Last week I was in Honduras on a mission trip. Over the course of the week, we worked with probably over six hundred kids and teens. We got to interact and talk with them. We spent time teaching, correcting and loving them.
Looking back on the week, the same theme was repeated that I hear whenever I work with kids in the U.S. or any other country. Kids have some basic needs that go to the very core of their being. No matter how much teachers and volunteers try, they can never meet these core needs the way a parent can.
Your kids need some things from you to be healthy, productive people. They need these things desperately if you want them to be faithful, productive Christians. If you try to cut corners in providing these things to your kids, they will suffer and ultimately so will you.
So what do your kids need from you?
- Your unconditional love. They need to know you may be extremely hurt and disappointed by their choices in life, but you will never, ever stop loving them. They need to always see your eyes light up when they walk in the room. They need to hear you say it and feel it in your hugs and kisses – no matter how old they are.
- Your time. Forget the quality versus quantity debate. I don’t care what the world’s “experts” tell you, I have seen this thousands and thousands of times. Your children desperately need and want a ton of your quality time. This doesn’t mean a few minutes of half attention as you run them from activity to activity. This means hours every day of focused attention – talking, having fun, listening, guiding, exploring, etc.
- Your guidance, direction and correction. They may never admit it in a million years, but kids desperately want their parents to teach them how the world works. They want more than anything for you to teach them how to navigate life successfully using God’s principles and commands as a guide. They want you to help them learn right from wrong and what God’s priorities and plans are for their lives. They want you to correct them when they make bad choices and teach them how to avoid temptation and make good choices.
- Your forgiveness. They need you to teach them about repentance, restitution, grace and forgiveness by modeling it for them. They need to know bad choices will have consequences and will require you to sometimes be the one who gives those consequences. They need to also know without a doubt, when they repent, your forgiveness will model God’s forgiveness.
- Your belief that God has gifted them to serve Him and has a Plan for their lives. All kids have challenges and some are more difficult than others. No matter how obviously gifted your children are or if you have to really look hard to find those gifts, your kids have to know you believe God has given them at least one special gift to use to serve Him. They need your help finding and developing those gifts and learning how to use them to serve God. They need to believe God has a plan for their lives and they need only to pray and follow the paths God lays for them. They need to understand their life has purpose and that purpose is to glorify God, serve Him and point others to Him.
- Your determination that as for you and your house serving God is the TOP priority. They need to know this is who you are, who your family is and who they should be. Christianity is not an extracurricular activity, but rather who they are in their very core being. They should hear you talking about God and what He has told us in the Bible and what he wants from us and for us, every day they are in your presence (and even after they are long grown and gone!).
Did you notice money and things didn’t make the list? Neither did education or extracurricular activities and sports. That’s the lesson I learned in Honduras (although I already knew it.) Those kids didn’t have any hope of having much if any of those things at any point in their lives. Frankly, I don’t think they really cared. What they wanted more than anything were the things on this list. If you could look into your kids’ hearts and minds, I think you would find the same needs and desires. If something has to be sacrificed, give up those things the world has told you your kids need and focus on this list. Your kids will thank you later!