? And how does it fit into the tough issues that they’re facing every single day in our modern world?
Your role, as a parent, is to help them put actions to what they’ve learned in their youth.
This means that you need to be sharing more than wisdom.
This means you need to start training and offering guidance rather than just teaching.
You start letting your kids make more decisions about their lives rather than telling them how to live.
You let them take greater responsibility for their lives rather than you just doing everything for them.
You quit telling them things and start sharing stories from your own life.
You make sure that they have the opportunity to observe what it’s like to be a man or woman of God and give them real life examples.
As Mark says, “They want to see the validity of the application of why they’re needing to engaging this faith they have in the world they live in.”
Final Thoughts on Teaching Versus Training on Faith
Kids today live in a world that’s based on appearances and performance.
Look at social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat and TikTok (formerly Musical.ly). These platforms are all about appearances.
And when they walk into church today, while we see a contemporary service, they just think it’s the same that they’re seeing everywhere else.
What they really need is to see the real-world application of scripture and parents who can embody what it actually means to be a man or woman of God. Kids need to be able to observe what they look like in real life. They also need to have the freedom to struggle and figure things out for themselves.
That’s why it’s so important, as parents, that we switch from teaching to training when our kids reach adolescence. This will give them the experience and guidance they need to wrestle with and embrace their faith.