How to Wreck a Child’s Faith: Dr. Collin Outerbridge
If you knew someone was viciously sabotaging your kids' faith, what would you do? Dr. Collin Outerbridge insists that enemy exists. Knowing those strategies remains critical to combatting your kids' vulnerabilities, and winning the war for lifetime faith.
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If you knew someone was sabotaging your kids’ faith, what would you do? Dr. Collin Outerbridge reveals that enemy’s strategies and helps win the war.
How to Wreck a Child’s Faith: Dr. Collin Outerbridge
Collin: Oftentimes, we can live vicariously through our kids, and their success becomes our success; their failure becomes our failure. And if we’re not careful, we’ll place a burden on our kids to ask them and demand of them something that they were never designed to do, which is to fulfill a point of pain that we have in our own life.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Ann: This is FamilyLife
Dave: Okay, we’re talking about parenting; raising the next generation.
Ann: I love these topics.
Dave: Yes. We have Dr. Collin Outerbridge back with us. You’re an amazing dad, I’m just going to tell you, listening to you. I haven’t met Stacey; I don’t know your kids.
Collin: I think she’s an amazing mom, and I’m happy to be a part of her family. That’s the way I put it.
Ann: That’s very humble of you.
Dave: Seriously, the wisdom, the strategies you guys—I guarantee parents that have been listening the last couple of days are making decisions that are different than what they’ve been doing based on sort of a model that you’ve been giving us, which is awesome.
Ann: And if you haven’t listened, go back and listen to them. This is going to be gold for you as a parent; things that you can implement in your home.
Dave: Yes, I love it. It’s really in some ways coming from a series you did in your church, Kids These Days, teaching parents and families how we raise the next generation to love Jesus as adults.
The last couple days, you’ve been talking about King Nebuchadnezzar; [about] Daniel in Babylon. There was a strategy that King Nebuchadnezzar used (the enemy used) to indoctrinate these young men. So, we’ve been talking about that. Somehow, you have to give us a review of what that strategy was because, as parents, there’s a strategy in our culture that’s influencing our kids. If we don’t know that, we’re doomed. If we do, we can counteract that.
Collin: I think it’s “new days, old plays.” If you know the playbook of the enemy, you have the advantage in your home and in relationship with your kids. So often we feel like we’re playing this game, and we don’t know what the enemy is going to do, but it’s the same thing every single time, generation after generation.
Ann: Because he’s not creative.
Collin: Right. He’s not a creator; he’s a copycat. When we know what the playbook is, we can then scheme to win this war that the enemy is waging against the next generation. It really does involve five key plays. We’ve talked about four so far. The first one is to fictionalize the faith. “If I can get the faith to be just a part of a child’s life, but not key to a child’s life, I’ve won”. What one generation believes, the next generation forgets, and the third generation denies.
The second element is to gather the influencers. I don’t have to get everybody on board; I just have to get the influencers on board. As parents, we have a responsibility to make sure that we have influence over who is influencing our kids.
The third element is to re-educate them, to change their imagination of Who God is; and we have to be involved and engaged as parents when it comes to the education of our kids. The data points to the fact that there’s a lot of room for many of us to grow in this particular area.
The fourth one that we talked about was keeping our kids dependent upon the King’s table. One of the key elements that leads to resilient faith in kids is being the kind of parents and the kinds of leaders in their lives that remind them and give them an imagination for the world that is beyond simply getting to next week or what the next assignment looks like, but reminding them that we are made for eternity, that we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, and we belong to a great King.
Dave: Wow! Give us number five.
Collin: I think number five is the most important one, in that if we can identify this and see it happen ahead of time, we can have a significant impact on the outcome for our kids. The fifth one is what we find in Daniel 1. It’s around verse 7, where King Nebuchadnezzar tells Ashpenaz to rename the four Hebrew boys. You maybe know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Well, those are the Babylonian names that are given to three Hebrew boys and then Daniel was given, as well, the name Belteshazzar. What’s interesting is that the four Hebrew boys’ birth names all pointed to the goodness, the mercy, the kindness, the compassion, and the justice of God. Their names had meaning, and what the Babylonian empire did was rename those Jewish boys and give them Babylonian names that were connected to their gods.
I think that in this cultural moment, our children are consistently being bombarded with different versions of what it means to be human that is under the framework of something lesser than their ultimate call, which is to be image bearers of God. God gives us a name, God gives us value, God gives us dignity; and I think we’re in a culture right now where lesser things are the primary voices that are trying to identify kids today.
Ann: So, you’re saying our kids are in an identity crisis—
Collin: —a thousand percent.
Ann: —because they have no idea who they are; because the world is trying to shape their identity.
