Rise of a ‘post-truth’ era means parents need partners and resources now more than ever.
In a rapidly changing culture, parents are faced with how to best develop a lasting faith in the lives of their children. Christian MARKET looked at some of the ways Christian publishers and retailers can partner with parents—and grandparents—to lay a Christian foundation that will stand the test of time.
A recent five-year study led by Barna Group president David Kinnaman explored the opportunities and challenges of faith development among teens and young adults. The study concluded, “No single reason dominated the break-up between church and young adults. Instead, a variety of reasons emerged.”
Kinnaman says 59 percent of young people who grow up in a Christian church will either end up walking away from their faith or from the church at some point in their young adult years.
Every person who walked away has a unique story, but there are some common threads, he says, including “churches seem overprotective; teens and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow; churches come across as antagonistic to science; and young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic and judgmental. They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity and the church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.”
Now more than ever before, it will take a group effort to keep children engaged with their faith as they grow up. Playing important roles will be Christian content providers, publishers, and retailers.
Start with the Bible
Kyle Hatfield, acquisitions editor for children and family at Harvest House Publishers, says the most indispensable resource a Christian family needs to have is a good children’s Bible. “Kids need to be exposed to the narrative of Scripture early and as often as possible, “ he says. “A good kids’ Bible is so crucial for families.”
Harvest House publishes The Complete Illustrated Children’s Bible. For toddlers, they offer The Illustrated Bible for Little Ones. Other publishers offer age-appropriate Bibles, including The Jesus Storybook Bible (Zonderkidz).
Hatfield encourages families to find high-quality books and to create a culture of reading, learning, and growing within the family.
“As you create that, and bring in the Bible and other Christian resources, then kids are going to be hungry and curious and want to learn and read on their own. We don’t want to make the Bible bland or boring for kids. We want them to see that it’s exciting, it’s relevant to my life, and it’s life-changing,” Hatfield says.
Heather Trost, owner of The Greatest Gift and Scripture Supply in Pueblo, Colorado, agrees. “We’re seeing a lot of parents come in looking for things that will keep their child’s interest, while keeping them in the Bible. We’ve found that age-appropriate study Bibles are helpful, because they’re so visually appealing, but they also appeal to the needs of that specific age range,” she says. “And teen study Bibles are also among our best-sellers.”
“I think it’s more important than ever for us as publishers to be partnering with retailers and parents to help teach kids,” says Linda Howard, associate publisher at Tyndale. “There are a lot of parents today who don’t feel as equipped as they would like to feel when they’re trying to teach their kids biblical truths, so for us to come alongside of them and be able to provide those resources that help them is one of the top callings for what we do as children’s publishers.”
She notes that it goes beyond providing great books and resources that parents can share with their kids, but also products that are going to pull people into stores.
“Some of the other things we can do is connect authors and retail stores together, such as having authors do readings and sign books, but if the products we’re publishing really help to teach both parents and kids, then it’s a win-win all the way around,” she says.
Another way Tyndale works toward drawing guests into stores is providing companion resources to go along with books, such as free digital downloads and videos for use in the store or on their website.
“Generally up to 85 percent of people who come to Christ do so before the age of 18. For us, that means we have a huge responsibility to present the Gospel and the story of Christ in a way that’s engaging and reaches the heart of kids, so that does absolutely affect the way we approach our publishing decisions,” Howard says.
Charity Kauffman has worked on the frontlines as a children’s ministry director in a local church setting in addition to her role as managing editor at Group Publishing. “A lot of times we might want to emphasize knowing about Jesus and making sure kids know everything there is to know about the Bible and their faith,” she says, “but really, when they know Jesus, when they know Him and have a relationship that’s growing with Him, it’s that relationship that forms a foundation of faith that can grow and change, and develop, and deepen with each season of their lives.” One relevant resource from Group is Friends with God Story Bible, which released last year.
Brian Thomasson, senior acquisitions editor at Baker Books, says the team at Baker is committed to equipping parents and ministry teams to help young people follow Christ and engage with their church community.
“In 2016 we partnered with the Fuller Youth Institute to publish Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. The response to the book from churches and youth ministries across the country has been phenomenal,” he says. “It’s not too late for churches to capture the hearts and minds of teens and emerging adults and draw them into roles and relationships that feel important to them and bring out the best in them.”
Jessica Westra, Zonderkidz public relations associate, says, “Many of our products are excellent resources for parents to use in many seasons of their children’s life to lay down a Christian worldview—and give kids the tools to explain their faith well.”
Releasing this spring as part of the popular “Case For” series by Lee Strobel is The Case for Miracles in a kids and student edition. “Strobel tackles tough questions about God, Jesus, and miracles so that teens and kids can learn more and help explain their faith and knowledge with others,” says Westra.
Read more about how Christian publishers and retailers can partner with parents to lay a Christian foundation for children at cbaonline.org/faithfoundation.