revolutionary PARENTING What the Research Shows Really Works
By GEORGE BARNA
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC. Copyright © 2007 George Barna
All right reserved. ISBN: 978-1-4143-0760-2
Acknowledgments..................................................................ix Introduction.....................................................................xi part one: Reasons chapter one: A Crisis in American Parenting......................................3 part two: Research chapter two: Conditions for Revolutionary Success................................15 chapter three: Revolutionary Parents Put First Things First......................27 chapter four: Revolutionary Planning for Spiritual Champions.....................37 chapter five: The Rules of Revolutionary Engagement..............................63 chapter six: How Revolutionary Parents Behave....................................81 chapter seven: A Revolutionary Faith.............................................101 chapter eight: Training Up Spiritual Champions...................................117 part three: Relevance chapter nine: The Bible's Revolutionary Parenting Rules..........................129 chapter ten: How Studying Revolutionary Parenting Changed Me.....................145 Endnotes.........................................................................159 Resources........................................................................163 About the Author.................................................................165
Chapter One A CRISIS IN AMERICAN PARENTING
PARENTING IS HARD work with no guarantees. You probably know people you respect whose efforts in raising their children you have admired-only to find out later that their children did not turn out as expected. Likewise, you may have read some of the acclaimed manuals on how to be an influential parent, only to find that the advice dispensed did not produce the desired outcomes.
This parenting stuff is tricky business. What makes it especially difficult is that the rest of our lives do not stop in the midst of these efforts, enabling us to give our undivided attention and full energy to raising our children. Sadly, helping our kids develop is just one of the tasks in the plethora of responsibilities we juggle every day.
What makes this task most difficult, though, is that for those of us who have decided to follow Christ as our only hope for gaining truth, purpose, direction, and eternal security, there is no obligation that has greater significance than parenting.
If you're like most parents, you feel you're doing an okay job, based on your own standards-and you're likely to believe that you're certainly doing better than most other parents in the country. You do what you can to provide the best for your young ones. You can't be criticized for not trying: You work hard, you provide a good life for your kids, and you are committed to providing them with what you had growing up and more. You involve the kids in a variety of activities, monitor their whereabouts, and take care of their health. Nobody can accuse you of being a slug when it comes to parenting.
As you examine the state of the nation, you recognize that many-maybe even most-children are not as fortunate as yours. Most kids do not have parents who love them and take care of them like you do yours. Most children do not conduct themselves as well as yours. And most children do not have the exposure to religious training that yours receive in church and through other programs and events.
YOU GET WHAT YOU MEASURE
Our conclusions are based upon the criteria we have adopted for the assessment of our children's well-being. Think about it. What do we seek to provide for our children? We want them to be happy, safe, comfortable, good citizens, educated, religious, and fulfilling their potential. The criteria parents use to determine the condition of their children are substantial. Most parents would examine the state of their children and conclude they are:
> Provided with their basic needs: food, clothing, shelter
> Physically healthy
> Performing at or beyond their grade level
> In a secure and comfortable home
> Monitored and cared for by parents
> Involved with church services and programs
> Connected to decent friends
> Not involved in gangs
> Not taking drugs
> Not alcoholics
> Not out-of-control sexually
> Not involved in a cult or in satanic activity
> Not the victim of physical or emotional abuse
> Without a criminal record or related problems
These measures are meaningful-as far as they go. But here's the invisible problem that hampers the development of America's children: We are measuring their well-being based upon the wrong standards. Without realizing it, we have made ourselves the judge and jury of what is right and wrong, good and bad, useful and useless in relation to our children's lives.
You are not likely to get the right outcome if you base your actions on the assessment of the wrong things. Yet when it comes to raising our children, Americans have created a matrix of measurements based upon what our society defines to be significant. We gather the raw data for those indices based upon the best information we are able to capture from the ever-present, omniscient mass media. We analyze what we learn based upon our standards and make corrections as needed. The result, of course, is that our children are constantly receiving "the best care" available.
Think about that process for a moment. We have replaced God with ourselves, usurping leadership over our children's circumstances. We have ignored God's Word when it comes to determining how well we're doing, believing that if our conditions meet the social norms, we're most likely in compliance with God's expectations. And we make our judgments and comparisons on the basis of the popular wisdom and criteria dispensed by a mass media that is run for profit by groups of people who have no intention or desire of pleasing God or meeting His standards through the material they produce and distribute. With that in mind, it would not be hard to challenge some of the common thinking about the "okayness" of our children.
For instance, we could note the decline in educational performance: Reading skills are declining, writing skills are abysmal, math ability is below par, and science knowledge is lacking. We could expose the percentages of teens and adolescents having sexual intercourse, smoking, drinking, using drugs, or being victimized by violent crime. Some of the rates of activity in these areas have declined in recent years, but millions and millions of our children remain caught up in such lifestyles. We could harp on the 13 million children who live in poverty, or the 18 million who are being raised by a single parent. We could highlight the issue of physical health, focusing on the 12 million children who are overweight, or the millions of children (particularly girls) who wrestle with anorexia and bulimia, or the 8 million children who receive subpar health care because they have no health insurance.
But that would be missing the point, too.
WHAT DOES GOD MEASURE?
What is the point? That God is the absolute judge of how well our children are doing, that His standards examine the character and faith of our young people, and His ways are often not facilitated by many of the activities we promote or endorse, regardless of our ignorance or good intentions.