Collin: Absolutely. It can be as simple as a kid thinking, “I’m a volleyball player,” or “I’m a football player,” as opposed to, “I’m the beloved of God, made in His image, who happens to play football.” That’s as simple as it can be. And it can be something broader than that. It could be, “I’m smart.”
Well, that could be true, but there’s going to be a moment in your life where being smart isn’t going to be enough; but what is always enough is, “I’m the beloved of God.” I think as parents we have to be very, very wise about what we celebrate in our home. We can’t just show up for our kids’ achievements. We need to love them the same in their failures.
One of the things that I’ve thought about is when our kid succeeds—let’s say they make the play or they make the team—we might go out for a celebratory lunch, right? Or get ice cream or something like that. Well, what happens if they fail? What if they get cut? What if they don’t make the team? Do we still go out to celebrate? Do we still get ice cream?
Dave: No, we transfer to another school.
Collin: Right. [Laughter] We transfer to another school. We blame the coach, and we transfer to another school.
Dave: You’re saying still go out.
Collin: Oh, yes. I think that we can unintentionally hammer home a message that our kids are already experiencing, that you are only as good as what you do. The culture is right. What we’re communicating to our kids is, “Your popularity, your success, those are the most important things about you.” Those might be parts of you, but the most important thing about you is that you are unconditionally loved by the God of the Universe, Who knows you by name, did not make a mistake when He made you, and brought you into this world to make a real difference.
That’s the greater identity that our kids need to step into. We have to recognize that the culture has a different vision for our children than that one, so if we can do everything we can to anchor them to the truth of God’s unconditional love for them, I think we create the conditions for their flourishing when life inevitably gets hard.
Ann: How are you doing that with your four kids?
Collin: I think a couple of ways that we are trying to lean into this—we do really simple things like, as an example, when we travel, our kids know that when we call in to say goodnight, they all place their hand on the phone, and we give them the Numbers 6 benediction. We speak that over them, and the last word in it is, “May the Lord give you peace,” and they all yell, “Peace.”
Every night we walk into our kids’ rooms, we place our hand on each of their heads, and we remind them of this: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” [Numbers 6] Our kids have that anchored in their heart, in their spirit.
So, one is just the simplicity of redundancy. My kids know that word-for-word, and they roll their eyes sometimes when they hear it. I’m okay with that because they need to know that they belong to God. And then, the second piece is leaning into our own life and our own stories, and asking ourselves the hard question: “What do I need from my kid to fill a gap that I have in me?”
Collin: Oftentimes, we can live vicariously through our kids, and their success becomes our success; their failure becomes our failure. And if we’re not careful, we will place a burden on our kids to ask them and demand of them something that they were never designed to do, which is to fulfill a point of pain that we have in our own life.
Really, we need to do some work on our own to get before the Lord and make sure that we’re in a healthy and healed place, especially if our kids begin to jump into the things that we loved doing when we were young, too.
Ann: Have you seen parents do that?
Collin: Oh, I’m a work in progress in that very place. [Laughter] Let’s be up front and honest. I grew up playing competitive sports; my wife did as well. So, [since] our kids jumped into that space, it takes everything inside of us to remember, “Hey, what matters most here is not whether or not she’s the starter, or he’s the starter, or he’s the quarterback or the point guard.”
“What matters the most is that my kid knows that, regardless of what happens when they’re competing or what grade they get, when they get home, they know that the love that Mom and Dad have for them is not conditional.” And there’s work that we have to do consistently to ask the question, “Okay, am I responding in a way because I feel disappointed, or because I’m struggling here, or am I responding in such a way where I can show up for my kid and give them what they need?”
Dave: I think parents need to be reminded with this identity—speaking God’s identity in Christ—into your kids. You can never say it enough.
Dave: You think, “Oh, it’s like perfume. If I put too much on, it stinks.” No. They’re getting beat up out there. Nobody’s doing this. In fact, like you said, the culture is speaking the wrong identity into them. They’re going on social media and seeing—
When they walk into your house, they should feel like it’s a haven.
Dave: “This is a place where I hear who I really am from parents that know.” I think that’s our job.
Ann: I think, too, to gauge—listen to yourself; what are you complimenting your kids about, because I know for me it’s really easy just to do performance: “Hey, good job in school. Good job in your sport.” But to get into the identity of, “I love how God made you. I love who you are. You are loved no matter what.” Those words are important.
I remember a college girl came to our house because she went to our church. She had tried to commit suicide three different times. She was a freshman. She was a soccer player, and she got hurt. So, she came to me, and she was talking to me. My question to her was, “Who are you?” and she said, “I’m a soccer player. I don’t know who I am apart from that. I’ve been doing this since I was four years old. I’m nobody.”
