As western society moves into what’s been described as a “post-Christian” or even “post-truth” era, raising children up in the faith—and giving them a firm foundation that withstands opposition and temptation—is more important now than ever. Parents have that monumental task ahead of them and, along with the church, they need partners to equip them for the journey. That’s the sweet spot for Christian publishers as they create relevant, reliable resources, and for Christian retail stores as they put those resources in parents’ hands and provide a safe haven for families to learn, question, share, and grow together.
Begin at Home
Melinda Bouma, publisher at Zondervan Bibles, says that as a mom of two young children, when she hears statistics about how many young people leave the faith, it creates a personal burden to be a part of changing the narrative. “And as the publisher for NIV Bibles for teens and adults, I have a role I can play in helping provide resources for the crucial teenage years.”
When considering new teen Bible projects, Bouma says, “We keep this [issue] in mind by asking tough questions about the content—will it drive teens into God’s Word, or will it distract from God’s Word? Does it lead them into an encounter with God and help create a rhythm to interacting with His Word, so that they build a foundation before life moves them into a phase of life in which they are hopefully continuing these spiritual disciplines for themselves?”
Recently, Zondervan released NIV Journal the Word Bible for Teen Girls to help teen girls learn how to interact with God through His Word. “This ‘skill’ is one that’s lacking for today’s teens, yet this is a critical part of making their faith take root. We developed this Bible with that need in mind, hoping to train ‘Bible readers and responders,’” Bouma says.
Devin Maddox, books publisher at B&H Publishing Group, says there are two groups of people who are called to the task of discipling children: parents and the church. And these two groups are called in specific ways.
“I’m a parent, and I see my three boys’ discipleship as one of my highest callings in life—more than my professional/vocational assignments, my ministry/pastoral assignments, and using my gifts/talents for the Lord in unique seasons of opportunity,” he says. “I’m not only commanded by God to teach them but compelled to teach them because they are the unreached people group right under my feet. Moreover, I’m compelled because I treasure them.”
He goes on to say the church is called to reach the nations to the ends of the earth. “So, my brothers and my sisters are called to reach my children as well. We share that great calling. And I do so gladly and gratefully. I’ve seen in my own faith journey the vital role friends and mentors played in conforming me more and more into the image of Christ. We often think of ‘the lost,’ especially in churched areas of the United States, as being out there somewhere rather than right next door, or even inside our own homes. This type of thinking must shift—the baby boom of the millennial generation might become the largest unreached people group in the world, if missiologists would allow us to describe it as such.”
“A lot of the stuff that publishers put out is more like Band-Aids than the actual surgery that’s needed,” says Rick Lewis, owner of Logos Bookstore of Dallas. There are good resources that are working, he adds, but kids want to see faith modeled at home and in their relationships.
“So much of what the parents want to do is to hand the kids a book and hope it fixes them, when the best thing I’ve seen in ministering to teens is to have your marriage and your relationship with your spouse working, and your relationship with God working. When those things are established, the teens, whether they say anything or not, are watching. That’s probably the biggest step that’s not often dealt with in our industry,” Lewis says.
John Hinkley, associate publisher of the Gary Chapman Team at Moody Publishers, says, “We know the spiritual vitality of children is a serious concern to parents, particularly when they launch out on their own. Parents are hungry for resources that will help them establish the faith of their children. Rather than force Christianity upon their kids, they want to help them ‘own’ their faith.
“As a publisher, we’re constantly seeking partnerships with individuals and ministries that understand these concerns and have developed effective tools and resources to strengthen the faith and moral convictions of young people,” he says.
Parents need resources that build them up, elevate their courage level, teach them how to communicate effectively with adolescents, and convince them that their greatest influence is through the loving, accessible, and nonjudgmental relationship they cultivate with their teenage and young adult children.
In working with Christian retailers, Hinkley says, “Publishers can serve as sponsors for workshops and open forums. They can recommend authors who specialize in topics of interest to parents and children. They can partner together to distribute books to local churches and schools. They can co-sponsor debates between Christians and non-Christians that demonstrate how Christianity is perceived by the rest of the world and how it can be defended.”
One resource from Moody Publishers, Parents Rising: 8 Strategies for Raising Kids Who Love God, Respect Authority, and Value What’s Right by Arlene Pellicane, is designed to teach parents of toddlers through teenagers practical ways to establish proper roles, create strong loving bonds while maintaining healthy boundaries, exalt God in and through their families, navigate wisely through a screen-driven world, and more (see the review on Page 27 of the April issue of Christian MARKET).
“David C Cook has seen the need for resources to help kids stay in the church and grow in their faith. We’re doing this by producing products that encourage Bible engagement for every stage of a child’s faith formation,” says Michele Baird, senior director of marketing for David C Cook.
“Statistics today show overwhelmingly that reading God’s Word is the biggest indicator of spiritual health. The earlier parents and church leaders can help a child engage with God’s Word as truth for their life the better.”
It’s also worth noting that a recent Barna study shows that nearly half of all teens today are seeking evidence to support their beliefs.
“We’re currently expanding our popular ‘Action Bible’ series and J. Warner Wallace books into curriculum and resources that further support both parents and the church. Just released for this summer is a new vacation Bible school program around the ‘Action Bible’ called Jesus—The First Action Hero,” says Baird.
Read more about how Christian publishers and retailers play a significant role in kids’ lasting faith at cbaonline.org/featurekidsfaith.