Christian parenting adds an interesting dynamic to the parenting process. While the Bible does give a lot of guidance to parents, it is generally not quite as specific as many parents would like. For example, scripture tells us we should be teaching our children about God throughout the day, but exactly how many hours is that? What exactly should we say? What about the time school, homework and activities take away from family time? You may have wrestled with many of these questions yourself.
For thousands of years, young parents have relied on older parents, their parents, books and their own observations to try and pin down some of the parenting ambiguities in scripture. Some figured it out and many did not – which is why many young adults walk away from God.
Thankfully, we now have some data to also help us figure out what works and what doesn’t. It is important to remember that studies are often only a part of the picture and may even mislead us if they were set up poorly. Those that are done well, however, can give us some additional help as we try to parent our children towards God. (You may want to check out some of Barna’s and Pew’s research for studies on various Christian topics.)
Much of what they have discovered about successful Christian parenting is what many Christian parents instinctively know – even if they don’t always do it. There was one ”secret” ingredient though that may surprise you. The really interesting thing about this ingredient is that even though it is commanded in scripture, we rarely hear it mentioned in our churches. Even more fascinating is that it seemed to be the key difference between raising children to be church attenders only and children who were faithful, productive Christians as adults.
What is this secret ingredient? Hospitality! Having friends, neighbors and relatives in your home on a regular basis. It didn’t seem to matter how many people were entertained at anyone time or if they were invited to play in your yard with your kids or to a formal sit down dinner party for fifty. They don’t even seem to be able to pinpoint why it made a difference, although they had some theories.
Isn’t it interesting though that God commands Christians to be hospitable? He always knows what is best for us and our children. Start inviting people over. Encourage your children to invite their friends over. Host neighborhood and family gatherings. Remember it doesn’t have to be fancy and your home only has to be clean enough that people aren’t worried about getting food poisoning! In fact, one of our most popular parties requires no cooking at all. We just throw out a couple of kinds of ice cream and some toppings and call it a ”Make your own ice cream sundae” party.
If entertaining intimidates you, start small. Get your children to have a friend come over after school and serve a snack or ask them to stay for a supper of mac and cheese. Or invite the kids in your neighborhood over to play in your sprinkler and give them popsicles. (Check for food allergies before feeding children.) Entertain someone – any one. Your kids’ spiritual health may be enriched because of it.