Question:How do I help my children to act out the things they confess to believe while they are not in church or with their church friends? It seems like they say one thing to one set of friends and another to the world. I feel like somehow I am not doing something right here. My oldest daughter (16) says that she loves the Lord. She has been on several mission trips, and yet, when push comes to shove, she is persuaded by the influence of the world. Recently, she was suspended from school for stealing her teacher's grading disk. When asked why, she said that she did it on a dare. I am at my wit's end. I have seven children, my husband is away on a six-month deployment. I feel so alone in dealing with all this. All I hear from my church friends is that I am doing something wrong otherwise my child would not be doing such things... Please help guide me.
I need to begin by telling you loud and clear that I think your church friends are wrong! I'm not saying that you are perfect, but I disagree with the comment that you are doing something wrong - otherwise your child wouldn't be doing such things. I think that kind of comment is dead wrong. Take this as encouragement - I've seen people that I consider to be great parents - have tremendous struggles with their teenage sons and daughters. They appear to do (most) everything right, so what's the problem? The problem is that parents cannot guarantee the outcome of their children. Young people, for better or worse, are responsible for the decisions they make. The scary thing, of course, is that the decisions they are making in their teenage years can have lasting implications for the rest of their lives. Parents, of course, if they could do so, would ensure that no child would ever make a bad decision and would become a spiritual giant!
Unfortunately, there is NO way that you can force-feed spiritual maturity on your daughter. But, don't forget that God cares! Believe it or not, He cares even more than you do! Don't forget that He is in control of the spiritual formation and growth of your daughter. His timing, may be different than yours, but I believe that you need to ultimately rest in the knowledge that God will grow your daughter's faith in His own time (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
Now, in the meantime, specifically in regards to your daughter's lack of applying faith principles to real life issues, there are some things you can do which I would call "seed-planting" activities.
First, look to yourself. What kind of model of applying faith to life are you demonstrating? This is an area that you can commit to working on - apart from anything having to do with your daughter. How you connect faith and life will speak volumes to your daughter.
Second, as you go about the business of living life with your daughter, be sure to include discussion times about how faith connects to life. This doesn't mean having a special sit-down discussion - though at times that might be appropriate based on the situation. What I am referring to more specifically is that as you live life and topics arise (watching television, reading the newspaper, talking at dinner or other times) intentionally raise the connection between faith and life (example: asking "What should a Christian differently in this situation? Why does it matter?").
Finally, be sure to pray for your daughter and for her spiritual growth. Never underestimate the power of prayer!
May God bless you and your family!