At some point Christianity became about planting seeds. (Yes, I know there’s a verse about that, but if you recall there was also a mention of someone watering.) Suddenly, Christians were running around like Johnny Appleseed dropping little spiritual statements everywhere. The belief seems to be we have no responsibility for anything much deeper than that because it wouldn’t be seed planting.
Many Christians parent the same way. If they pray at meals, take their kids to services on a semi-regular basis and mention God occasionally, they have fulfilled their responsibility to plant seeds in their child’s life.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember any verses that would support the Johnny Appleseed school of Christian parenting. In fact, there are several verses that make it seem like a constant effort (Deut. 11:19, Deut. 4:9, Deut. 6:7, etc.).
Maybe, just maybe Christian parents should think of themselves as gardeners or farmers. You should not only plant those seeds of God in the hearts and minds of your children, but feed, water and care for them too. You will need to help them weed the beginnings of sin out of their lives. You will need to teach them how to protect themselves from predators who will eat away their faith before it can become firmly rooted and strong.
It’s not an easy job. If you have ever had a beautiful garden or a productive farm, you know it involves many hours of back breaking labor. You have to be constantly vigilant to make sure the plants are protected and nourished. You have to learn the best ways of keeping your plants healthy and productive. You can’t just phone in your role as the gardener. Hiring someone else to do it may work to a point, but only the gardener has the true motivation to make sure everything is done well.
Christian parenting is the same. You will have to work at discipling your children for many, many hours. You will need to be vigilant to make sure they are being fed spiritually and not being lured away from God. You will have to learn the best ways to teach your children about God and His commands and principles. You will need to learn how to reach your children for God and teach them how to grow up to be productive Christian adults. You can’t really phone in your role as the gardener of your child’s heart, soul and mind if you want to make sure it is done properly. You can’t entirely expect another adult to take full responsibility for your child’s spiritual development either.
Just like with a farm, there are no guarantees. You can put in all of that labor and blight can destroy your crops. You can parent your children with all of your might and they can still choose to walk away from God. The odds, however, are much more in favor of the farmer who takes good care of his plants producing a bountiful harvest. The odds your children will grow up to be productive Christian adults will also improve if you put in the time and effort it really requires (see Deut. verses again!). It really is worth your effort.