Louis, thank you for taking time to answer questions this week. My son is going on 8 years old. He is very intelligent and spiritually insightful. He also is a very loving and sunny soul. If you were me, how would you start to prepare him for entering an increasingly spiritually hostile academic world ten years from now?
Thank you for your question. I admire you for asking me this question when I am not a father. Its very humble of you to ask a single guy what best way to prepare a son. I, hopefully with great humility, would do this if I were you:
More than anything else, your son needs to fall in love with Christ. Here’s the good news, that is not your responsibility! You can’t get your son to fall in love with Christ, only the Holy Spirit can; however, God has given you the unique role to guide your son in seeing Christ in all his beauty.
I love that your son is already intelligent and insightful (giving everyone lectures on the taxonomies of mushrooms and plants ); but please dont mistake that as what you need to foster and help cultivate most. Those things are important, but not even remotely as important as understanding who God is and what He has done for us (and specifically for your son to know what God has done for him).
How can you guide your son to see Christ, encounter him, and stay the course?:
- Show your relationship with Christ on full-display, both the good and the bad. Your son needs to see real Christianity, not the fake stuff people put out. Show your son that you too need Grace. That you are not perfect, that you too are a sinner in need of Christs forgiveness. Nothing creates a self-righteous child faster than a household that demands perfection (though we are not perfect). And make sure to ask for forgiveness when you wrong your son. You are not a perfect parent, you will fail at times and thats ok. But make sure you acknowledge it so that your son knows what it means to repent and be in need of grace.
- In humility, show your dependance on God. Let him see you reading your bible every morning. Let him see that God isnt afraid of our questions. Be the spiritual leader in your household. Pray often as a family. Take opportunities to show your gratitude to God. One of the largest impacts on me in my life was coming down the stairs to go to school to see my dad on his knees praying every morning. He didnt do it for show, it was his real relationship on display. You cant fake it. Kids pick up inauthenticity faster than anyone. Let him see you love the Lord, and struggle to love the lord. The more raw and authentic your relationship is with God, the more compelling it will become.
- Be vulnerable yourself and share how you are doing. Share with him your struggles. Let him know that YOU are the person he can always come to when he is struggling with something. That he doesnt have to worry about what you think of him, but that you are always going to help him when he is in need. Offer him the grace that God has offered you when the time comes.
- Ask him thought provoking questions. Think creatively. Pay attention to what he is thinking about and think of questions that force him to think deeply on things. See if you can help him identify his idols at such a young age.
- Finally, and most importantly, PRAY. Pray for him daily and pray as often as you can for him.
Making sure your son is aware of all the apologetics questions/answers is important for college, but I know plenty of people who know the answers yet do not love the lord. Your son needs a firm foundation to stand on when he goes to college, he doesn’t simply need head knowledge of the arguments. The only true firm foundation is a real thriving relationship with the Author of our lives. Do everything you can to be a model of what it means to take up your cross and follow him. Show your son that Christianity isnt a set of rules that you add to your life, its something categorically different. Christ comes in and is LIFE itself, not some addition. Being able to actually defend your faith and stand firm in it comes only after it has taken root. Right now you are planting seeds in your son. May they take deep roots in his soul!
Blessed is the man[a]
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
God loves your son far more than you ever could Brendan. Show your son the Love that Christ has shown you and let the Holy Spirit work in your son’s heart. I hope this helps. Like I said, I am not a father, but this is what I would hope to do!
Lou, thank you very much for taking the time to give a very thoughtful answer. I am taking it to heart. You will be intrigued to know that I memorized Psalm 1 during a sleepless night of personal crisis. I fell soundly asleep after memorizing it! God bless you in your ministry.