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December 19, 2007
Column #1,373
(first of a two-part series)
"Revolutionary Parenting" - Part I
By Mike McManus

Every Christmas I suggest a gift that can draw others closer to Jesus, whose birthday is being celebrated.  This is my most important suggestion ever for parents or grandparents.  Buy the book "Revolutionary Parenting" by George Barna, a Christian pollster and author of 38 books, known best for "The Frog in the Kettle."

Barna initially doubted the need for the book. Ten new parenting books have been published daily for 21 years - 75,000 of them.  Why is another needed?

First, parents must learn how to help their children become "spiritual champions," who are "irrepressible followers of Jesus Christ, who accept the Bible as truth, and seek ways to impact the world and continually deepen his or her relationship with God."

Spiritual champions are also unusually generous with time and money in support of spiritually driven causes, screen the media they ingest and "strive to change the world in small but life-impacting ways" such as feeding the hungry, counseling the bereaved, encouraging the confused, or protecting the environment.

Second, Barna's book is based on a thousand interviews with people in their twenties who ARE leading transformed lives - and with hundreds of their parents, to learn how they created spiritual champions.  In this research with two generations - the change agent and the changed agent - of the parenting process, Barna found tremendous consistency between what the parents say they did and what their spiritually transformed children remember experiencing.

Compare that research with what is in most parenting books - hunches, personal experience or unproven theories.

The need for creating spiritual champions can be gleaned from a cursory look at the American culture where four-fifths profess to be Christians and 40 percent attend services in any week.

Our nominal Christian culture has produced students who score well below a many nations in reading, math and science. Nearly half are sexually active in high school, 13 million kids live in poverty and 12 million are overweight.  Why? One answer is that 18 million children are being reared by single parents.

(Virtually all spiritually transformed young adults were raised by married couples.)

Most children are biblically illiterate. Only a third think the Bible is accurate. More than half (56 percent) believe Jesus sinned and only a third ardently contend that He returned to physical life after his crucifixion.  And average 13-year-olds think they "already know everything of significance in the Bible," Barna writes. "Hence, they are no longer open to learning or actively studying the Scriptures."

This is powerful evidence that both parents and churches have failed to transmit the faith. The biggest blame, however, has to be leveled at Christian parents themselves.
Did we not pay attention to the clear command of God?

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deut. 6:5-7).

Most parents have not done that.  We handed our kids to "experts" at the church to teach the spiritual stuff.

However, even parents who have fallen short can become what Barna calls "Revolutionary Parents."  He and his wife radically changed what they are doing with their three daughters, aged 16, 13 and 12.  "I am an author, a speaker and a researcher, but I am a parent first and foremost.  While my books may have helped some churches change, my greatest opportunity for fostering change is with our own children," he says.

The Barna family now gathers regularly to study the Bible and discuss it. He regularly goes through the girls IPods to listen to their music, so he can talk specifically about whether what they are listening to "is something you should put into your head." If it is unbiblical, he explains what makes it unbiblical to his daughters.

He urges parents to view their children as their legacy. "There is no more important thing we will ever produce than who our children become. The church's responsibility is not to raise children, but to support parents in raising children.

"If we want to see a strong America, we have to ensure that our children grow up into responsible adults who have appropriate values, morals and faith."

Next week's column will give more detail on how to be Revolutionary Parents.

Meanwhile, order the book from for only $12.23. Make a New Year's Resolution to love your children in this deeper way. There's no better Christmas gift.

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