By Aaron Wilson
Parents can feel overwhelmed raising children in a seemingly chaotic world. Church leaders worry they can’t answer questions from parents and kids alike about all the issues swirling in culture, from sex and marriage to depression and technology.
Christ-Centered Parenting: Gospel Conversations in a Complex World, a new curriculum co-authored by Phillip Bethancourt and Russell Moore, aims to help both groups.
Facts & Trends recently spoke with Bethancourt, executive vice president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), about countercultural parenting as an essential focus of the church.
What need did you sense in the church that led to the creation of this curriculum?
The number one issue we’re hearing at the ERLC is parents who say they have a hard time understanding complex cultural issues and an even harder time talking about these topics with their kids. We wanted to provide a resource to serve parents who don’t feel equipped to navigate the culture within the context of their families.
You use the word “complex” to describe today’s culture. Why?
Many parents grew up in a more homogeneous environment when it came to society’s views on cultural issues. That’s no longer the world we live in. Today, there’s more complexity with the divergent perspectives people have on cultural subjects.
There’s also complexity in the issues themselves—for example, a classmate who comes to school one year as a girl and returns the next as a boy. Children are being exposed to weighty issues at an earlier stage than ever before.
This curriculum tackles weighty subjects, like human dignity and sexuality. Why begin with a session on gospel framework?
We start with the gospel because it’s the foundation for navigating all of life’s big issues. At the ERLC, we see ethics as applying the gospel to everyday life. In the realm of parenting, we’re trying to apply the gospel to cultural issues that parents and children face every day.
How can the church address a parenting subject like technology from a gospel perspective?
After sexuality, technology is the subject matter parents have told us they feel the most poorly equipped to address. Technology can be used for amazing good, but it can also lead people into deception, temptation, and sin.
Parents won’t find a verse in Scripture that gives them an exact 10-step plan to deal with technology, but the gospel does enable parents to better understand the hearts of their kids as they use such devices.
In today’s Google-search society where people want quick answers to questions, what value do you see in someone devoting six weeks to a study on countercultural parenting?
We’ve found the two main reasons parents struggle with addressing cultural issues is a lack of understanding and a lack of confidence. Many parents don’t feel they have a clear picture of what the Bible says about certain topics or how a biblical worldview on that subject differs from the culture’s. When parents go beyond Google searches to develop a foundational understanding on these issues, they grow in confidence.
This curriculum also helps parents know they and the church are in this together. We’re all navigating choppy waters the best we can. When you combine better understanding with stronger confidence, it gives parents the tools they need to shepherd their children through complex cultural issues.
Why did you include age-specific tools at the end of each session?
Parents often have a hard time understanding the best way to engage their children at different ages on sensitive subjects. The age-specific primers in this curriculum provide parents with information such as developmental milestones, key questions their kids are asking, conversation starters to get the ball rolling, and coaching tips.
What would you say to parents who feel they’re too far behind?
It’s never too late to help children make connections between the gospel and everyday life. Even if you might want to go back and do things differently in your parenting, we each have to deal with where we are today.
One of the richest things a parent can do with a child is to acknowledge shortcomings and say, “I didn’t always do this the way I should as a parent. I want to work to get that right now and chart a new direction.” That’s really inspiring for any child, especially a teenager.
What are some ways pastors and ministry leaders can partner with parents and equip them to shepherd kids through cultural issues?
The parents in your church are looking for answers, and they’ll either look to the church or the culture. Even if a pastor or ministry leader isn’t encountering certain cultural issues firsthand, families in the church are. Our calling as pastors and ministry leaders is to shepherd our people. We do that by helping them make connections between the Bible and their real-life situations.
At the same time, pastors often feel pressure to be experts on everything. The reality is they don’t have the time or resources to do that. This curriculum is intended to come alongside ministry leaders and supplement them.
What should the church be excited about as kids grow up in today’s complex world?
We now live in a culture where there’s little to no benefit in identifying as a Christian in many communities. As a result, those who are in church are more likely to be “all in.”
We have the opportunity to raise children who are distinctly countercultural. When the culture is heading in one direction, our children can shine like stars in the darkness around them as Paul describes in Philippians 2:15. That gives me a lot of hope for what’s next.
AARON WILSON (@AaronBWilson26) is associate editor for Facts & Trends.