As I write this, I’m on a month long ministry trip to Ukraine. Outside of my window, I can see small children playing on equipment you rarely see in the U.S. any more because some lawyers decided it wasn’t acceptable. The other day, it was chilly here. Some children had on t-shirts and jeans, while others had on winter hats and heavy jackets.
We know there’s a fairly wide range of healthy parenting, but what about Christian parenting? The Bible tells us multiple times God never changes – His Words are for yesterday, today and tomorrow. Does that mean all Christian parents should parent exactly the same?
The short answer is “yes” and “no”. Since God’s Words never change, we don’t have the flexibility to pick and choose which ones we teach our kids to follow and obey. Deuteronomy 6:7 and 11:19 tell us how we need to teach our kids about God and His commands – constantly. In those sorts of things, we should all have parenting styles that are alike.
Within God’s never changing boundaries though, there is a lot of flexibility. The methods you use to teach your kids what God wants from them and for them can vary. The consequences you give for disobedience may even vary slightly from child to child in your own family.
So what’s the difference between an effective Christian parent and one who isn’t as successful?
- A constant focus on teaching their children about God and His commands. Effective Christian parents know their kids can’t learn everything God wants them to know at church on Sundays. They make those verses in Deuteronomy their standard and talk with their kids about God daily. The different ways they accomplish that though can vary from family to family and at times even child to child.
- They keep their priorities straight. They understand if they allow secular activities to consume all of their children’s free time, there will be no time left for who is the most important – God. What your family chooses to place in priorities after God can vary. Maybe your family loves spending time outdoors exercising while another family likes to carve out time to work on their hobbies. As long as God is first, there is some flexibility with the rest.
- They learn from other Christian parents. Show me a group of parents whose kids all grew up to be faithful, productive Christians and I can almost promise you they did a lot of the same things. We like to pretend that isn’t true to spare the feelings of other parents, but there are certain things effective Christian parents do that are often not done by other Christian parents. Learning from those who have been effective is the easiest way to be more effective with your own children. On those things your experienced parents did differently, you will probably find those are the little places where the style is not as important as the substance.
Although the list seems short, there are lots of big and little things within those three major tips. It’s not easy to be an effective Christian parent. It takes a lot more time, effort and intentionality than one would hope. It will be worth it though to spend eternity with your kids in Heaven.