Friday, August 24, 2012

Talking to Your Children about Baptists
(or 'Practical Challenges in Faith and Parenting')

I received an email from a good friend yesterday about a faith/parenting question that has come up for her daughter concerning baptism and the nature of accepting Jesus. I thought my friend's question was excellent, and asked if I could share our conversation here. I do so hoping that the content will encourage parents to talk with one another about our faith and the particular faith challenges we experience as parents. Christian parents need not soldier on alone.

Excerpt from my friend's email:

I am in need of a bit of parenting advice and I think you're the guy who might be able to help me on this one. K has a great group of girlfriends, most of whom are members of local churches, primarily of the Baptist persuasion. They're all starting to reach that age where apparently it's expected that one A)"Invite Jesus into their heart and get baptized.

I'm struggling to find a way to explain all of this to K without belittling the Baptists. In particular I want to give her a good response to the "when did you accept Jesus into your heart" question because some of her friends' parents treat that day like a second birthday. And while I know that moment can be memorable and momentous, I don't think it is for everyone and I don't want her to feel like her faith is less legitimate than her friends' because of all of this.

Does any of this make sense? I'd love to hear your insight...

My response:

This is a great question! I am going to think about it for a while as a parent for whom the question hasn't come up yet. (I got it a lot at Wheaton, but that was me, and I was older.) Here are some initial thoughts:

When Annie comes to me with questions from Baptist friends, I will first wonder with some regret how she came to have Baptist friends (kidding!). Then I think I will tell her that some people can think back to a moment in which Jesus became the center of their life. They remember the day. They remember what they were wearing and what the sky looked like through the windows. This memory is very important to them because they also remember what life was like before they met Jesus, and they are glad to have Jesus in their lives now.

Then I will tell Annie that

There are also people who have simply grown up knowing Jesus. They don't remember the day they first met. I have lots of good friends for whom I couldn't tell you the first day we met. I have just always enjoyed being with them, for as long as I remember. Jesus is that way for me. I was baptized as a baby, and on that day Jesus invited me into his heart, and he has been with me all along.

Annie, whether you remember the day like your friends or have enjoyed him for as long as you remember, like Dad, the important thing is that he has loved you for as long as you have been, and that he will always love you, and that, every day, he is with you. This is what we celebrate in Communion, when Jesus meets us to share himself with us. My prayer for you is that knowing Jesus gives you joy. You are his joy, too.

Bless you! You are in my prayers as the conversation unfolds. (Trusting that you can use my thoughts intended for a three year old for your older, more mature K. Let me know if I've too much missed the developmental mark!)


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