10 Secrets of Successful Christian Parents

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.

How Parents Can Get the Rest They Really Need

Parenting is exhausting – rewarding, wonderful, amazing… but exhausting. Are you running on fumes in your Christian parenting journey? When you have a free moment, do you flop down in front of your favorite Netflix show or scroll through your phone? The truth is that the ways many of us choose to rest, not only do not leave us rested, but can also leave us feeling more drained than ever.

The answer may be in returning to Sabbath type rest. As Christians, we no longer celebrate the Sabbath as our day of worship (which has been established as Sunday for us). Yet the elements of Sabbath can give us the deep rest we need as Christians and as parents. Ironically, Sunday may not always be the best day for getting Sabbath type rest and the freedom we have in Christ allows us to incorporate these elements in our lives on any day.

So what are some of the elements of a Sabbath type rest? (Note: These are not the elements of a traditional, modern Sabbath observance in Judaism, but rather some of the activities that can provide the deep rest associated with a biblical Sabbath rest.) Here are some of our favorites.

  • Time with God in scripture and prayer. This is not a rushed reading of a couple of verses and a rote prayer. Rather, it is lingering in scripture and pouring your heart out to God in prayer. The Psalms are often great to read for providing comfort and rest, but any scripture can help. Does the scripture make you agitated instead? That may be an indication it has reminded you of an area of your spiritual life that needs more attention.
  • Reflecting on scripture. Choose a verse or a very short passage and reflect upon it throughout your day. What is God trying to teach you through those verses? What action do you need to take because of the verses upon which you are reflecting? How can you share the lessons found in those verses with those you know?
  • Walking, stretching and other “quiet” exercise. Traditionally, exercise is not allowed on the Sabbath. As Christians, we don’t have the same restrictions. While vigorous exercise does not always provide the rest we need, more relaxing forms can. Quiet exercises can release tension and work off toxic chemicals from stress, while still allowing us to reflect on scripture or just turn our thoughts off for a bit. Many Christians also find in the quiet of a long walk they are able to pray and can better “hear” the thoughts God may be planting on their hearts and minds.
  • Sleep. Most adults don’t get nearly enough sleep. Sometimes, the best parenting move you can make is getting a few extra hours of sleep.
  • Doing something creative. It only makes sense that if we are made in the image of God, the Creator, we were designed to create and be creative. Unfortunately, the real world can stifle creativity. Participating in creative pursuits can be extremely restful. You don’t have to start an expensive hobby. Altering a recipe, figuring out a creative way to fix something around your home and other simple things can be creative if we allow them to be.
  • Reading books that help you grow. Reading fiction doesn’t always provide rest – any more than watching a movie. Reading non-fiction books that inspire or help us grow often do leave us feeling inspired and rested.
  • Journaling. Journaling is not restful for everyone, but if you enjoy writing, journaling can help you get all of those thoughts down in a way that can provide you rest. Some have found that making a to-do list of absolutely everything in your brain provides rest because you are no longer anxious about forgetting something important.
  • Exposure to nature. Since God’s Creation was designed to point us to God, the Creator, it makes sense it can also help us feel rested and closer to God. Even those in large cities have green spaces and the sky. You may even want to add natural elements to the decor of your home to have a similar impact on a smaller scale.
  • Community. The traditional Sabbath meal was a family one. Time was spent in worship with others in the community. We learn from the creation of Eve that we were not meant to be isolated from others. Spending time having coffee with a supportive friend or enjoying a family picnic can also provide a Sabbath type rest.

What’s the hardest part about giving yourself Sabbath type rest? Carving out the time to do it regularly. The Israelites were not given the command to celebrate the Sabbath only on weeks when they weren’t busy. God knows we need regular, quality rest. You may have to delete something from your schedule or make other hard choices to carve out time each week for some Sabbath type rest. If you can’t find an entire day, find a few hours on more than one day. Make Sabbath type rest a family thing, as your kids need it, too. You may find life is a lot easier when you all are truly rested and spending regular quality time with God.

Do Quitters Make Better Christian Parents?

“Quitters never win and winners never quit.” As parents, we often refuse to allow our children to quit things in an effort to teach values like perseverance and respect. Yet, I would argue that at times the best parenting advice I can give you is for you to quit things.

Why? Because parenting can become competitive. We can get so caught up in making sure our children keep up with their peers and that we are doing what our peers are doing, that we lose sight of our goals and core values. The world’s parenting values are very different from God’s. Most parents focus on having kids who are happy and financially successful. God’s top priority is for your children and all of your descendants to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

If you want your priorities, values, goals and results to mirror those of God for your children, you cannot parent like all of the other parents. You need extra time for your kids to be taught about everything God wants them to know. They need to be trained, not casually, but as an Olympic athlete, to live the life God wants for them. That can’t happen if you do what all the other parents do, because the average parent only spends about 5-10 minutes a day talking to their children and most of that is logistical type conversations.

