All four of my kids were raised in the context of Christian community. I didn’t train, mentor or prepare them on my own, and you shouldn’t either. Young Christians will face a real challenge in their college years. If our kids aren’t trained and exposed to the challenges at an early age, they are far more likely to leave the Church. And while it is tempting to think we, as parents, are all our kids will ever need, this is simply untrue. Don’t try to train your kids on your own; find a mentor to help you raise your kids with a Christian worldview. I’m not saying parents should reassign their responsibilities to others; I believe parents have the primary duty to become good Case Makers so they can train their own children. But, training young Christians is difficult work and it requires a team. Even though I have become part of the larger Christian Case Making community, I don’t always feel personally adequate to the task as a parent. While I’ve been focused in preparing young Christians, I don’t always feel like I’ve done the best job preparing my own young Christians. Sometimes parents are the least influential people in the lives of their kids (if you’re raising teenagers, I bet you know what I mean). Over the years, key people have entered my children’s lives to train them and model the Christian life for them. I am grateful these mentors played an important role in raising my kids. Along the way, I learned a few things about finding the right mentors for young Christians:
Find A Mentor Who Reflects Your Values and Beliefs
The most important mentors in the lives of my kids have been young men and women who held my Christian worldview and continually reiterated my values and beliefs. When my teenagers were less likely to listen to us as their parents, they were surrounded by people they admired who still reflected our values. Sometimes they were more willing to hear the truth from a non-parental source.
Find A Mentor Who is More Deeply In Tune With the Culture
Young people are intensely aware of the culture in which they live, even when their parents have long since stopped paying attention. I was grateful for mentors who were familiar with the popular music, movies and media impacting my kids. These younger, more culturally aware mentors offered my worldview in a hipper, more culturally attractive package, and they were better able to prepare my kids to respond appropriately to the latest challenges offered by the culture.
Find A Mentor Who Is “Young At Heart”
Although I have always recognized the importance of passion and “teachability” in my own life, there are times when, as a parent in my fifties, I simply lack the energy offered by some of the younger, more passionate mentors who have invested in my kids. I am grateful for their youthfulness.
Find A Mentor Who Shares Your Children’s Interests
My kids have diverse interests and many of these interests are very different from my own. Some of the best mentors they’ve had over the years were people who shared their passion for a particular sport or hobby. I was happy to drive to and from events and be the best cheerleader I could be, but there were times when I counted on mentors to snowboard, wakeboard or play music with my kids.
Find A Mentor Who Can Relate to Your Child’s Experience
If you’ve got kids who are temperamentally different than you, or have struggled in areas where you have not, it’s helpful to find someone with whom they can relate. While I may not be able to understand what my kids are feeling or experiencing, there’s probably someone in my immediate community of friends or family members who does.
Like most parents, I’ve done my best to share the truth with my kids and help prepare them to defend what they believe. But there are times when all my talks and efforts to teach and train them have probably been less than successful. I can’t tell you how many times one of my kids has come home and told me about an epiphany they had when a mentor said something my wife or I had been saying for years. They acted like it was the first time they had ever heard it. I typically feel like reminding them I have been saying the same thing, but I usually bite my tongue. I may have been saying it, but for one reason or another, they simply weren’t hearing it. But by helping my kids find the right mentor, I found a way to deliver the same message through a younger, hipper, more culturally aware messenger who shared my kid’s interests and experiences. One way or the other, they got the information they needed. So, look for mentors as you raise your kids in the faith; the right mentor can make all the difference in the world.
For more information about strategies to help you teach Christian worldview to the next generation, please read So the Next Generation Will Know: Training Young Christians in a Challenging World. This book teaches parents, youth pastors and Christian educators practical, accessible strategies and principles they can employ to teach the youngest Christians the truth of Christianity. The book is accompanied by an eight-session So the Next Generation Will Know DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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