Paul Basden and Jim Johnson are the founding pastors of Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco, Texas. They co-authored “Tough Stuff Parenting: Helping Your Kids Navigate Faith and Culture,” a book to help parents and children discuss difficult topics such as drugs, drinking, divorce, sex, suicide, racism and other religions.
Why does a parent’s personal relationship with Jesus impact their kids?
A key passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 starts with mom and dad, who are called to “love God and keep His commandments” before “impressing” Biblical principles onto their children.
“You can’t take someone where you haven’t been yourself,” Basden said. “The larger question is, ‘How can we give parents a Christian worldview, so that no matter what the next challenge is, they’re still able to address it?’”
Technology has changed the way parents must raise their children.
“The world now comes to your children on their phones,” Johnson said. “Almost anything the world has to offer, they have access to. So parents are having to deal with a wider scope of issues—pornography, suicide, selfie-ism, fame—and they’re learning earlier. The timeline speeds up tremendously. Everyone learns how to do life from someone. The issue now for parents is that our children are going to learn to do life from social media and not them. We believe the first voice our kids need to hear about anything should come from parents.”
For parents who may find these conversations uncomfortable and would rather let others be that voice, what would you say?
It’s a good thing for parents to invite the church and community into these challenging conversations with their children.
Nevertheless, a child’s peers, their school and even well-meaning Christian families can have a different set of values than their own.
Johnson said it’s easier now than ever to find a stand-in for each subject.
“We live in a day of outsourcing,” Johnson said. “We outsource hitting instructions, dance lessons, tutoring and SAT prep. In many respects, parents have thought they can outsource the spiritual development to their church or Sunday school. If we just rely on what our kids learn at church, let’s say they attend regularly, they might spend 30 hours there the entire year. So it’s not going to have a lot of impact on their lives. Their worldview is going to be developed on where they spend most of their time.”
Basden said parents don’t have to be Biblical scholars to read Scripture or pray with their children.
“I was never a professional when teaching my oldest daughter how to play soccer or my youngest one how to be a cheerleader, but I could practice with them out in the front yard,” Basden added. “Parents may never feel like a pro, but you can read the Bible with them and talk about it. We say, ‘Look for these built-in patterns when you can maximize that time with your kids—mealtime, car time and bedtime.’”
How can parents share Scripture with their kids without being a “Bible thumper”?
Parents never want to ignore the importance of sharing Scripture with their children, but Johnson said to be careful not to turn the Word into a rulebook.
“At its heart, the Bible is a love letter, not a correction letter,” Johnson said. “If a parent is always using the Bible to correct their kids, they’re not going to be getting an open view of Scripture as really a gift of love. Paul and I think asking kids questions is really important. Rather than telling them, ‘You should or should not do this,’ begin to ask them, ‘If you do these things, what do you think the outcome will be? What do you think the wisest thing is? What kind of person do you want to be?’”
Where’s the line between protecting and equipping our children?
“This is one of the most important aspects of parenting,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, there’s not a hard-and-fast answer for every parent and child, but there is this spectrum between protection and preparation. When our kids are young and don’t have a thought process to keep them safe, then we do need to make decisions to protect them because they’re not capable on their own to do that. The older they get, they do have thought processes and can be a little bit safer on their own. So not quickly, but gradually parents have to let them experience things and do things on their own so they’re prepared going forward.”
Johnson said we live in a day when many parents coddle their kids.
“It’s kind of our god these days and defines how we make choices for the way we do everything,” Johnson added. “A lot of parents hold onto the protection role way too long and by doing that do not allow their children to experience failure, difficulty or criticism, not realizing those are things that help their children grow and mature.”