Saturday, June 22, 2013

Inquiring Minds

Today I stumbled over a word that seemed new, but may have just been forgotten. I hope it was forgotten because I certainly should have encountered it somewhere in all my studies around education
and learning. The word was autodidact. It means self-taught.

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!

Friday, June 14, 2013


My book club read a powerful book this month. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain is a fascinating treatise on how American culture values extroverted people significantly more than introverted people and how that plays out in our society. The author makes a strong case that this is a big mistake. (You can hear Susan Cain give a brief overview of her findings in her TED Talk.) The women who gathered to discuss the book were split between introverts and extroverts six to four. When everyone in the group is present we are nearly evenly divided but clearly the introverts were excited to talk about this book! As they spoke it became increasingly obvious how much they related to the author's words and how misunderstood, undervalued, or out of place they sometimes felt.

As the discussion continued we noted that many of us had both kinds of children and the extroverts in the group clearly felt that they understood their extroverted children better than their introverted children, while the introverted mothers felt they understood their extroverted child(ren) well but were sometimes exhausted by them.

This is a rich fountain of the kinds of ideas on family and faith dynamics that fascinate me and I have been thinking about it a lot. Here are a few things I think parents might want to know:
  • Introverts and extroverts are both created in the image of God. 
  • If you are an extroverted parent raising an introverted child, get thee to Amazon and buy this book. You will appreciate a look at life from the other side.
  • Your child's feelings about public speaking have nothing to do with their intro- or extro- version.
  • Both types of children need lots of reassurance that they are valuable but your introverted child may need more of that from you because they get less of it elsewhere.
  • We are part of a society that values how things look. Make sure you look past the presentation to the content when dealing with your children - sometimes the most grandly presented speech is completely devoid of any meaningful content while the low-key and simply presented speech can be filled with profound observations.
  • Don't feel that you have to fill up every silence. Leave room for the less talkative (more introverted) child to offer a topic of conversation that interests him or her.
  • Jesus may be the only true ambivert (a person perfectly balanced between being an extrovert and an introvert.)
  • Help your child learn to live out their own extroversion or introversion, and help them to appreciate the gifts of their friends and siblings who are the opposite.
One more way to look at God's amazing creation! Every creature unique, and gifted for the life of the world. Can you imagine the possibilities as you look at your child?