I remember saying to her, “You are a child of God, and Jesus loves you. [He] died for you. You are so loved, and you’re made in His image.” She had never heard anything like that before. She gave her life to Jesus; she’s serving Him, loving Him. But man, that is critical in a culture that we’re being raised in today. Kids are seeing a very different view of who they are.
Collin: Yes. I think Daniel 1:8 points to the reality that, for Daniel and his friends, they knew who they belonged to, because in verse 8, it says that Daniel “resolved.” He made some decisions that led to him saying, “I know that I am more valuable than what Babylon says I am.”
If we want to see our kids flourish in the world (because kids these days will become adults one day), they have got to be able to anchor their identity to something greater than what the culture is inviting them to anchor to; because, if not, they will end up drifting away. We have this golden opportunity as parents to create an environment where they know without a shadow of a doubt Who they belong to, what really matters, and that they belong to the God of the universe.
Dave: I just looked at Daniel 1:8: “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” To a lot of people it would be, “Just a little food. It’s not that big a deal.” No, no. Little things can become big things. He said, “I’m not going to compromise at all. As parents, we think, “Man, I want my child, as an 18-year-old or 17-year-old, not to compromise in the little things.”
Here’s where I want to go with the last part we have, which is the third week of your series. You take Deuteronomy 6 and say, “There’s a game plan here in Scripture. Parents, do this.” It’s what they did in the Shema. Walk us through what that would look like. We only have ten minutes, but we know you can do this.
Collin: Oh, yes.
Dave: You’re a preacher, man. You can do it in any amount of time.
Collin: Absolutely, absolutely. I’m used to a clock. I want us to, just for a moment, imagine that we’re a teenage boy, ripped out of our culture, our home; taken apart from our parents, placed in a lavish place with endless food, temptation we cannot even begin to think through or imagine, right? And no one’s going to know. No mom or dad’s going to be disappointed.
No book has to be written, right? Daniel doesn’t exist unless Daniel chooses to follow God and then document what happens. He has every reason to walk away from faith, walk away from God, at the very least for his own survival, and he doesn’t. That has left me wondering, “Why? What was it about Daniel and his friends that kept them tethered to God?”
As you research the Old Testament, what you know to be true is, God has always had a remnant. There has always been a generation of faithfulness even in the midst of countless people walking away. There’s always a group that stays faithful. And when you look at it, the reason why they stay faithful is because God put in the Old Testament this ancient playbook for us, that is better than the enemy’s playbook, that allows us to win the game.
Deuteronomy Chapter 6 shows us the Shema. The Shema lays out this, “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your strength. Impress this upon your children. Talk about it when you lie down and when you get up. Talk about it when you walk along the way and when you stand at the gate.”
In those three or four verses, we have a three-part game plan that, as parents, we can utilize to win the game against the enemy. The first step has to do with investing. We have to invest in our own personal walk with God. “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord.” You, right? He’s not talking to kids. He’s talking to the adults in Israel: “You shall love the Lord your God.”
Oxford did a study of 3,500 people, 350 families, over a hundred years, and they asked the question, “How is faith transferred?” What they found is the primary way that faith is transferred is through the parents of the family. It wasn’t, “If you’re super-spiritual, your kids will be super-spiritual.” It was regardless of what your energy is toward faith; whatever that energy is, is what your kids will pick up.
Collin: As preachers, there’s an old quote: “A mist in the pulpit is—"
Dave and Collin: “—a fog in the pew.”
Collin: I think it’s also true when it comes to our walk with God. If our kids don’t see us energetically in love with Jesus, the message they hear is, “He’s not that important.” But when they see us clearly in love with Him, passionate about Him, it has an impact on their life. So, the first step here is: Mom, Dad, do you love Jesus? Are you convinced that He’s good? Is your life leveraged toward Him?
One of my good friends said that every morning when he walked down the stairs, he smelled one thing and saw another. He always smelled hot coffee, and he saw his dad with his Bible open, from the time he can remember. This young man is in love with Jesus and reads his Scripture every day. Why? Because he saw a dad who loved God.
Parents, what are your kids seeing you do? If they don’t see you in the Word, they’re not going to think that the Word’s important. If they see you on your phone, they’ll think the phone’s important. If they see you rushing to the office before you spend time with God, they’ll think that work is important. We have to model for our kids what it looks like to love Jesus if we want them to love Jesus, too.
Ann: This is going to be a risky thing for me to say, but if you have teenagers, ask them, “Do you guys think I love God?”
Dave: “What’s most important?”
Ann: Yes, and be careful, because your kids are going to tell you the truth; but I think it’s a good gauge.
Dave: Yes. Alright, that’s one.
