Sticky Faith (Ch. 3): Sticky Identity


Who am I?

How do we help someone develop a strong identity? As we grow we all face the difficulty of forming our identity. In this chapter, we had the opportunity to explore a few interesting reflections on what identity is and how it develops. A few thoughts that stood out:

  • "In terms of identity and adult independence, today's twenty-three-year-old is often the developmental equivalent of a seventeen-year-old in 1980" (p. 53). Don't assume it's just like it was "when you were a kid".
  • God has designed our brains to be part of that process. We are concrete in our thinking in this until around 9th grade when we can conceptualize in more abstract ways.
  • Even if a child is inconsistent, as an adult in their life we must remain consistent.
    • In speaking about maturity in faith, Paul notes:  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming (Eph. 4:14).


Nurturing Sticky Identities

Powell and Clark continue to engage with very practical sections (pp. 56-66) on how we can partner in prayer and action in the Holy Spirit's work in a young disciple's life. We encourage you to read this section for very concrete examples that will help you see what this looks like in the everyday.

  • Remember Your Child Is God's Beloved Creation: Call them not to actions but living with an identity as one loved by God. There is nothing more they can do or be that could increase God's love for them. (By the way, that is the freeing message of the gospel: Christ's work alone has given us a relationship with God. You couldn't do more...)
    • Parental Warning: Parents link their identities to their kids (external) actions, so it can be just as important that the adult also build their identity on being loved by God for the greatest benefit to their kids.
  • Treat Each Child as an Individual
  • Use Your Community to Develop Personal Identity: We are all a "person-in-community" so our identity has both an individual/personal aspect but also a connected-with-others aspect. Especially as a Christian, I do not live only for myself. As I engage with Christ's community, I discover who I am and who God is calling me to be.
  • Use Rituals to Reinforce Identity: Can be daily (dinner, meal times, etc.) or yearly celebrations (birthdays, vacation, anniversary, first day of school, etc.).
  • Help Your Child Grow through Hardship: Difficulties (large or small) are often the crucible that creates opportunity for growth (Rom. 5:3-4). Allow them to see you deal with challenge/difficulties.
  • Use Extracurricular Activities to Explore Identity: Celebrate who they are, not just what they accomplish or skills.
    • Clark's example (p. 63): "I used to buy milkshakes for a goal scored, until our late-bloomer second child said driving home after another goalless afternoon, "I guess I'll never get a milkshake, huh, Dad?"
  • Affirm Character Growth More Than Academic Achievement
  • Model a Relationship with God

Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s handiwork...  Remember your child is a masterpiece!


Let's Talk

Good questions on p. 67 to explore with another person but let's discuss #4. See you in the comments below!

Name some ways you can emphasize who your child is (a beloved child of God) rather than what your child does. How would this emphasis change your approach to your child's extracurricular activities or academic achievements?



Check out the series or follow-up on the conversations in the posts below:

Next week: Chapter 4 "sticky faith conversations".

4 Responses

  1. A Church Family "Dad"
    On a separate note, I just have to say that the 23 y.o. now/18 y.o. 1980 stat really got me thinking. With young people, I encourage using their God-given gifts the best they can, whether great at it or not. God loves them even if they can't do anything and I am proud of them for doing their best. It moves the focus from the results and more to them being responsive to the Holy Spirit's building character in their life (like the Romans 5:3-4 mentioned above.)
  2. Nick
    Quick thoughts 1.) interesting to note that age 25 is full maturity 2.) pg 54 makes a good point about faith being shelved for daily life mgmt. Key to help make faith in Christ THE Key to Daily Life 3.) I am what I do, I am what I control and I am what others say about me is not from God at all, but wow is that how most us if we are honest think and for kids with identity being developed that pressure must be eve more. (take away for me, I am not what I do, or what others say..I am a imperfect creation of the Most Holy God, teach that to my family through my actions and words daily) 4.) I loved the idea of helping create interconnected nets of social capital. Church, school, sports, family, play should all connect through Christ.but not be limited to the bubble of safe church only events/play. 5.) Reward character and effort and devotion not just "results" each child has unique gifts and talents. 6.) Have God control your calendar, not your calendar and events control you 6.) Praise God for the mystery involved in our child's formation. We may want our child to turn out this way, and the journey may be hard, but God knows where he wants them and He will guide us to guide them!
    • Brian
      Hey Nick, Great thoughts. Sounds like you are getting a lot of ideas from this. I often think how it is like drinking from a fire hose. But we can pray for God's Spirit to draw us to those key points we need with whoever that young person is in our life we are seeking to impact for Christ. Your recognition of mystery reminds me that for all of us, the best focus is to trust in God ("faith" as we learned about in ch. 1) in this process.
  3. Lindsey
    In this chapter, I really liked how the authors challenged us to think of encouraging our children in areas outside of their achievements and successes. I think that is something very important for us as role models to children to keep in mind and live out. I especially liked the examples mentioned on pg. 64: congratulate them on the little things, like listening well to the coach, practicing at home and being a friend to other kids. My kids haven't had much experience being in sports or similar activities yet, but my oldest just completed 4K and we've had conversations about talking to other kids. I've encouraged her to speak kindly to another child on the bus, even if she was not spoken kindly to. I've praised her for being a friend anyway, even when her "friend" said she didn't want to be friends anymore, and for sharing the love and message of Jesus. After she decided to use some of her allowance money to buy candy not only for herself, but her sisters too, I told her that God really likes it when we share what we have with others. Other ways in which I can communicate to my children the importance of who they are is to encourage them to do their best on tests at school, even if they don’t get an A, and advise them to do things such as letting others score a goal in soccer, so they will not think they always have to win or be the star. By doing these things, I hope it will keep the stress off of trying to be “perfect” or “the best” and help them focus more on the fact that they are loved whether they fail or succeed and focus on helping others and encouraging them to succeed.

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