You've never been so nervous in your life.
The relentless Florida sun glints off the crystal of your wristwatch as you glance at it for the thousandth time. Didn't you see these numbers, 11:04 a.m., half an hour ago? History is crawling forward. Half of you wants it to speed up, but the other half wants the clock to stop entirely.
Your stomach grips again as you squint into the distance. For nearly four hours your son has been perched on top of the otherworldly object that towers like a white-and-rust castle against the sapphire sky.
You swallow, and wait. And wait.
Finally a voice comes from the PA system. "T minus 30," it says. And eventually, "T minus 15 . . . 10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . . 7 . . ."
You can't remember your own name now. Your mind is too full of your son's face, the one in his third-grade school picture with the half-combed hair.
"We're ready for main engine start!" says the voice from Mission Control.
At this point there should be a roar, then a rush of flame.
But instead there's . . . silence.
No liftoff. No reaching for the stars.
The astronauts have been dressed for the part. The space shuttle and booster rockets look great on the outside.
But no one loaded any fuel into the tanks, or linked the computers, or actually made any preparations to send your son into space.
Everyone had great intentions.
But it's a failure to launch.
* * *
Unfortunately, in too many homes of parents who know and love Jesus, that picture closely resembles what happens when kids grow up and are ready to "launch out" on their own.
Depending on which study you want to quote, anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of children from evangelical Christian families won't embrace the faith as their own when they leave for college. That's tragic. When it comes to faith transference, we're losing the next generation.
Let me shoot straight: It's not the churches' fault. I think the level of ministry excellence in churches today—for the two hours or so that a family is in the building — has never been higher! The music and PowerPoint presentations and kids' and youth programs are light years ahead of where they've been in the past. Yet more and more young people are never getting off the launch pad when it comes to personally accepting Christ and growing in their faith.
Here's one reason why.
Recently I asked several hundred parents of younger children at a large church three questions.
- "Do you think it's important to pass down your faith to your children?" As you might expect, more then 90 percent said, "Yes! It's very important!"
- "Do you think your child will have a strong faith when he or she gets out of college?" Again, 90 percent of those responding said, "You bet!"
- "Outside of going to church, what are you doing intentionally to introduce and build a growing faith in your child?" Fewer than 30 percent were doing anything purposefully to meet that goal during the 166 hours a week their children were at home.
Think about that. These wonderful, godly, well-intentioned parents strongly believed they should be involved in their children's faith development. They also were highly confident that their children would embrace the faith by the time they were on their own. But when it came to actually preparing their kids, they were just dressing them up and dropping them off at church — and setting themselves up for a failure to launch.
But that doesn't have to be true in your home.
Now is the time for you to realize the incredible impact you can have on your child, helping him or her come to Christ and grow in that relationship. You can do it!
It's not rocket science to help your child reach God's best for his or her life. It's small things, even fun things. They'll go a long way toward filling up those boosters that lift your son or daughter into a lifelong faith.
The Launch Window Is Now
Maybe you've heard the statistics. Researchers agree that most people who receive Christ as Savior do so when they're children.
The message to parents has seemed clear enough: Now's the time for you to invest in your child coming to faith. And the best place for that to happen is right in your home. One survey found that half of those who received Christ by age 12 did so at the prompting of their parents, with an added 20 percent following the lead of another relative or friend.
No matter how wonderful your church may be, most successful launches happen at or near home. That doesn't have to scare you, even if you're a first-generation Christian like me. I didn't grow up in a Christian home, so I never saw anyone model faith transference. My wife, Cindy, didn't see an active, growing faith displayed in her home, either.
Yet both our children know and love the Lord today, as one finishes graduate school and the other gets ready for college. We truly believe it's because we did — without knowing how or why — many of the things you'll find in the FaithLaunch program.
Cindy and I didn't "launch" our relationship with Christ when we were children. Our own stories prove that children can accept the Lord when they're at voting age or older. So if your older child doesn't respond to God's invitation before adulthood, the story may be far from over.
Still, the benefits of following Jesus begin in this life. Since you want the best for your child, you want him or her to start receiving those benefits as soon as possible. Children face more challenges today then ever, and at a younger age; introducing them to Christ now, while they're young, is the most important gift you can give them.
It will be an incredible blessing to you as well. The aging apostle John said this about his spiritual children: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 4). That's true for any parent of older or grown children who sees them making good decisions and living a life of faith and love for Christ.