So, it’s no secret that one of my big passions in life is to pass on healthy faith to the next generation. I mean, I’ve invested the past 16 years of my life professionally in it… and just about the last 12 years with my own children. No secret… right? Well, if that wasn’t a secret, this next one might be unless you know me well. Another one of my big passions is having my yard look great. I mow my lawn like clockwork. I water my plants on schedule. I weed-eat like it was my second job. I’m passionate about it… but… I’m not very good at it. 😦 Earlier this summer I took a look around my neighborhood as I was on a bike-ride… and I noticed that the other lawns in my neighborhood looked nothing like mine. Theirs was all grass, for one. My lawn is a mix of about 20% grass… and 80% weeds that look like grass. We rent our house… so I figured I wasn’t going to pour hundreds of dollars into lawn services or turf-builders… so the weeds are going to have to do. And if I keep the lawn cut short… no one can tell, right? The other benefit is that weeds stay green even in the midst of a drought. So when everyone else’s grass is brown because of how dry it is out… ours is bright green still!!! (I knew I could turn this thing into a positive!!) . This post, however, is not about my lawn. It’s about what I discovered this past week while mowing my lawn and how it correlates metaphorically with nurturing spiritual growth in the next generation.
As I was mowing my lawn, I took a long and disappointing look at my rock bed next to my porch. Well, it used to be a rock bed… now, it was more like a weed bed. Covering 90% of the rocks were these:
I’m not quite sure what kind of weeds these are or what to call them… so I call them Weedis Michiganis because, translated from the latin… it means “a weed that annoyingly grows all over the place in my front yard.” I hate this stuff. It grows and grows and grows and grows. No matter how many times I pull it, kill it, curse it, spray it… it always grows. And when I pull it out (for the 2 billionth time) the roots are this stringy, rubber-bandy substance that is longer than the actual weed itself. Have I mentioned that I hate this stuff? I think I end up pulling these every week. EVERY WEEK!
SO… what does this have to do with nurturing faith in the next generation?
Weeds are alive and growing rapidly in the spiritual lives of our kids and students. And they are growing right alongside the healthy faith. And here is the dangerous part… the weeds grow BENEATH the surface for a long time before anyone can see them. By the time they sprout above the surface… it is going to take a long time to get rid of them. And sometimes… no matter how many times you pull them, kill them, spray them… some will always come back. And the weeds are not what you might think. They are not things like doubt, etc… They are things that don’t make sense about our faith. They are times where they look at the life of Jesus and then look at the church and they couldn’t look any further from each other. They are times where we can only give faith-based answers when presented with fact-based questions. So, what do we do?
1. Learn to recognize the weeds.
If you are a pastor or leader over next gen kids and students… your job is to learn to recognize what the weeds that grow in their lives are. If you are a parent… learn to do the same thing. You won’t know how to help them grow if you can’t recognize what is healthy spirituality and what is an invasive weed that will eventually choke out faith.
2. Train them to recognize the weeds.
The secret to life-long faith is ownership of your own faith. If kids and students are always relying on us to pull the weeds in their life, then it isn’t their faith at all… It’s ours. We need to help them recognize the weeds growing in their life and how they can uproot those to maintain a healthy faith.
3. Plant more seeds of faith.
One major way to treat weeds is to grow healthy grass or plants in their place. The same can be true of our faith. The more we point out faith stories… the more we recognize God’s work in our lives and in the lives of our kids and students… the more we call those out and remember them… the more we offer significant faith experiences where they are called to live out a bigger story… the more we will replace weeds with faith experiences. We also need to help our kids and students know how to do this on their own so, when they get out on their own, they won’t fall flat on their face and allow the weeds to choke out the faith they have.