Christian parents should stop being overly fearful and learn to step on the "gas pedal" in raising their kids to have strong faith, said a California megachurch pastor.
Adam Stadtmiller – co-author of the new book, Give Your Kids the Keys: Navigating Your Child to a Personal and Sustainable Faith, with his wife Karie – pointed out that most Christian parents are defensive rather than offensive in raising their children. Their parenting style is more about what their children should not do rather than what to do as a Christian.
"They teach you in defensive driving, especially on ice or in snow, that one of the worst things you can do is stand on the brake," said Stadtmiller to The Christian Post. "The gas pedal is also a tool for defensive driving."
Instead of "braking" and using restraining methods when kids goes awry, the associate pastor of North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad, Calif., recommends that parents push on the "gas pedal" and take them on a short-term mission trip to Mexico to build a home, for instance.
"Let kids experience and see God. I don't think the Christian faith is about a bunch of don'ts," he said. "It is more about a bunch of do's. I am not afraid of my children being in the world but not of the world."
Stadtmiller shared that he was inspired to write the book after seeing how his oldest daughter, Lily, took her faith "by the horn" at around the age of four. His wife had asked Lily if she wanted to accept Jesus into her heart after the little girl asked her to read the death of Jesus on the cross in her children's picture Bible five nights in a row. But Lily responded, "no." Then about three weeks later, Lily announced that she had asked Jesus into her heart.
"It was really inspiring to see her have a relationship with God that was not attached to ours," he remarked. "We were baffled that she went away and figured it out on her own whether she wanted to accept Jesus or not."
Last year, when Lily was 7 years old, she led her younger sister Lucy to Christ. She also surprised her parents by telling them that she walks around her school during recess to pray for the campus.
With Lily, the California pastor said he helps her develop faith independently by doing activities with her where she has to try to hear God's voice. He would give her a children's picture Bible, a coloring pad and tell her to go and draw what she thinks God is saying in the story. Afterwards, they would come together and he would ask her why she thinks God is saying that and they would go through the Bible story.
He offered an analogy to the problem of how most parents raise their children spiritually by comparing it to raising an NFL quarterback by giving them a season's ticket and having them watch from the stands. Then when they turn 18 years old they are put in the game and told to play and expected to do well.
"The first time that our kids are [usually] getting the spiritual keys to their life is at the age of 18, and they never done it for themselves," the author said.
He also advises parents to help their children find Jesus everywhere in their family's life, not just on Sunday. When another child is sick, for instance, parents can take their child to visit the sick child in the hospital. Afterwards, parents can have their child pray for their sick friend.
The point is to give children the keys to their spiritual life and allow them to drive their own faith. Parents can do this by teaching their children to hear the voice of God and asking their opinions on family decisions.
"I don't know many families that take their child's spiritual voice seriously. And when you do that, you are basically saying that 'your spiritual voice doesn't matter until you are at a certain age,'" said Stadtmiller. "There is no age limit for spirituality in the Bible. There is no age limit to hear from God and listen to His voice and to follow Him and step out into faith."