You get what you measure. If you want intellectuals, measure their exposure to complex information and ideas, and their performance on sophisticated tests. If you want great athletes, evaluate how committed they are to advanced physical training and how superbly they perform in sporting competitions. If you want relational people, determine how connected and popular they are among their peers.
What does God measure? Our hearts. He created us to love, serve, and obey Him. So He studies the indicators of our devotion to Him. As parents, then, our job is to raise spiritual champions. That does not mean we are supposed to ignore the significance of developing our children's intellectual, emotional, and physical dimensions. But it suggests that we have to see the bigger picture of God's priorities and raise our children in light of His standards, not ours or society's.
FAILING BY GOD'S STANDARDS
If we were to gauge how well we're doing in this regard, the outcomes might startle you. Consider these findings from a recent survey we conducted among a nationally representative sample of children between the ages of eight and twelve.
> Most of our children are biblically illiterate, which will become clear as you read on. Their ignorance of Bible teachings corresponds to the fact that only one-third (36 percent) of our adolescents fully believe that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
> Few of our children are motivated to share their faith in Christ with others. Less than one out of every five (19 percent) contend that they have a responsibility to evangelize their peers.
> Not even half of our young people (46 percent) state that their religious faith is very important in their lives.
> Few of our children take Satan seriously. Only one-fourth of them (28 percent) completely dismiss the idea that Satan is symbolic, instead believing that the devil is real.
> Salvation baffles most of our young ones. Only two out of every ten reject the idea that good people can earn their way into heaven. And only three out of every ten dismiss the belief that everyone experiences the same postdeath outcome, regardless of their beliefs. In fact, only two out of every ten adolescents (21 percent) strongly disagree with the statement that people cannot know for sure what will happen to them after they die.
> Most of our kids are willing to entertain the idea that Jesus Christ sinned while He lived on earth. Only 44 percent outright dismiss the idea.
> The majority live for things other than loving God with all their hearts, minds, strength, and souls. Specifically, only four out of ten live with that purpose in mind.
> Three out of four young people reject the notion that there is no such thing as God. However, not only is that lower than expected based upon adult surveys, but we found that fewer young people today-only 58 percent-believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe who still rules His creation. That result is lower than any we have seen in the last quarter century of survey work. A similar percentage (about six out of every ten) believes that God originally created the universe.
> Only one-third of America's adolescents ardently contend that Jesus Christ returned to physical life after His crucifixion and death on the cross.
> By their own admission, our children are confused theologically. Based on their reaction to statements like "It doesn't matter what religious faith I follow because they all teach similar lessons," it's clear that they do not know what to think about competing worldviews and belief systems.
Add to this last fact that our national surveys of thirteen-year-olds reveal that most of them think they already know everything of significance in the Bible (hence, they are no longer open to learning or actively studying the Scriptures). Also, most of them have no intention of continuing to attend a church when they are in their twenties and living on their own.
In addition, consider that fewer than one out of every five parents of young children believe they are doing a good job of training their children morally and spiritually. In fact, when we asked a national sample of adults with children under eighteen to rate their parenting performance on fifteen different indicators, we discovered that parents ranked their efforts related to morality and spirituality at the bottom of the list.
What does all of this add up to? A crisis.
For a host of reasons, we are failing to train children to become the spiritual champions that God created them to be.
SOLVING THE PROBLEM
So how do we address this crisis?
Our natural inclination would be to do one of two things. The most common reaction, according to our studies, is for parents to deny that the problem is as bad as the data suggest.
Americans have a tendency to repudiate facts that discredit what they believe to be true. In more than two decades of research regarding America's faith and lifestyles, we have seen this inclination emerge over and over again. The more sensitive people are to the criticism raised, the more likely their initial reaction will be to reject the facts of the argument, if not the argument itself.
The second common reaction is to push the problem onto someone else. When it comes to the well-being of their children, people might naturally turn such matters over to the government, local schools, or perhaps churches to make things right.
In this case, however, governments are running scared from addressing overtly religious issues, defending themselves against lawsuits for allegedly corrupting the balance between church and state. Schools, as wards of the state, struggle with similar limitations. Conventional churches, which are generally sympathetic to the crisis, are partly responsible for the spiritual problems we've identified, and most of them are in no position-practically or biblically-to provide a solution.
These responses to reality are the catalysts to ineffective parenting. In the introduction, I referred to three styles of parenting: among them were parenting by default and experimental parenting. Those approaches are driven by the inability to wisely and strategically address the facts. The ones who suffer the most from parental inefficacy are the children.
A JOB FOR PARENTS
Fortunately, the fact that neither government nor schools are the solution to the problem is not a big deal. That's because they are not the ones responsible for fixing the problem.
The responsibility for raising spiritual champions, according to the Bible, belongs to parents. The spiritual nurture of children is supposed to take place in the home. Organizations and people from outside the home might support those efforts, but the responsibility is squarely laid at the feet of the family. This is not a job for specialists. It is a job for parents.
Recalling the pressures and challenges already burdening most parents, how then can this demanding task be accomplished?
That's the reason for this book. Based upon a nationwide study of children who grew up to be spiritual champions and the parents who raised them that way, we will explore the process that seems to facilitate the emergence of young people who have become fully developed human beings-in the spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual dimensions.
The information learned about this process may not make it any easier to be a parent, but it is sure to make it a more focused and productive experience.
Excerpted from revolutionary PARENTING by GEORGE BARNA Copyright © 2007 by George Barna. Excerpted by permission.
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