Does anyone else feel completely ignorant when you have a car full of your kids’ friends? No? Just me? If we’re honest, I imagine a good number of us would say we’re pretty lost when the conversation turns to Fortnite, Flossing, Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone, Ana, Mia, TikTok or Twitch. And just when you finally get your head around some of the things and people in pop culture, they are old news and our kids have moved on to the next game, music artist, or trend. But isn’t most of that stuff bad anyway? Should we just take away all devices and limit our kids’ interactions with the world? Is it even possible to raise compassionate kids with biblical character who are also culturally relevant?
Yes, it is. But why does that matter? It seems easier to either set our kids free to be super relevant and connected to culture or to plug their ears, cover their eyes, and insist they only read the Bible and listen to worship music. But here’s the thing: Raising compassionate kids with biblical character doesn’t mean you keep them in their Christian bubble detached from what’s relevant to their peers.
Instead, lead your kids to live a life like Jesus—compassionate with people living under cultural standards while sticking to their convictions of what’s right and true. It’s like what Jesus was talking about in John 17. We don’t belong to the world, but we are sent into it. So we raise our kids with a strong biblical foundation—knowing and living from what’s true. But we also teach them to extend grace to those who don’t believe the things they do.
Teen culture says you can’t be “cool” and be a Christian. But when your children are able to be both, it will open windows of opportunity for them to influence their friends, invite them to church, and boldly make good decisions around their peers that can prompt them to do the same.
Don’t live in fear about culture’s influence on your kids. Instead, teach them how to see culture through a filter of God’s truth. And teach them why it’s important to protect themselves from the negative aspects of our culture.
Wondering how in the world you can navigate that balance? Don’t sweat. We won’t always get it right, but there’s a few practical things parents can do that seem to help as we raise our kids to be relevant, confident, compassionate, and others-focused.
Here are a few ways to lead your kid to have biblical character while still being relevant:
1. Set the example.
If being compassionate, others-focused, honest, and responsible are important qualities for our kids, then certainly they should be evident in our own lives. Our kids need to see us spending time in God’s Word. Romans 12:2 NIV says it best: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Teach your children that there are all kinds of things that get the cultural “thumbs up”—some are good and some are not. But you living out this verse will set the groundwork for your children to begin to discern those things for themselves.
2. Whatever protective apps you use for your kids’ devices should also be used on yours.
Having good character is not age-specific. Protecting our hearts, eyes, and minds from certain things approved by culture is appropriate for people of all ages. When you demonstrate setting boundaries, your kids get to learn from your example about how to observe what’s trendy without being tainted by it. Plus, when your child sees that there’s no double standard, they’re more receptive to the standard—even when they are no longer in your home.
3. Kids with parents who are honest about their own shortcomings seem to do better at life.
Pastor Craig Groeschel says it this way about leadership, “People would rather follow someone who is always real than someone who is always right.” This is true for our kids. Transparency and vulnerability are key ingredients in developing security in our children.
In many cases, when a parent doesn’t admit their own struggles or faults, it makes them unapproachable. Keeping communication open with your children is one of the most important aspects of parenting. We want to be a safe place for our kids to tell us everything—the fun things in their lives along with their struggles and mistakes.
If we aren’t real with our kids, it becomes very difficult for them to be real with us. Now, this doesn’t mean that we share every gnarly detail of everything we’ve ever done. Share what is appropriate. Pastor Craig also says, “Everything that is said should be true, but not every true thing should be said.”
4. Remember, you are the parent.
Don’t ever compromise what you believe God is prompting you to do in the name of harmony. There will be times when your child is not a fan of the restrictions you have to place on devices, certain activities, parties, or friend groups. But you have perspective and life experience that they just don’t have.
I can remember crying my eyes out and telling my husband, “When she leaves home, she’ll never want to come back. She hates me!” The truth was, in the moment, she was mad. She didn’t understand. But now that she’s an adult, she has actually thanked us for the decisions we made to protect her from certain environments. You are the parent. God has given you the responsibility to point your children to Him, and sometimes that means you have to make unpopular decisions.
Finally, take interest in what is culturally relevant yourself. If you stay on the fringe and don’t take the time to understand their language and trends, it will be difficult for you to help your child make decisions about how much “culture” is too much.
It is possible to raise culturally relevant kids who have the biblical character and compassion to influence their friends for good. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s worth the hard conversations about what boundaries to set and which influences to allow. So the next time you’re in a car full of your kids’ friends, use those trending topics to spark truth-based conversations. You just might find that your relationships are strengthened because of it.
Resources and Discussion Questions for Talking to Your Kid About Character at Any Age
Here are some quick links to free resources about character for your kids at each developmental level. You can also try these discussion starters to begin a conversation about what Christ-like character looks like.
For Your Preschoolers (Or Verbal Toddlers—It’s Never Too Early to Start!)
1. Start this Bible Plan together.
2. Go on the Bible Adventure called “Stones, Slings, and Giant Things” together with your little ones. Each time they watch it, they’ll pick up new things.
3. As you work through this topic together, try asking some of these questions:
- How can you get to know God?
- What happens to your heart when you pray, learn from the Bible, and sing to God?
- When you choose to follow Jesus, will God help you fill your heart with good things?
For Your Elementary Kids
1. Start this Bible Plan about character.
2. Watch the “Be Real, Not Fake” Konnect HQ episodes with your child.
3. As you work through this topic together, use these questions as a jumping-off place:
- What do you think it means to act fake?
- How do you think you’ll be able to tell that God is changing your heart on the inside?
- If you get tired of making good choices, what do you think can help you?
For Your Preteens
1. Start this Bible Plan about character with your preteen. If they have their own Bible App account, invite them to join you in a Plan with Friends.
2. Watch these great episodes of The Loop Show about legendary character.
3, As you work through this topic together, ask the questions below:
- How do you define having good character?
- Read Galatians 5:16. What does it mean to let the Holy Spirit guide your life? When does it seem easy, or when does it seem hard?
- Which fruit of the Holy Spirit would you like to see more of in yourself this week: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control? Why?
For Your Teenagers
1. Encourage your teen to start a Bible Plan with their friends. Here are a few plans they could try: Dangerously Influential, Approved, and God’s Plan for Your Life.
2. Ask your teen if they’ve seen the Switch messages about character.
3. Living like Christ isn’t easy! Talk to your teen about ways they can show character in all areas of their life. Try asking the questions below:
- What does it mean to build character? How can you develop integrity?
- Read Titus 2:7-8 and Ephesians 5:11. Why do you think it matters to God that we don’t play a character but instead build our character?
- What’s one thing you can do to build your character this week?