Because some people supposedly care so much, our nation spends hundreds of billions every year, and we have changed longstanding traditions. What if the people who care so much really only care about themselves? What if we have spent trillions of dollars and departed from fundamentally sound traditions for the sake of lies? Here are […]
There are three basic elements involved in leading a child to a saving relationship with Christ: prayer, example, and age-appropriate instruction. We lead a child to Christ through the diligent application of all three elements from the time before the child is born.
The importance of prayer in the process of evangelizing children cannot be overstated. From the time of conception, parents should be seeking God’s wisdom for themselves and grace for their unborn child. God has promised to give wisdom liberally to all who ask Him (James 1:5), and His wisdom in all aspects of parenting is essential, but nowhere is it more important than in spiritual matters. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that salvation is by grace through the gift of faith, so our prayers for our children’s salvation should be centered upon seeking that gift of faith for them. We should pray for the Holy Spirit to draw our children to God from their earliest days and to sustain them through a life of faith and service to God until they are safely secure in heaven for all eternity (Ephesians 1:13-14). We should pray that God will draw us to Himself and become a reality in our lives so that we can be good role models for our children.
Our example as children of God provides the best visual model of the relationship with Christ we wish our children to have. When our children see us on our knees daily, they perceive that prayer is a regular part of life. When they see us continually in the Scriptures, studying, feeding and meditating on God’s Word, they realize the importance of the Bible without our having to say a word. When they perceive that we not only know God’s Word, but endeavor to live it out in practical ways every day, they come to understand the power of the Word in a life lived in its light. Conversely, if a child sees that mom or dad has a Sunday “persona” which differs drastically from the person they see every day, they will be quick to spot the hypocrisy. Many children have been ‘turned off’ to church and to Christ by two-faced role models. This is not to say that God can’t overrule our faults and failures, but we must be ready to confess them to God, admit our failures to our children, and make every effort to “walk the talk.”
Furthermore, providing age-appropriate instruction in spiritual matters is crucial to leading a child to Christ. There are myriads of children’s books and resources such as children’s Bibles, children’s Bible story books and music for all age levels to read, sing and memorize. Relating every aspect of a child’s life to spiritual truth is also an important part of spiritual training. Every time a child sees a flower or a sunset or a bird, there is ample opportunity for parents to relate the beauty and wonder of God’s creative power (Psalm 19:1-6). Whenever our children feel safe and secure in our love, we have the opportunity to relate to them how much greater the love of their heavenly Father is. When they are hurt by others, we can explain the reality of sin and the only cure for it—the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for us.
Finally, sometimes an inordinate amount of importance is placed on getting a child to “say the prayer” or “walk the aisle” as evidence of his/her decision to trust Christ as Savior. While these moments can be valuable in cementing in a child’s mind when and how he/she came to Christ, salvation is the Spirit’s work in a heart. True salvation results in a life of progressive sanctification and discipleship, and this must be communicated as well.
God created the family. His design was for a man and a woman to marry for life and raise children to know and honor Him (Mark 10:9; Malachi 2:15). Adoption is also God’s idea, and He models this in His adoption of us as His children (Romans 8:15, 23; Ephesians 1:5). Regardless of the means by which they enter a family, children are a gift from God and He cares about how they are raised (Psalm 127:3; Psalm 34:11; Proverbs 23:13–14). When God gives us gifts, He also gives clear instructions about their use.
When God led the Israelites out of bondage, He commanded them to teach their children all He had done for them (Deuteronomy 6:6–7; 11:19). He desired that the generations to come would continue to uphold all His commands. When one generation fails to instill God’s laws in the next, a society quickly declines. Parents have not only a responsibility to their children, but an assignment from God to impart His values and truth into their lives.
Several places in Scripture give specific instructions to parents about how to raise their children. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” There are several ways parents might provoke their children to anger. Some parents set impossible standards so that a child despairs of ever achieving them. Some parents tease, ridicule, or humiliate their children as a means of punishment, which does nothing but provoke them to anger. Inconsistency can also provoke to anger as a child is never sure about the consequences of his actions. Hypocrisy provokes children to anger when parents require behavior from children that the parents are not choosing for themselves.
To “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” means that parents should train their children the way God trains us. As a Father, God is “slow to anger” (Numbers 14:18; Psalm 145:8), patient (Psalm 86:15), and forgiving (Daniel 9:9). His discipline is designed to bring us to repentance (Hebrews 12:6–11). His instruction is found in His Word (John 17:17; Psalm 119:97), and He desires that parents fill their homes with His truth (Deuteronomy 6:67).
He also disciplines His children (Proverbs 3:11; Hebrews 12:5) and expects earthly parents to do the same (Proverbs 23:13). Psalm 94:12 says, “Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD, the one you teach from your law.” The word discipline comes from the root word disciple. To discipline someone means to make a disciple of him. God’s discipline is designed to “conform us to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:29). Parents can make disciples of their children by instilling values and life lessons they have learned. As parents practice godly living and make Spirit-controlled decisions (Galatians 5:16, 25), they can encourage their children to follow their example. Proper, consistent discipline brings a “harvest of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). Failure to discipline results in dishonor for both parent and child (Proverbs 10:1). Proverbs 15:32 says that the one who ignores discipline “despises himself.” The Lord brought judgment upon Eli the priest because he allowed his sons to dishonor the Lord and “failed to restrain them” (1 Samuel 3:13).
