Is Your Faith Contagious? 3 Things Teenagers Need To See In Their Parents

On a mission, I grabbed the Clorox wipes and hurried to the kitchen. All I could see was a teeming cesspool of germs. My daughter had just gotten over the flu and strep. So, I wiped down the refrigerator handles, the microwave, the faucets, door handles, and the knobs on the stove.

It has been a rough winter in our household. We have all been sick a lot. Thank goodness for the MinuteClinic! In-out-on antibiotics-and back to bed! And just my style . . . . no doctors!

Just like those pesky germs, our character, who we are, is likely to be contagious. Contagious to those around us, and contagious to our kids.

Think about it, have you ever caught yourself mimicking things your parents said or did during your childhood? We all have.

Our character is contagious. And if we are living a life in obedience to Christ, our faith will be contagious as well.

We, as Christian parents, are the first step in the equation of our kids’ faith. Whether our kids develop a personal, and passionate faith, or a casual, watered down faith, depends a great deal on the faith and character of Mom and Dad.

We are told that if we live by the Spirit we will bear fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22–23

If we long to reflect the image of Jesus in front of our kids, all of these characteristics should be our goal. However, there are three overarching themes in the character of Christ, under which everything else falls.

There are three characteristics of Christ that teenagers need to see in their parents to make following Him irresistible.

They must see . . .

1) Love

Kids must see their parents being people that love much. Love God, love their kids, and love others.

If someone asked you if you loved God, you would probably say, yes. We all would. But what does it really mean to love God? Love is not a feeling or a fact. As DC Talk sang back in the ‘90s, “Luv is a Verb.”

As disciples of Christ, we must actively, willfully, deliberately, intentionally, and fully love God and His Son, Jesus Christ above all else.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30-31

Michael Smalley posed this question during the sermon he gave at our church this Sunday. “What was Jesus’ love language?”

We all know the love languages from Gary Chapman’s 1995 book, The Five Love Languages.

  1. receiving gifts
  2. quality time
  3. words of affirmation
  4. acts of service
  5. physical touch

“What was Jesus’ love language?” I repeated in my head. I figured it was a trick question. All of them?

Michael went on to say that Jesus’ love language was obedience. Of course!

“If you love me, obey my commandments . . . Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.”  John 14:15,21

Our kids will see that we love Jesus if we are obeying his commands. It’s that simple.

Our kids will also see if we are a people who “love much” based on how we love them. We must be continually pouring love into them.

And, this one will seal the deal on what our kids think about us. Our kids must see us love others. Are we loving our neighbors? Are we loving difficult people? Are we loving our enemies?

2) Humility

The strongest defining characteristic of Jesus after love, was humility. No one has ever been higher or more worthy of praise that walked this earth than Jesus Christ. And no one has ever been more humble.

I have often thought that if I found out someday that Christianity wasn’t true, following Jesus would still have been the right way to live. Because of the call to humility.

When we put ourselves below others, they are lifted up. If we all lived like Jesus, we would be loving others and lifting each other up. Talk about an ideal society!

If you want your kids to have faith in Christ, there is nothing that can make Him more attractive than a display of humility in you.

3) Surrender

Many Christian kids growing up in the church never experience parents who surrender their lives to Christ. No wonder they are walking away.

If we don’t follow Christ with reckless abandon, then we might as well forget about passing on our faith at all. Why would we want to anyway? If we are not seeking to surrender our lives to Christ, then, He must not be that important to us. At least not important enough to do what He says.

If we want to show our kids a loving, good God, then we must surrender to Him first.

Love first, humility second, and surrender third. These are the ingredients that make our faith contagious.

It might be time to take inventory. As Christian parents, we must look in the mirror from time to time. Am I a loving person? Do I put other’s first? And, have I given everything I have and everything I am to God?

If you are brave enough, ask your kids what they see in you. You might be surprised by what they say.

Pumping Up Young People On The Drug Of Faith

I recently read Addie Zierman’s book, When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over. I adore Addie. She writes with such warmth. And though there is a slight difference in age between us, our stories are very similar. We both grew up fully immersed in the Evangelical life.

I could relate to the rituals and cliches of growing up in church. I could relate to the camps and mission trips. And I was all about my youth group friends and youth group crushes.

I could also relate to the disillusionment in my faith I experienced as I got older.

I was sprinkled as a baby, born again when I gave my life to Christ at church camp, and confirmed as a teenager. And I never missed a youth group activity, retreat or mission trip.

When Petra, Newsboys, WhiteHeart, DeGarmo and Key, Audio Adrenaline, and Jars of Clay, hit the radio waves in the ‘80s and ‘90s, that was all I listened to.

The band that rocked my world was DC Talk. Their first cassette (yea, I know, I’m old!), Heavenbound, was the first of its kind. It wasn’t just Christian rock, it was Christian rap! Finally, as a teenager, I could listen to the type of music I loved! And my parents approved.

I was really bummed when in 2000, Toby McKeehan (TobyMac), Kevin Max, and Michael Tate decided to break up and pursue solo careers. According to Wikipedia in 2002, the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music called DC Talk “the most popular overtly Christian act of all time.”

Along with DC Talk, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Sandy Patti were also my favorites. Many nights I could be found in my room belting out Sandy Patti songs like, Another Time and Another Place or We Shall Behold Him.

What I remember looking forward to most about youth group were the boys. It was about who was hooking up with who. And youth group retreats were a hotbed of raging hormones.

Aaaahhhh, the magic of the Evangelical childhood.

It was the emotional rush of that last night of camp around the campfire. It was the spiritual high at concerts and during youth group worship. It was the mountaintop experience of summer camps and mission trips that kept me spiritually floating on air. As a youth in the church, Christianity, was one emotional or spiritual high after another.

When I left home and went to college, however, the highs ended and real life kicked in. The faith of my childhood and the world I later encountered were not in sync. They didn’t seem to fit together. They were like two positive ends of a magnet. So I did what most youth group graduates did, and left my faith behind.

Matt Bays expressed similar disillusionment with the faith from growing up in the church in his book, Finding God in the Ruins.

In time it would seem as though we’d all been given free tickets to The Greatest Show on Earth, and then when we arrived, nothing. No popcorn or lions. No ringmaster with a long whip strapped to his side. No trapeze, no high dive, no clowns, and no one being shot out of a cannon. Before we were saved, the preshow was exciting. But once we entered the big top, we found less pomp and more circumstance. We’d been had.

As young people, we were pumped up on the drug of faith. And we had our high. But it didn’t take long to come crashing down. All we knew was a kind of honeymoon phase of our faith. And nobody told us that the honeymoon would end.

Somehow, the message of the gospel got lost in translation for many Gen X’ers like Addie, Matt, and myself. It was one high after another. The Christianity that we came to know didn’t prepare us for a life of following Christ in the real world.

So, what can we learn from my and so many others’ experiences of growing up in the church?

We must be so careful not to pass on a superficial faith to our kids. It is a betrayal of the gospel. There is a misconception that in order to win kids to Christ, we have to misrepresent what it means to follow Him.

We don’t have to hide the truth of the gospel. We don’t have to constantly impress or entertain our youth. The true person of Jesus Christ, Himself, is captivating enough. We don’t need to dress Him up in order to make Him attractive. The gospel, in and of itself, is irresistible when it is truly understood.

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8


I would love to hear what your experience was like growing up in the church. Did it prepare you to carry your faith into adulthood?

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