My favourite part of a baptism is hearing the God-story.
I love when people stop to really reflect on how God has been at work in their life and they share the ways He has revealed Himself to them and drawn them to Himself. It points to a very creative and loving God. Each person tells us a different story of a unique encounter or series of encounters they had that made clear God’s call on their life and led them to respond. God is so good.
On one such occasion I witnessed, a 14 year old girl was sharing her story. She had been raised by Christian parents and attended church all her life but, when she was 13, she had attended a state wide youth camp with our church youth group. There were several hundred youth there from all parts of Melbourne and beyond; from various denominations and church expressions. She talked about her experience of that weekend and the impact it had on her developing personal faith, “I didn’t realise there were so many other people who did this Christian thing, I thought it was just our church.”
It seems almost comical to think that she might not have known, but her church experience had been limited to just our church and we were the only Christians she knew. It was significant for her to discover there were more. Because, as much as youth culture talks about the drive to stand out and be different, there is a deep yearning in our young people to find belonging and acceptance in likeness. Whether it is in shared fashion style, music tastes, sporting interests or leisure pursuits; young people find connection and comfort with others who affirm their style, taste, interests and pursuits.
Kids who are developing their own faith need SOMEONE ELSE (or multiple someones) who hold to the same core beliefs they do. They crave the affirmation that the faith they hold and the values they’re ascribing to are held by people other than themselves (and other than their own family). Christianity is, by Jesus’ own description, counter-cultural and as our society becomes increasingly pluralistic it is ever more likely that they will have friends and family and people in their basketball teams and neighbours in their streets that would not hold to the same beliefs.
It is one thing for their parents and grandparents to believe. It is significant for them to have leaders and other grown ups who believe similarly (more on that next blog). But it is also important that they have peers who share their beliefs. It reminds them that God is bigger than just their own family’s experience of Him (and #1 of the 5 things every kid needs to grow in faith is a really big God) as it continues to inform their understanding of who God is and how He operates.
We are all no doubt familiar with that powerful feeling of finding others with whom we find that “Oh, you too?!” connection. There is something profoundly validating about finding a like-mind, heart or soul. Our children need that too. It is significant to their faith development. Regardless of how independent and unique they might want to be they also crave the sense of being understood and affirmed for who they are and the choices they make.
5 things every child needs – Think Orange.
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