Ever feel like you are trying to juggle seventeen balls at once, but keep dropping them? Parenting can be overwhelming at times. Trying to be a Christian parent and point your kids towards God seems like it adds a whole additional layer of to-do’s to your already multi-page list. Parenting your children so they grow to be active, productive Christians just seems impossible at times.
The problem with parenting is there is no real way to gauge how well you are doing your job. We all have experienced those moments when we felt as if maybe, just maybe, we finally had mastered this parenting thing. Of course, they are usually followed by some lovely reminder that we really have no clue whether what we are doing is going to work. You can parent your kids towards God and improve the odds they will grow up to become active, productive Christians. Yes, they have free will and even the “best” Christian parents have raised kids who have eventually rejected God.
Over the years though, I have carefully watched parents who raise children to become productive Christians. I notice most of them do a few things almost identically. While there are no guarantees, making these few things a top priority in your parenting will give your kids a very strong Christian foundation on which to build their lives.
- God comes first and is the ultimate authority. Think of it in terms of Joshua -“as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. Every choice you make as an individual and as a family needs to be filtered through the “God” filter. What God wants from any of us is to put Him first. Teach your kids and demonstrate for them regularly that you truly believe God is wiser than anyone who will ever live. Show them how to make decisions by considering what God would want you to do. Let them understand that following God sometimes means giving up things we selfishly want for what God knows is better for us. God makes the rules and we are blessed to be able to obey them – even if it doesn’t always feel like it. We are not smarter than God and if we are smart, we won’t try to overrule Him or ignore His commands in order to do what we want to do.
- The Bible is the way to get to really know God and what He wants from us and for us. In our fast food world, we love to take short cuts. Just sum it up for me in five sentences or less. Let a preacher tell me what God wants in an entertaining twenty minute sermon. Unfortunately, if that is the way you and your family learn what God wants, then you are probably missing out on a lot – and may even have been taught some things that are entirely wrong. False teachers and teachings were a problem in the early days of the church and they are still around today. You and your kids are vulnerable to disobeying God – even while thinking you are doing exactly what God wants if you rely only on others for your information about what is in the Bible. Make Bible reading a top priority for you and your family. Help your kids learn to love independent Bible reading. Help them learn how to understand the unique style of the Bible. Teach them to look for the application lessons for their lives from every scripture.
- Prayer is our way to communicate with God. Rote prayers are sometimes easier to teach young children. Get away from them as quickly as possible. Teach your kids to talk to God in their own words. Encourage them to have actual conversations with God about their hopes, dreams and fears. Help them make prayer such a natural part of their lives, they can pray in a heartbeat as something is happening in their lives. Point out to them God’s answers to their prayers – even if the answer is “no” or “wait”. Your kids need to understand God hears and answers their prayers and those answers are what is best for them even if they don’t understand it at the time. (Bonus points for remembering when you realize God’s “no” really did lead to something better for your children and pointing it out to them!)
- Study baptism with your children as they reach the age of accountability. Parenting Like Hannah has a free study with a leader’s guide to help you sit down and comfortably study baptism with your child. The age of accountability varies a bit, but by late elementary school most kids are ready to begin having some serious discussions about the topic. Remember your children must be given free choice to decide whether or not they want to commit their lives to Christ. You can try and make the decision for them, but if it is not from their hearts, it won’t stick. Some kids will respond immediately and others may take a few years before they are willing to make that decision. The important thing is that they have enough information to make a good choice.
- Fellowshipping with Christians is vital. I am not a fan of isolating kids from the world entirely. Most could probably use a little less exposure, but it’s good for them to face some situations while they’re still at home with your guidance. I do think it is vitally important for your kids to have Christian friends, mentors and people who love them enough to keep up with them over the years. There is a certain amount of “home” and accountability that goes along with being an active member of a congregation. Sure, it can be messy sometimes, but your kids need to learn how to deal with the messy stuff in church life if they are to become future leaders in the Church. Making worship services a top priority also reinforces the idea that God always comes first.
- Molding the hearts of your children is more important than molding their behaviors. I have seen way too many kids who were super polite and well mannered and used it to hide a sin filled life that rejected God at every turn. While you correct behaviors, take the time to consider what is motivating them. Focus on molding the heart towards God. While it’s important to have a lot of discussions about godly behaviors and making godly choices, your child’s heart is the key. A heart that seeks to please God will almost automatically demonstrate the behaviors you want from your kids.
- Love your kids and demonstrate that love every way you can. Your kids need to hear you say you love them every day. They need your hugs and kisses. They need you to actively listen to them. They need you to enter their worlds and participate in what is important to them. They need you to remember what is important to them and ask meaningful questions about it. They need you to take the time and effort to get to know them as they really are and not as you have decided they should be or are. Fair or not, studies have shown kids tend to equate God’s love to the love of their parents. Kids who didn’t feel loved and accepted by their parents have a more difficult time truly believing God loves them as much as He does. A great, loving relationship with your kids also minimizes the risk that your rules will lead to rebellion – rules without relationship can create a scenario where your kids reject God and His commands as a way of “punishing” you.
I know Christian parenting can be overwhelming and even scary at times. The stakes are so high – eternal in fact. Yet, when I face God on the day of judgment, even though my parenting was mistake-filled, I want to be able to say I honestly tried my very hardest to parent my child towards God. I believe grace will cover the rest. So don’t allow Satan’s lies to rob you of the opportunity to try your very hardest to parent your kids towards God. Focus especially on the items in the above list. You may find it’s not quite as overwhelming as you feared.