What are your dreams and desires for your kids? Do you desire them to live fully for the Lord, walk with Him and follow Him all the days of their lives? Do you hope they don’t fall prey to the evil of this world, but become men and women who have a deep understanding of Truth, and live according to that Truth? Maybe you also hope they are bold and courageous in sharing their faith with others, drawing more and more people into the family of God?
Those are all desires I have for my kids. Don’t you sometimes wish there was a formula to follow in order to produce a child that grows up to be a strong committed Christian who faithfully follows the Lord all of their life with the traits mentioned above?
Hard Truth of No Guarantee
I’ve had to face the hard truth that there is nothing we can do to guarantee our children will grow up to these kind of people. We can follow every good, godly method. We can follow the advice of experts and be diligent in teaching our children God’s Word and pouring truth in their hearts, but there is still no guarantee.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from itProverbs 22:6
I love this verse, and I believe that is our calling as parents – to direct, teach, train our children to know God’s Word and guide them on the path to righteousness. However, this verse is not a promise, but a general principal or truth for practical, godly living.
This statement is not a hard-and-fast promise to parents, however, for the rest of the book makes clear that the power of the youth’s future depends not only on the parents’ guidance but also very much on the choices he or she makes.Jason DeRouchie, desiringGod
I recently read the book, Beautiful Nate by Dennis Mansfield. It was about a father who did everything he could to follow all the rules of conservative Christian parenting that books and radio programs suggested. It was a heartbreaking story of his son rejecting what his parents taught him, getting involved with drugs, and dying at age 27 of drug-related causes. He discusses the differences between fear-based, child-centered and healthy intentional parenting. It increased my desire to recognize potential behaviors that my children display that might cause them to take this route. It also made me examine my parenting style. My dependance on the Lord also increased. It helped me remember to put my hope in Him alone, not how my children turn out.
I know there is no guarantee for our children to turn out the way we hope, pray for and put our best effort towards. Our children can still make the choice to walk away from God even with our very best efforts. So what’s the point of godly parenting? Is it worth my time, diligence and effort to teach, instruct and train in the way of the Lord?
Yes! We have been given a huge responsibility and we are commanded to teach our children His ways.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them 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.Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.Psalm 78:5-6 NIV
We have the responsibility to impart this truth and training in our children, but it is only by God’s grace will they accept this truth, make it their own and live by it. So what exactly does that look like?
This is something I’ve been asking myself ever since I began the parenting journey about 17 years ago. I wanted to know what I needed to do to raise a child to love and follow the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. While I am still on that journey, stumbling and getting back up along the way, I’d like to share a few insights of what I’ve experienced, observed and learned. Again, there is no guarantee, but I still want to do all I can to increase that possibility that my children will be passionate followers of Jesus Christ!
6 principles I’ve gleaned and try to live by:
1-More is Caught than Taught
You have probably heard this phrase before. I have heard it many times from one of my favorite speakers, Chip Ingram. It is the principle that no matter what you preach or teach your kids, if they don’t see you living by those standards it is going to hold very little weight over them. They are studying us and watching us to see what it is we do and then become imitators of us. That’s a sobering thought. I think of things that I really hope they pick up on, and then there are the things that I’d rather they ignore. Unfortunately, we don’t get to pick what they imitate. If they see us do it, chances are they are probably going to form similar habits or peculiarities.
I examine my life. How do I handle conflict? How do I seek forgiveness? What is my attitude in stressful situations? Do they see me reading my Bible on a regular basis? What is my attitude about going to church or serving God’s people in the miniseries I am in?
It is good to evaluate our lives, attitudes and actions. Ask the hard questions. Is this a trait or a habit I want my child to develop? What needs to change in my life to help my child see that I really do depend on God and desire to live fully for him? When I mess up, am I quick to ask for forgiveness – showing my humility and dependence on God’s grace?
Our kids are smart. They can tell when something is phony. If we tell them to love Jesus, read their Bible, forgive their enemies, and have a right attitude about church, but then don’t do those things ourselves, they will see us as hypocrites and be driven away from the faith.