So, that brings us back to quitting. To carve out enough time for your children to be nurtured, taught and coached by you, you will probably have to quit something. Quite possibly several somethings. Your kids will probably need to quit a few things, too. That doesn’t mean you stay locked in your house, studying the Bible 24 hours a day. Sometimes the lessons are best taught by interacting with the world as a family. But regardless of how or where you teach those lessons, they must be taught.

I can’t tell you what to quit. For some, it may mean a job change. For others, it may mean cutting out activities or reducing the level of involvement. It may mean quitting time wasters, like gaming and watching content. It may even be a fun quitting, like reducing the number of times a week you do certain chores!

Quitting isn’t always easy. It can require difficult conversations and feel like a huge sacrifice. You don’t need to quit everything, but you have to quit something if you are not able to spend daily quality time teaching and training your children to be faithful, productive Christians. The stakes are just too high to let other things fill that crucial time.

5 Surprising Bible Verses That Will Make You a Better Parent

Whenever Christians discuss parenting, everyone knows they will immediately refer to a couple of the most well known verses that directly address parenting. In fact, many Christians have heard them so many times, they automatically tune out when they start hearing them. There are some other verses, however, that while on the surface address other issues, can be extremely helpful for parents. Here are five of my favorites.

  • Matthew 5:37 “Say only “yes” if you mean “yesand “no” if you mean “no”. Anything else is from the evil one.” Yes, this verse is about keeping promises and being trustworthy, but it applies to our children and parenting them as well. Wishy washy parenting doesn’t feel safe to children. Failing to keep our promises to them wounds them in ways that can be hard to heal. Obeying the command in this verse will make your parenting more effective (because it is consistent) and improve the trust your children have in you (and your relationship as a result).
  • Philippians 2:3 “In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble and honor others more than yourselves.” It’s so easy to accidentally slip into selfish parenting. We can even get really good at hiding our selfishness behind the guise of great parenting (If I am happy, my children will be happy.). We can also make parenting decisions based more on what we think makes us look good to others than what is actually in the best interest of our children. Great Christian parenting is neither selfish nor prideful.
  • Philippians 4:8 “Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and beautiful and respected.” Nothing good comes from allowing yourself and your children to be constantly surrounded and engaging with things that are dark, depressing, violent, etc. Make this verse the motto for your home – everyone will benefit.
  • Matthew 28:19-20 “So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have told to you.” Did you realize Jesus gave all Christians the command to help others become Christians? Notice something interesting though? The part about teaching them to obey all things is after the command to baptize them! Many Christian parents believe their job is done as soon as their children come out of the baptism waters. The reality is that the important teaching about how to live the Christian life continues long after baptism. Your job of coaching your kids on living the Christian life never truly ends (although it changes a bit as they become adults).
  • 1 Kings 1:6 ”…Adonijah was a very handsome man. King David never corrected his son Adonijah and he never made him explain his actions. Adonijah became very proud…” There are a number cautionary parenting stories in the Bible, but this is one of the few that draws a very strong line between poor parenting and the negative consequences it creates for the child, the parent and everyone around them.

Paying attention to these verses can automatically improve your parenting. Do you have other favorite verses that help your parenting, but aren’t one of the favorite parenting verses? We would love for you to go to our Facebook page and share them with our community!

What’s Your Parenting Tone?

Did someone ever say to you, ”It’s not what you said, but how you said it”? The ”how you said it” means your attitude, your body language, the tone in your voice. It is possible to say the words ”I love you” and make the person believe we really meant to say ”I hate you”. While the words we say to our children are vitally important, our tone may or may not communicate the same message as our words.

Often people are unaware of the tone they project to others. This can be especially true with our children – who may also may be more sensitive to tone than adults. Tone is often tricky when we correct our children because we can unknowingly reflect the same tone our parents used with us – including the very phrases and facial expressions we promised ourselves we would never use with our own children.

It is important to understand that a firm tone is fine when giving correction – assuming there is love behind the firmness that is well known in normal communications with your children. Overly harsh, angry and disgusted tones should be avoided whenever possible. A sarcastic tone is tricky. Not only can it go over the heads of your children, but if they adopt your tone and use it with other adults, they will often be considered disrespectful.

Remember, when you are tired, hungry or having a bad day, it will be easier for you to slip into tones that actually undermine your parenting. It is also possible to get into bad habits and find it difficult to switch back to using more supportive, loving tones. Unsure what tones you are using? Ask your spouse or other adults who see you interact with your kids. Or if you are really brave – ask your kids (bonus – understanding tone will help them in literature class!). Don’t let your tone undermine what you are trying to accomplish in your parenting.