Part 2 of an interview with Jim Burns and Jeremy Lee,
Authors of Pass It On: Building a Legacy of Faith for Your Children
through Practical and Memorable Experiences
Parents often experience a "freak out" moment when they realize their children's view of God will primarily come from what they learn at home. Most parents spend more time helping their kids succeed at academics or athletics than infusing shared spiritual experiences into the rhythm of everyday family life. While the idea of strategically passing down our faith can seem intimidating, the annual Rites of Passage Experiences contained in Pass It On (David C Cook/ September 1, 2015/ISBN: 978-1434709073/$15.99), make it easy for families to celebrate milestones from kindergarten through high school graduation.
Q: Why do you think some parents place more emphasis on grades or athletics than spiritual development?
Burns: I think parents do want to help their kids grow spiritually, but they are often caught up in busyness of life, which distracts them from the main goal of faith development. They mean to, but they just don’t get around to it because of the breathless pace of life in which the American family is living. The Pass It On experiences give parents an easy opportunity to build into the spiritual formation of their family.
Lee: It’s easier to put an emphasis on those things because there’s a clear action parents can take to help their child improve. If I want my child to grow academically, then I can hire a tutor. If I want my child to grow athletically, then I can hire a private coach. If I want my child to grow spiritually, I can’t hire someone to do it for me. I can’t outsource the spiritual development of my child. Spiritual development is subjective and not concrete. One of the ways we want to serve parents with Pass It On is to help give them concrete, shared spiritual experiences they can lead their child through. It gets them started with spiritual leadership in their home.
Q: What is a rite of passage, and how does it help a child internalize a truth or lesson?
Burns: It’s simply celebrating a milestone in the life of a child and family. Sometimes a rite of passage is very spiritual, and other times a rite of passage is getting a driver’s license or learning to tell time. By celebrating rites of passages along the way, it keeps faith present in the basic aspects of life.
Lee: A rite of passage is an invitation to something greater than yourself. It’s crucial for all cultures to extend an invitation to things such as family and faith. In my opinion, it’s one of the reasons our culture is struggling. The most common rites of passage in our culture are a “sweet 16” birthday party and/or the loss of virginity. Those aren’t invitations to something greater than themselves; those are invitations to themselves. When parents invite their kids to faith through rites of passage they are helping their child connect to God’s greater story.
Q: Would you describe one of the rites of passages Pass It On encourages parents to experience with their kids?
Lee: I think my favorite one is the manhood/womanhood ceremony in the 12th grade. It’s actually the one that inspired everything. I was invited by a dad to his son’s manhood ceremony. His son was turning 18, and the dad had invited a group of men to come and teach him what a man of God looks like. The dad then asked his son to kneel down as he went to the closet, got a Braveheart sword he had ordered off the Internet and laid it on his son’s shoulder. Then he said, “Son, I have friends who are 30 and 40 years old who act like boys because no one ever told them they are men. I’m telling you tonight that based on the authority given to me by God as your dad, you knelt down as a boy, but you will rise as a man.” Can you imagine what that son must have felt in that moment? He was unleashed into the world with his father’s full blessing and a clear understanding of what a man of God looks like.
Burns: My favorite is the purity code in middle school. Kids are making major decisions that affect the rest of their life at a young age. We now know without a doubt that the more positive, healthy sex education kids receive from home, the less promiscuous they will be. It’s a really cool celebration that gives parents and their kids the opportunity to talk about a really important decision in their life. We ask kids to commit to the purity code, which says, “In honor of God, my family and my future spouse, I commit to sexual purity.” They learn how to:
- Honor God with their bodies.
- Renew their minds for good.
- Turn their eyes from worthless things.
- Guard their hearts.
Q: Can you share a story of how you’ve celebrated one of these rites in your own family? What feedback have you heard from your children about the practice?
Burns: Cathy took each of my daughters away for their celebration of purity. She took them to a nice dinner, bought them an outfit, stayed at a fun hotel. During that time, she read them part of a book on purity. Each daughters’ reaction was different. Christy loved the information and dialog. She engaged. Rebecca told Cathy what she was reading was “totally inappropriate” and to stop reading. Heidi, our youngest, told Cathy that she wanted to go on the outing to get the food, outfit and stay in the hotel, but her sisters had already filled her in on all the juicy stuff in the book!
I also took each daughter on an overnight before they could go on their first date. Amazing memories and incredible conversation. It’s all about memories and traditions.
Lee: I’ve loved every time I’ve gotten to lead one of my children through a rites of passage experience. My boys are 10 and 7, so I’ve focused on the elementary years. I guess my favorite so far was the second grade rite, which is called “An Invitation to the Bible.” This is where you invite your child, who should be a budding reader at this point, to engage with the Bible in a more meaningful way. We bought my son Campbell a red Bible that had a big lion on it. It was awesome! Our family and friends underlined their favorite verses in the Bible, and then we presented it to Campbell. That night when he was going to bed he went through the Bible sharing with us everyone’s favorite verses. Even today, he treasures that Bible.
Q: What about families who are getting a late start? Is it too late to build a legacy if your kids are in their teens already?
Lee: It’s never too late. It’s always better to do something rather than nothing. I tell parents to begin right where you are. For some parents you may have to begin with an apology and a promise that your spiritual involvement will increase in your child’s life. Also we encourage parents to feel free to change the order of the rites of passage or adjust the whole thing as needed for their family. The whole purpose of this book is to inspire parents to lead their children spiritually. If they feel inspired to do something differently or better, then we have done our jobs.
Burns: It’s never too late and never too early to begin. Pass It On works at any age. Begin the process wherever you want, and grandparents can always lead the way by doing this with their grandkids.
For more information about Jim Burns, visit or follow him on () and (@). To keep up with Jeremy Lee, visit or follow him on () and Twitter ().