My aunt was visiting recently and brought with her photos and other mementos from the lives of my grandparents. As we looked through everything, I realized my grandfather was actually quite remarkable. Abandoned at eighteen months old and growing up in several foster homes, he broke the cycle of disfunction his birth parents had created. More importantly, he became a Christian as an adult and eventually became an elder in his congregation.
Grandpa is an exception. In the United States, it is unusual for adults from non- Christian homes to grow up to become faithful Christians. Sadly, it is becoming unusual for children raised in Christian homes to grow up to become faithful Christians. Yet, there is a set of Christian parents that does raise children who are faithful Christians as adults.
The parenting area of Teach One Reach One Ministries began in part, because in talking to these successful Christian parents, we realized almost all of them were doing some specific things that were different from other Christian parents. Since then, Barna has done research that backs up our initial theory. Successful Christian parents have certain parenting practices in common. Here are ten of our favorites.
- They are intentional. When Barna found that hospitality had a significant connection to successful Christian parenting, they realized it was also connected to intentionality. Successful Christian parenting rarely occurs by accident. These parents plan, pray, assess, adjust, study and a half dozen other action verbs that represent the high priority and intentionality they place in their Christian parenting journey. To most, they consider parenting the most important ministry work they will ever do.
- They focus on God’s priorities, not those of their culture. Culture is secular by nature. Following culture’s priorities means you are probably making at least some decisions that run counter to what God would have you do as a parent. Christian parenting is counter cultural. Your priorities will often be at odds with those of other parents in your community.
- They listen to their children. Christian parents who are successful, don’t always agree with their children. They do, however, create opportunities for their children to share what’s on their hearts and minds with them. When their children are talking to them, they listen actively, intently and respectfully even when they know they will respond in disagreement. Most children understand their parents will disagree with them and while they may not like it, they know it may be in their best interest. What destroys relationships, however, is when they cannot get the attention of their parents when something is worrying or bothering them.
- They ask questions to help assess where each child is spiritually and what each needs to grow in his or her relationship with God. You don’t ever want your children to feel as if they are taking a test or you are grilling them, but you do need to periodically ask questions that help you assess their knowledge, understanding or practicing of what they are learning God wants for them and from them. Your children won’t necessarily know when they have a gap in their spiritual knowledge or understanding, which makes it nearly impossible for them to ask for your help. Your questions can help illuminate areas where they may need more teaching or coaching.
- They actively teach their children what God wants them to know on an almost daily basis. Sickness or other emergencies may disrupt things for a day or two here or there, but successful Christian parents make teaching their children about God a top priority.
- They model the Christian life intentionally. They aren’t perfect, but they make a concerted effort to live life the way God wants them to do. They don’t make excuses for and rationalize their sins and they make serving others and sharing their faith a part of their daily lives.
- They give their children lots of guided practice. Successful Christian parents think of themselves as coaches. They include their children in common Christian activities like serving others and give them guided practice. They make corrections when their children aren’t exhibiting Christian character traits. Their children get regular positive and negative constructive feedback on their attempts to live life as God would want them to do.
- They recognize the differences in their children and individualize how they teach and coach each child. God has created each of your children with slight or significant differences from your other children. Some of the things you do as a Christian parent will work for all of your children. At other times, each of your children may need instruction or correction that is specific to his or her needs that are different from your other children.
- They make adjustments when the things they are doing don’t seem to be working. They don’t mindlessly continue doing things that obviously aren’t having the desired effect on their children. They take advantage of the wisdom of more experienced successful Christian parents to make critical adjustments before problems become bad habits that are difficult to break.
- They encourage their children to take increased responsibility over time for their own spiritual health and growth within a healthy Christian community. Successful Christian parents don’t micromanage their children until adulthood. They give their children opportunities to take more and more responsibility for their personal spiritual growth and health while they are still at home and can get help if they are struggling. They also teach their children that being an active part of a church is critical and a huge part of being a Christian. They teach them how to identify and become involved in the most biblical, healthiest church they can find. They also remind them that Christians are human and still sin and teach them how to navigate common problems in a church environment.
How many of these Christian parenting practices are you using? Which ones do you need to add to be more effective in parenting your children? Make the changes you need to make as quickly as possible. Childhood is only for a season and your children need as much help from you as they can get if they are to become who God created them to be.