We raise sheep. It would be foolish of us to put our sheep in a pasture without secure fencing. The fence protects the sheep from getting out on the road. The fence keeps the sheep where they need to be able to eat what is healthy for them. If they get outside a fence it is serious business. They could get into a corn or alfalfa field where they might over-eat, bloat and get very sick or die. The fence keeps them where we want them. We know where they are. We are able to check and monitor the sheep when they are within the confines of those boundaries. If they wander off and can’t be found, we can not help them if they are sick or injured.
I think we can all agree there are important boundaries to be set with our children as well. We set limits for their protection and for their well-being. As parents, we know better. We have lived life a little longer than them. We have gained wisdom along the way, and can use that wisdom to set safe, reasonable boundaries. It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to have rules to protect them from potential harm. We want to guide them into proper behavior in order that they might live and thrive in our society.
3-Pour out Grace
While we have boundaries in place to guide, direct and protect our children, we often need to hand out large doses of grace as well.
I believe that dispensing God’s grace is the Christian’s main contribution.Philip Yancey, What’s so Amazing About Grace
The world can do anything the church can do except one thing; it cannot show grace.Gordon MacDonald
Our kids are going to be like us, they are going to mess up a lot. They will often stray from what we’ve taught them. Our children need to understand that living a Christian life is not about following a set of rules, but allowing God to transform their hearts. They need to experience God’s grace through us. They may have to undergo some consequences for stepping outside the boundaries, but they need to know they are always allowed back into the sheepfold. Our love for them is unconditional. How are they going to understand the grace our Father so willingly hands out to us, if we are unwilling to show that grace to our children?
Finding that balance between establishing boundaries and pouring out grace is something I continue to struggle with. I love this book, Shepherding a Child’s heart, by Tedd Tripp. It really emphasizes heart transformation as you instruct and train your children, not changing the behavior.
4-Build a Relationship
Building a strong relationship is key if you want them to really take you seriously. You don’t have to be their best friend, but spend time getting to know them. Let them know you care and are interested in their life. Truly listen to them. Find out what they like to do, and invest time with them in that. Praise them for the good you see them doing. Make sure your rules have an underlying tone of grace and love that draws them to understand you have their best interest in mind. I have dug deeper into this aspect in another post, Connecting with your teen in a disconnected world.
5-Teach them God’s Word
This may be intimidating if you yourself are unfamiliar with the Bible. But, in a world that is so full of lies, we need to impart Truth in our children. They need to understand who they are in Christ, and come to an understanding of who God is and how living His way is the only way to find true lasting joy and satisfaction in this life. There are so many resources out there to help you learn God’s Word as well as learning how to impart that truth in our children.
I have been transformed by being involved with a Bible study called, Bible Study Fellowship. It has not only taught me how to study, learn and apply God’s Word to my life, it has helped me teach that to my kids. There are numerous resources within the website. There are lessons for adults as well as for children ages K- High school. Classes are available all over the world, and soon to be online classes as well. The website will direct you to a class near you.
Stay tuned. I will be providing resources for you on this site to help nurture your own walk with God as well as impart that to your children. If you’d like to stay in the loop and know when new posts and resources come available, make sure to subscribe to this blog. You can find a place to do that below this post!
Parenting is hard. Praying is ultimately the key to parenting. I know God makes parenting difficult so that we often have no where to turn, but Him. We need to daily depend on His strength, help, wisdom and guidance in our parenting journey. We also need to pray regularly for our kids. Read more about praying for your kids here. It is ultimately His grace that opens their heart to hear God’s word and accept it as Truth and to take those steps of obedience in following Him.
Dear friend, God knows your heart. He knows your desire. Take your concerns to Him. Rest in His perfect peace. Don’t live in fear. We have a responsibility to do all we can with the children He’s entrusted to us, but then we need to leave the results up to Him. We will be held accountable for following through on the call He’s given us, not whether our children accept what we have taught them. I want to hear these words,
“Well done, good and faithful servant!”Matthew 25:21 NIV