It is no big secret that the kids of today are faced with a far more threatening society than a generation ago. Christian parents today are assigned the task of not only protecting their children, but also teaching them to navigate the challenges to their faith. Today in my women’s Bible study class, we questioned a panel of teens about their walk, challenges to their faith and how they cope. It was obvious early on that the small panel was populated by kids raised in Christian homes with both parents present and were protected within a Christian community. None of them seem to have tarried far from home spiritually.

The teens were transparent and honest as the mothers in the room questioned them about dating, cell phones and peer pressure. As I listened to their answers, I was encouraged by their tendency to return to the values and biblical training they had received in the home. I was struck by how confident they seemed that ultimately whether they stand or fall depends more on the health of their own personal relationship with Christ, and less on what their parents did or did not do. Although, they did recognize that their parents’ lifestyle shaped their own beliefs and the strength thereof.

What concerned me was something one of the teenage boys, Darrin, said (and the others agreed) in that what helped them to remain steadfast was that there was always a friend close by to say “no” with them if the occasion called for it. Given the “Christian bubble” (their words, not mine) in which they are being raised, there is no shortage of kids ready to do “the right thing.” If just one takes the first step, there is a healthy supply of teens wanting to be one of the “good kids” especially when it is cool to be Christian. Not so in the real world. How well will these kids survive in a culture that accuses them of being intolerant, uneducated, and hateful? Will they have the courage to be faithful when it will cost them community? How can we as parents prepare our kids to stand alone and to remain standing alone if it is required of them?

I think the answer lies in something else Darrin shared (and the others concurred.) Repeatedly as the kids answered the questions, they voiced how invaluable experience is to them in preparation for adulthood, whether it was practice driving a car or communicating with unbelievers at work. They recognized the value of testing their skills within the shelter of their parents’ guidance before their skills were tested by life. Sharron expressed quite honestly how ill-equipped she felt when confronted by a co-worker regarding her faith. Tamara shared how excited she was to be taking a class on apologetics next year at school to help prepare her to meet those challenges. Todd added that he felt blessed to have knowledgeable parents who could answer his questions. Darrin stressed how necessary it was for him to live his testimony, otherwise his words (arguments) were meaningless. I am sure their mothers sitting in the audience were proud of the young men and women of God that their children were becoming.

Everyone on the panel seemed solid in what they believed; however, it was obvious that the challenges to their belief systems were closely monitored and therefore minimal as compared to what they will face when they move away from home and enter college soon. At that time they will experience a full blown assault on their beliefs. Will they withstand the purposeful unraveling of their worldview having not experienced such assaults while in the home? Statistically only 2 of the five will remain faithful; the rest will embrace a relativistic view of truth and therefore reject the absolute claims of Christianity.

At the conclusion of the panel, I was encouraged to continue speaking the truth of scripture into my children’s lives while remaining steadfast myself as I demonstrate a lifestyle of faithfulness. But I also felt the urgency to allow my children opportunities to test their own walk. I think as parents we can err too far on the side of caution, fiercely protecting our children from evil and rob them of the opportunities to develop skills necessary to meet the very real challenges they are destined to face. Like Lot, we are raising our children in a cultural Sodom and we are challenged with raising morally and spiritually pure hearts and minds in a morally bankrupt society. A mature faith can withstand the temptations to compromise our beliefs. And maturity comes only through the testing of our faith. As the old adage says, “Practice makes perfect.”

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2–4

If God allows the testing of His children’s faith, perhaps there is wisdom in my getting out of Gods’ way and allowing my children the same. There seems to exist somewhere between protecting a child’s innocence and exposing him to the elements an elusive balance for which we must strive. Where that balance lies, depends on the child himself. How successfully we as parents prepare that child to navigate life ultimately lies not only in how well we know Christ and live a life without compromise, but also how well we know our child. Freedom without boundaries is bondage (consider the lawless societies of South Africa). As a child matures and begins to self-impose boundaries that honor God, we can begin to trust the investment we have made in them. We discover that fine balance and allow our teen to live freely as they persevere with Christ so that they will be complete and not lacking anything.

(Names have been changed because, frankly, I don’t remember them.)

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