Relationships Don’t Just Happen. They Take Training.

We disciple our young people to love God and to work hard. But relational formation is important, too.

A recent conversation between New York Times columnist David Brooks and American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Leon Kass piqued my interest as I listened to these men—Brooks in his 60s, Kass in his 80s—share concerns for the college students they teach. (Brooks was a student of Kass at the University of Chicago in the 1980s.)

These students, they agreed, were singularly preoccupied with career questions: What work would prove satisfying? How would they find their professional calling? They showed far less interest in competencies needed for life’s most important relationships. They didn’t ask what it took to sustain committed marriages or a healthy family life.

I wondered: Was this conversation another iteration of kids these days? Or do Brooks and Kass have their finger on a more pressing cultural problem—our glaring contemporary neglect of relational formation?

The conversation made me reconsider what kind of relational formation my children have received. My five children—two college students and three teenagers—have learned to navigate life (and leftovers) in a crowd. They’ve grown up in a church pew, understanding Christian faith as team sport. But perhaps we have mistakenly assumed that the skills and even appetite for relationships have required less formal education.

We’ve tried teaching our children to honor God, to love the church, to obey the Scriptures, to serve the least, to work hard, to stay curious, to be honest. But how much have we taught them—explicitly and systematically—about suffering interruptions, about sacrificing time for others, about staying patient and hopeful in misunderstanding and offense? What curriculum have we engaged for …

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