Collin: Yes. The second step is impress. We have to be intentional. We have to impress the good news of Jesus on the life of our kids. We oftentimes think that they’ll just catch it. We have to be intentional, and the way we can be intentional is—I think parents need to ask three questions surrounding conviction, competency, and community.
Conviction: “What do I want my kids to believe?” Ask that question and write it out. “What do I want them to believe?”
Competencies: “What do I want them to know how to do?” If I want them to know how to hear God’s voice, I have to create space where I ask them, “Hey, why don’t you pray about that?” and then ask them, “What did you hear God say?” And maybe what they heard God say was not what you wanted them to hear God say. If it’s not going to be something that ruins their life, we should let them act that out.
I’m a firm believer [that] I would rather my kids be wrong trusting God than be right not knowing how to hear Him, because, in the long run, I want them to be able to hear God’s voice.
Ann: That’s good!
Collin: Convictions, competencies, and the last piece is community. Kids are not meant to walk with Jesus by themselves. They need to be in community. We need to identify churches and places where our kids want to be, and then do everything we can to get them there.
We invest, we impress; and the last piece is, we integrate. The Scripture says that we’re supposed to talk about God when we sit down and when we get up, when we’re walking, and when we’re standing. [Deuteronomy 6] That’s not a literal statement; it’s a merism. It’s this ancient tradition that’s used in the Old Testament to describe wholeness and fullness. The goal is—the Scriptures are teaching us: you should integrate God into all of life.
Collin: We should be talking about God all of the time, and when our kids recognize that God is not just an activity that we do on Sunday, but He is a person that we follow and walk with every day, we create the best opportunity for them to connect. And that’s not just the Scriptures, although the Scriptures alone would be sufficient.
Christian Smith, who’s a PhD researcher at Notre Dame, did a longitudinal research study, and what he found is that the primary way that faith is transferred to kids happens to be with kids who believe that God has to do with every part of life, not just some parts of it. We have to identify that as parents: what happens around the dining room table, what happens when we’re driving in our car, what happens when there’s failure and when we miss the mark at home?
Do our kids know that God is not something that is relegated to a box, but God is someone that’s involved in every aspect of Mom and Dad’s life, their decision making, their money choices, their relational dynamics, how we forgive? Our kids need to see God involved in every aspect of life, because God is interested in every part of life.
Dave: As you look at Deuteronomy 6:7, it says, “impress them, talk about them when you walk,” and everything you said. What we often miss, you didn’t miss; verse 6: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.”
Dave: He starts with the parents, saying it starts—
Collin and Dave: —with you.
Dave: So many parents have come up to us, whether I was a pastor or now with FamilyLife, and said, “What book, what course do I need to take to be the parent, to help my kids be this way?” I just want to say, “Those are important. I know they’re important. You walk with Jesus. They are going to follow your walk, not your point. They’re going to walk the way you walk.” So, parent, the best thing you can do to raise warriors for Jesus as adult men and women is be a warrior for Jesus.
That’s hard work. That means I have to fight to say, “This relationship with God is my priority, and I’m going to clear out everything in my schedule and make sure that it happens.” Not that I’m doing it in front of my kids so they see it; I’m doing it because it’s who I am, and it’s going to be transferred. Again, no guarantees, but it’s going to be transferred better that way than anything else.
Collin, I just have to say, as an older man, way to go, seriously!
Ann: Yes, I want to applaud you.
Dave: You are a man of God, a husband, and a dad that is impressive, not because of all your gifts (which you obviously have). It’s because of your commitment to Christ and being the man He wants you to be to lead your family to where He wants them to be. You’re creating a legacy. Way to go!
Collin: Well thank you guys for all that you do. I am blessed by your ministry and super thankful that you’d have me on.
Shelby: You know, the old adage that things are “caught, not taught” isn’t always correct, but with your kids, things can be taught and caught. The way they’ll be caught is primarily how you live. I personally have been asking God lately for wisdom—wisdom to make godly decisions in front of my kids—so they’ll see who I am and Who I’ve put first. So, let’s do it. Let’s do it together.
I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Collin Outerbridge on FamilyLife Today. If you want to hear more from Collin, he has a three-part YouTube series that you could easily find by going to FamilyLifeToday.com in the show notes (clicking on that), and you can view more of the three-part series he has posted called Kids These Days. We encourage you to check it out.
And while you’re at FamilyLifeToday.com, I wanted to remind you that Weekend to Remember®gift cards are now 50 percent off. One of the things we say here at FamilyLife, a lot, actually, is “great marriages don’t just happen. They’re built with intentionality.” We’re either drifting in marriage, or intentionally moving toward each other and together toward God.
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What’s it like for a Christian to fully occupy your unique space and then trust God and His plans for both your life and the lives of others that you touch? Well, tomorrow, Heather MacFadyen is going to be here with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about just that. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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