Most of us have taught ourselves to do something: to cook, to change the oil in the car, o to hook up an electronic something or other. We struggle, read, try some more, watch a video, call a friend for advice, and in the end usually accomplish what we are hoping to do. We probably weren't trying to become a professional; more likely, something sparked our interest. We wanted to be able to fix a favorite dish, save a few bucks, or be able to listen to the stereo out on the patio. And our desire to know turned us into autodidacts. We wanted to know, so we explored; not in a classroom, but following our own interest down the path, occasionally doubling back to learn some fundamental principle or skill necessary to understanding or accomplishing our goal.
Some things can only be self-taught. Faith is one of those things. We have to try living by faith in order to master it. And we won't get it right every time. We will falter, and fail. We will come close and then chicken out. We will sometimes have to fake it till we make it. Our children will not learn their faith from us. They will teach it to themselves.
So if our children will teach themselves faith, what role do parents play in a child's faith life? The most important one of all: parents are the match that starts the fire!
- We generate their interest by being people of faith.
- We model our faith for them - day in and day out.
- We encourage them in their exploration (even when it goes places that make us nervous, like places with altar calls or infant baptism or even to other world religions.)
- We support their interest, just as we support their interest in soccer, or dancing, or Star Wars.
- We look for opportunities for them to explore.
- We enroll them in programs that will increase their knowledge and expose them to other role models,
- We give them opportunities to learn about the fundamentals of faith and encourage them to keep going when they don't have the passion they started with to fuel their exploration.
Are you up to it? Sooner or later your child will become curious about what you believe. Will what you tell them match what they already know about you? Go to any youth or education ministry conference and you'll hear the phrase "Faith is caught, not taught." Will your child be exposed enough to catch it? Will they catch on fire and want to explore faith for themselves? If not, maybe you need to look around for someone whose faith inspires you. We all need role models; we all need inspiration; and we all need to keep our faith alive in a way that inspires our children. I don't know where your faith or love or curiosity will take you, but God does and with God's help you'll teach yourself what you need to know!