Ouch! These are painful words. They’re some of the most painful words I’ve heard parents say. It is usually at the end of the story about how their teenage son or daughter walked away from the faith. Sometimes there are tears, sometimes anger when this is expressed to me. There is always a look of shock that accompanies the statement. Sometimes parents will say, “I wish I saw that coming.”
The situation usually surrounds the brutal fact that we don’t teach our children the “whys” of our faith. We tell them Bible stories, biblical values, and model a good Christian life only to find out it isn’t enough to keep them walking with the Lord. In short, we have taught them “what” is believed to be true, but not why it is true. We have never pondered the idea of evidence or reasons to believe. We’ve never shown how faith is a reasonable choice. At worst, we said things like, “It’s in the Bible,” as if that would be enough to secure them in their faith. What we haven’t done is supported our assertions with good reasons.
Now the question is for those who still have their children within the sound of their voice and grasp of their hand: “What must I do to prepare myself and my children for the challenges both of us will face?” Lately, I seem to draw on my military experience for illustrations and rightly so: this is a fight, too. One thing the military is good at is training. When the military knows what obstacles or situations you will face they step up their training. Usually, that includes some physical conditioning. Sometimes it is psychological training. In effect, the military wants you prepared for every situation you will face. For me as a crash rescue man, I had to learn vehicles, tools, tactics, hydraulics (yes! hydraulics) rates of explosive ordinance, and much more. When I received orders to Binh Thuy Airbase, South Vietnam, I had to undergo some other training. Quite a bit of it was psychological. In all, the Air Force wanted me prepared so I wouldn’t be saying, “Didn’t see that coming!”
LEARN THE MATERIAL
So, how do you prepare to be ready for this challenge? Fortunately, there is a growing amount of resources for parenting children in the 21st Century. Three aspects of this preparation are necessary. For the Christian parent, the task is to learn the material that will help you teach your children why they believe Christianity is true. Don’t depend on your church to do this. If your kids attend a Christian school, don’t rely on them to do this, either. Teaching your children is your responsibility. Think of it as homeschooling your children in their faith. Many parents have a family devotion time. If you don’t, you must. Use this time as “school-time” to teach your children the reasons why you believe Christianity is true.
The second part is for the Christian parent the challenge is learning how to dialogue and convey the answers to the many questions their children will have. Okay, so you have a toddler who jabbers and having a meaningful conversation doesn’t have much of a chance at this stage. I know, I hear it all the time: “I don’t think my child can grasp complex issues.” Here’s another way to think of this - when do you think retired New York Yankee Derek Jeter began playing baseball? Would you say it was when he was five years old? Ten? A teenager? I’ll bet his father was rolling a ball to him when he was a toddler. Young Derek may have picked it up and tried eating it, but he knew what the ball felt like, smelled like, and how much it weighed. That ball would have begun to imprint on his young brain. His ability would have grown accordingly. It would have been crazy to put him in a batting cage when he was a toddler.
So it is with presenting evidence with children. I would bet one of the first issues a parent has to deal with is their darling child lying to them. What? What parent hasn’t had to deal with this? Here’s a tip - good situation to begin to explain the difference between truth and falsity. We know lying is wrong, but why is it wrong? Why do we value the truth? The point here is once you learn the basics of why it is we believe Christianity is true we begin to teach our children the same.
The last part of this is providing that space for your children to learn. If we see this as a mandate, a responsibility, we make the time to teach our children not only the “what” of the Christian faith, but the “why” it is true.
Our kids will face all kinds of opposition to the Christian faith. The internet provides hundreds of videos designed to deconstruct their faith (and ours). How do you keep you children from that? How do you keep your kids from other children that have learned all religions are like fairy-tales. The point is we want to equip our children so that none of these challenges come as surprises. We want to provide them so that none of these challenges catch them unprepared, and we never have to say, “Didn’t see that coming.”
Here are some resources: Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Build a Lasting Faith by Natasha Crain. See our RCM store to download two Natasha Crain MP3s.
It may be a somewhat surprising combination – technology and seniors – but a new survey shows that using social technology results in better wellbeing for people ages 80 and older. In fact, 58% of seniors surveyed believe technology has the power to improve communication with family and friends. The senior respondents also report that social technology gives them more life satisfaction and health, and a higher likelihood of attaining life goals. The positive effects of social technology can be extended to bringing church to senior shut-ins, which more than likely will add to their life satisfaction, health, and overall wellbeing. That’s why we recommend three ways to use tech to bring church to senior shut-ins.
One social technology that can bring church to senior shut-ins is YouTube. As demonstrated by this Methodist church, church leaders can record church services and upload them to YouTube. All the church needs is a Google account to start the YouTube channel. Naming the channel after the church and church’s location may be the best way to ensure that the senior audience will be able to find the videos. The church also may want to create playlists that group the videos together by sermon topic, theme, or month.
Once the church has uploaded a video to its YouTube channel, the church secretary or other designated person can share the videos with senior shut-ins via Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels. It may be easier, however, for the seniors to find and view the church services if the church sends the first video through email with instructions for subscribing to the church’s YouTube channel.
YouTube is one of the best ways to use tech to bring church to senior shut-ins because it is a free service, both for the church and its shut-in members. It also requires very little equipment, other than a smartphone, computer, or tablet with an Internet connection. YouTube also is user-friendly, so senior shut-ins should be able to click on the videos and play them without much instruction or assistance.
2. Teleconference & Video Calling
By using a conference call service to set up a dial-in number, homebound seniors can listen to a sermon in real time right from their living rooms. You can even simultaneously record the sermon and have an MP3 version of it made to post on your church’s website or distribute through email. It’s a wonderful way to let listeners feel like they’re really there -- they’ll even be able to hear the audience responses!
Church leaders can also use video calling as a way to reach out and stay in touch with seniors. They can set up office hours where they’re available for video calls, or allow members to schedule an appointment for a video call counseling session. This allows elder congregation members to get a more personal experience with face-to-face counseling, but eliminates the stress of getting to the church or having company over.
3. Record Church Services on DVDs or CDs
Of course, not all senior shut-ins have the required devices to watch videos on YouTube or to listen to a service via conference call. Sometimes, older technology is required to bring church to all of the senior shut-ins. Recording church services for distribution via DVDs or CDs may take a bit more time than recording services with newer technology, but it will be worth it if the church is able to include all senior shut-ins in church.
One option is for a congregation member to record the services on a smartphone, upload them to a computer, and then burn them to a CD or DVD. No matter the logistics of recording church services on DVDs or CDs, this older technology may be the best medium to use based on the devices senior shut-ins have access to at home.
It is important to include all church members in church services as often as possible, to make everyone feel like a part of the church family. And, senior shut-ins especially need to have a connection with their fellow church members because it improves their wellbeing. That’s why congregations who aren’t already should look into using technology to reach their senior members.
Marie Villeza was inspired to start ElderImpact.org after she watched her son teach her father how to play Angry Birds™ on his smartphone. In that moment, she realized the importance of bringing the generations together so they can usher each other into the future, breaking down walls of fear and time. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and taking part in her monthly book club.
Visit ElderImpact.org for more resources
Photo from geralt via Pixabay