National Geographic reality Show Life Below Zero teaches us a thing or two about training the next generation.
Written by Daniel Whiteoak
If you’re looking to learn about discipleship, Alaska is the place to be! Life Below Zero reality stars Chip and Agnes Hailstone and their seven children live a semi-nomadic life in a remote area of Alaska and enable viewers to see first hand the challenges of living above the Arctic Circle. In a harsh, subzero climate, the family survives as subsistence hunters, following the rivers and moving seasonally to track down anything from bear and caribou, to even whale and seal.
So, how can we learn about discipleship from this secular reality series? Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “Impress them [God’s commands] 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.”
For the Hailstone children, physical life or death is on the line each day, and following the instruction of their parents means survival. Danger lurks around every corner, and with no city or emergency services nearby, the family must remain completely self-sufficient. Viewers watch as Chip and Agnes rigorously train their children, consistently modeling behavior and requiring each child to play a unique role in the family survival. Expectations of their children are high as the Hailstones devote their lives to teaching their kids the ways of tradition and survival.
How can we adopt this motto and shepherd the next generation spiritually? Although most of us won’t need the physical survival skills taught by the Hailstones, who will mentor the next generation to spiritually survive the current cultural climate?
Chip’s motto, “Live for today but plan for tomorrow,” is appropriate as he shepherds his family through the harsh Alaskan wilderness, but also applicable for followers of Jesus today. Paramount in planning for tomorrow is training the next generation to thrive, giving instruction and guidance through words and actions.
Similarly, our spiritual sons and daughters won’t know how to survive in our world of sin and pain without discipleship. Discipleship simply is the “churchy” word for the mentoring we see the Hailstones doing with their children – being intentional about instruction and guidance. Do our physical and spiritual children understand the importance of meditation, prayer, fasting, simplicity, service, or worship? If you want these things to be prioritized in their lives as adults, model your commitment and set a precedent for their future. Example and explanation will seamlessly graft these disciplines into their lives.
Do you want the next generation to be wise with their finances? Model tithing. Don’t be shy to talk about money. Show them your confidence as you trust the Lord to live on 90% and then share examples of how He has met your needs. Do you want to emphasize spending time with God? Let them see you studying the Bible and in prayer. Find service opportunities that generations can complete together and process as you go.
We certainly see the urgent need for mentorship as we watch a family try to survive physically. But where is our sense of urgency and intentionality when we look at the generation following us spiritually? Frustration could transform into a teaching opportunity. Mess-ups would be the path to lessons learned and would lead to refinement. The goal would not be the easy route, but the impactful one. Are we willing to devote our time, energy and resources to pass along our spiritual skills so they can stand tall in a spiritually dead world?
Remote Alaskan wilderness or suburban Midwest comfort, spiritual danger still lurks around every corner in our thoughts, decisions, and actions. The next generation is looking to us to take off our gloves, have no fear of getting dirty and dive right in to take ownership of the spiritual survival of our spiritual family.
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