Marilyn's parents seemed satisfied when they coached her to pray the "sinner's prayer" at age five. Her mother hugged her, calling it a "great moment" in the girl's life — and it certainly seemed like it was! She'd said the "right" words, after all.
But Marilyn's heart wasn't in this journey. Her interest in Christianity had begun and ended with that prayer. By the time she was a teenager, she hated her life. Today she's turned her back on the "fundamentalism" of her childhood, vowing to spend the rest of her days learning to "be herself."
As Marilyn's story demonstrates, the goal of faith-launching is to cultivate an eternal, personal relationship with God. It's not just to get our child to say words that make us relax or feel better.
That's not to say that "praying the prayer" or having a specific "launch day" isn't important. The act of believing in Jesus, wanting forgiveness for sins, and saying so is an indispensable beginning.
But ignoring the rest of the flight plan can lead to shortcuts that endanger your "astronaut." Parents who aim only to hear the "right words" from a very young child may be tempted to "get this out of the way" as if it were an awkward talk about the birds and the bees. They may fail to supply their kids with enough information as they grow up to make a real, lasting choice. To use a more biblical word picture, they may build a house on sand, not rock.
"Hey," you might say. "Aren't you supposed to be encouraging me? I'm already nervous about this faith-launching stuff, and you're just telling me all the things that can go wrong."
Sorry. If you're anxious about helping your child become a Christian, it's understandable. You may think it's all up to you. You may think that if you "fail," the launch window will slam shut and no one will ever be able to reach your child.
Or perhaps you're more worried about how this process might affect your relationship with your son or daughter. What if your child rejects you for acting "weird" when you try to bring up "spiritual things"? What if he or she won't "go along" when you ask for a decision about following Jesus? Will things get awkward — or worse?
Let's look at seven common faith-launching worries parents face — and why you don't have to feel overwhelmed by them.
Count on the all-powerful God to use your less-than-perfect efforts — in His own time. When it comes to launch windows, He's able to open a lot more than doors.