How to Raise Counterculture Kids

By Shauna Pilgreen

“Mom, who do I believe, Erick or you?”

“You believe me. I’m going to always tell you the truth.”

“Okay, then do I believe my teacher or you and dad?”

“Son, we pray that the people in your life will speak truth to you, but always trust us over your friends and teachers. We will listen to God and will do our very best to never lead you astray. And one day, we pray, you’ll trust Jesus with all of you and He will lead you in truth more so than we know how.”

My kinder kid, who’s in church weekly, reads the Scriptures, prays aloud at mealtime and has a pastor for a dad. Yet he wonders where the truth is. Wonders who to believe. Wonders about God. Of course he does. He hears one thing at home and a different thing in his little circles. He hears two different things about the Easter bunny and how humans were made. He’s learning that families don’t just consist of a mom and dad and kids, but of two moms or two dads or just a mom or just a grandma.

In 2014, to live counterculture to society and strive for a life modeled by Jesus Christ is to be stable upon the values He taught us. {emphasis on stability} Culture is ever changing. I need not remind you.

So how do we raise countercultural kids?

1. We claim His promises for our kids and teach them to do the same.

2 Peter 1:3-4 tells us that God gives us everything we need for life and godliness through His promises. It’s through His promises that we take hold of life and avoid the ugliness of the world.
This applies to us the parents and the kids we’re raising. He doesn’t withhold what we need. He doesn’t withhold what they need. Know that His promises require surrender. Don’t hold too tightly. They are on loan to us. God has better for them and they will strive best counter-culturally if we live a surrendered life before them. It’s always risky to live our faith before our kids for we are prone to mistakes, right?! Yet God’s grace is bigger and most sufficient.

2. We set up systems at home for the purpose of stability when friendships and culture aren’t always stable.

Systems are methods and practices that work for our families, but might not necessarily be beneficial for everyone. The goal of systems is to bring stability for the good of the family. Here are a few of the Pilgreen systems that work for us:

Every Thursday is picnic night at home. We lay out the picnic blanket in the living room and I throw together some finger foods. We throw aside some able manners to laugh and unwind after a busy few days. Picnic night is an expected part of the week. In a gingham-colored-picnic way, it unites us.

Every morning we pray on the way to school. Each boy shares one thing that is at the forefront of his mind. In other words, what are they thinking about the most on the way to school. It’s typically a kid who’s been absent, a field trip coming up, or event happening that day. Sometimes it includes a bully, a lost jacket, or a runny nose. We give it all to Jesus before we enter the schoolyard.

Every morning we read through a short devotional at breakfast. Yes, we intentionally sit down to eat. This means waking up early and having sustenance in the fridge. We alternate between Jesus Storybook Bible and Sheri Rose Shepherd’s devotionals. It places truth in their hearts and minds as the day begins. Crucial countercultural stuff.

Plastered on their walls are the names of their classmates. At bedtime, the kids choose a name or two or three to pray over. We pray that they will sleep well and eat well and are loved well. We pray that we will be a truthful friend to them. In these moments we get raw information while they are still and contained to a mattress. {I write more about this system at}.

3. We display to the culture and each other that we’re a family and that means something.

This means our answers are similar. Not the same, but similar. We have somewhere to be on Sundays. We avoid certain TV shows because of what it does to our attitudes. At school, the kids have their own identities and personalities that uniquely shine. Yet when it comes to our contribution and influence, they know we are the Pilgreen family. We’re going to make the teacher’s days brighter and make sure their classmates have pencils, snacks, and prayer support if there’s a challenge.

We host neighborhood parties as a family. The kids make the cookies and greet at the door and we, the parents, initiate conversation and make introductions.

We guard family nights at home and want our kids to believe that the safest place in the world is being together as family. Culture can bite. Enemy darts bruise and dink our outer layers. We pull together and give each other the best support we can – we pray as a family for the smallest and biggest things on the planet. It’s what binds us.

Our home will be the most significant place during our kids’ childhood. I can’t ignore its influence.” Tsh Oxenreider in Notes from a Blue Bike.

How do you raise countercultural kids?

Published March 31, 2014

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Shauna Pilgreen

Shauna is married to Ben Pilgreen, pastor of Epic Church in San Francisco, CA. They have busy 3 boys and are in process of adopting a precious girl from India. Shauna loves exploring her city, engaging in her community, and encouraging women. Join her on her blog at where she shares how their family lives out the Gospel in the place they call home.