There is a minister I know who does something I believe is very unique. When he sees a homeless person, he doesn’t just offer them food. He sits down and asks them their story. He listens as they share whatever they want to share with him about their past, their problems, their worries and more. He has a better chance of making a lasting impact on the life of that person than a program that interacts with that same person every day for a year. Why? Because Matt takes the time to really listen to what the person needs to say.
There are very few good listeners alive today. In fact, I believe the entire industry of counseling is built in part by people willing to pay someone to just listen to them. If we want our children to be effective in serving others and sharing their faith, they have to be good listeners. Talking and doing have their place in ministry, but it is listening that can change the world.
In Atlanta, it’s really easy to shield yourself and your children from poverty. Everything we need is often within a few blocks of our lovely, manicured middle class (and up) neighborhoods. Our churches are filled with people who may have terrible trauma in their pasts and current problems that would make us weep, but they usually put on a smile and tell everyone they are fine. We may participate in short term mission projects and trips, but they usually involve swooping into an area to help and then swooping out without really getting to know the people and what their lives are normally like.
When we insulate ourselves and our children from the realities of a broken world, we miss out on the ability to fully love and serve those around us. It becomes easy to make assumptions about what people “should do” or “know how” to do. We may even refuse to serve entire groups of people because they “deserved” what happened to them.
People scanning the internet for advice supposedly want things broken down very simply. Unfortunately, Christian parenting requires a lot of purposeful, intentional, proactive, godly work. It is not easy. There is not a pill you can give your kids or one quick thing you can do in two minutes a day that will help you raise children who become adults after God’s own heart.
The good news is that there are three basic areas where you need to focus your attention each day. If you can work on each of this areas with each of your children on most days, you will greatly improve your chances of raising a child who becomes a faithful, active, productive Christian.
Have you ever stopped to ponder that the person who is the most likely to be able to keep your child from going to Heaven is your child? We, as parents, can train, teach and model. Our churches can provide additional mentorship and training opportunities. Our children can attend the “best” schools and have the “best” friends and still not be faithful Christians as adults.
Why? Because ultimately the battle for our child’s soul is in our child’s heart between our child and Satan. Have we taught our children how real the spiritual war is and will be throughout their lives? Have we taught them how to fight off Satan and their body’s own selfish desires? Do they know Satan’s schemes and tricks to lure them into sin and unfaithfulness? Have we fully prepared our children for spiritual battle?
Being a mother is one of the most wonderful blessings God can give. The joy, love and fulfillment it provides us is so special, we can’t really express it adequately. Yet motherhood can also be demanding, frustrating, confusing, exhausting and even heart-breaking.
God has called us to parent our children proactively towards Him. We are to spend our days training our children and teaching them God’s commands, principles and ways. Yet, there are days when we don’t have the energy to pray ourselves. There are days when our personal faith feels shaky. Even if your faith is strong, you may question God’s plans for you or if He even has any.
The times when we are faced with the deaths of close loved ones, illnesses of ourselves or our families, loss of income or other unwanted circumstances can make our questions even more urgent. As a mom about to have an empty nest in a few months, I also understand those feelings I had as my kindergartener went to class the first day will be intensified greatly when she moves across the country to attend college. You may even be experiencing the pain of having a child who is struggling through dangerous waters, where you feel you have no way to help him.