Children are a “heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). He places them in families and gives parents guidance in how they are to be raised. The goal of good parenting is to produce wise children who know and honor God with their lives. Proverbs 23:24 shows the end result of raising children according to God’s plan: “The father of godly children has cause for joy. What a pleasure to have children who are wise” (NLT).
Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Training involves purposeful, consistent, and diligent actions. But one research project found, on average, fathers in America spend five minutes or less each day talking with their children.
God has a plan to train children as He intended. Teaching our kids starts with a foundation of love. All people, especially the young, desperately need to feel accepted, loved, and valued. If they don’t find validation at home, they’ll look elsewhere. Children need to hear their parents say things like, “I love you,” “I value you,” and “You have what it takes.”
A second part of training a child involves the parent’s relationship with God. We can’t share what we don’t have. A person’s relationship with Jesus must be real and exciting. Otherwise, it’ll be impossible to teach others about how to have intimacy with the Lord.
You can use two effective training tools with children. The first one is your testimony. Share what God is doing in your life. The second tool is your example. A powerful lesson is driven home when a child sees his parent admitting fault, asking for forgiveness, or expressing gratitude for God’s mercy. The stakes are high. If we disobey the Lord and fail to teach our little ones correctly, we make them vulnerable to the world’s teaching. Not only does this harm our precious children; it also hinders the next generation.
We can easily forget how powerful a parent’s influence is upon a child. A simple, offhand comment from a distracted mom or dad may be all it takes to plant a seed of insecurity that rankles for years. Let’s consider some ways we could inadvertently cause a lack of confidence in our kids.
First, a home atmosphere marked by chaos and volatility will keep children off balance, on guard, and nervous. As adults, they may feel rejected or unloved and therefore are prone to see themselves as unworthy of acceptance and affection.
Second, negative comments about a child’s performance or character strike at the heart of his or her personhood and significantly affect personal development.
Third, unrealistic expectations can weigh a child down, often creating the feeling of conditional love. That is, the child may believe that his parents will love him only if he lives up to their expectations—whether in academics, athletics, or some other area.
Fourth, a lack of positive reinforcement can be crippling. Imagine how it would feel if you did your absolute best whenever you tried something but never heard the slightest word of encouragement? Such a situation leads to a person having no perception of or confidence in his abilities.
The job of raising children isn’t simple or without challenges. But even when facing frustrations—whether related to family or external causes—be mindful that words and actions powerfully influence your sons and daughters. Whatever their ages, choose to instill a spirit of confidence in your children.
This love is the same love that compelled the Savior to teach the disciples God’s Word and to demonstrate God’s love for us through His death and resurrection (1 John 4:7-8). There is no end to how much God loves us and desires to bless us. The intention of God in the creation of man was to have fellowship with Him. First John 4 tells us that once we recognize this, it enables us to love others. Whether we view every child as a blessing from God depends on how much we see that child as God sees him. When we look at each child through the eyes of God, there is no question that every one is a blessing from Him. If we look at that child through the eyes of sin, then we would doubt that blessing because we focus on the creature and not the Creator.
It is God’s plan and desire that each child be born according to His plan for us and that is through marriage. When that does not happen, it does not exclude the fact of God’s love and care for the child. David concluded in Psalm 139:17 that God’s thoughts for His people were indeed precious and innumerable. The most practical application of this is seen in the lineage of Christ in Matthew 1. All through the names, we recognize those who failed in life in some way and see those who were born of illegitimacy and sin. This did not disrupt the fact that God’s Word was fulfilled and brought the blessing of salvation to man.
The Lord gives mothers and fathers unique opportunities to teach their children about godly living. Through their parents’ lifestyle and instruction, kids can discover personal accountability to God.
A. Role Models
As parents, we’re always teaching our kids something. Whether we respond correctly or incorrectly to situations, they are watching and learning. If you ever doubt the influence you have on your children, observe the ways in which they imitate you.
- What kind of actions, attitudes, and beliefs do you see your children imitating?
Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9.
- What command does Moses relay from God to the Israelites (Deut. 6:4-5)?
- What does it mean to love the Lord in this way?
- In your own words, when were Israelite parents to instruct their children about God (Deut. 6:6-9)? Describe the times such instruction should take place today.
The Lord makes fathers and mothers responsible for teaching their children spiritual principles. Oftentimes, young people rebel against authority because their parents have failed to learn His Word and instruct their children in it.
- Did your parents ever teach you the Bible or share something that God had taught them?
- What difference did that instruction make in your life?
B. The Proper Attitude
Teaching children about the Lord demands great patience, understanding, love, forgiveness, and wisdom. You and your kids must maintain good communication. Then, when your children make poor decisions, remember the grace that God has granted you, and give the same to your sons and daughters.
Read the account of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32.
- How does the father in this story symbolize God’s response toward us?
- How can you reflect this same attitude toward your children?
There are many biblical principles that your children should know before they leave your home. Here are a few:
- The reliability of Scripture
- The gospel message and the process of evangelism
- The principles of forgiveness
- Their identity in Christ
- The ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives
- The basics of effective prayer
- God’s faithfulness in all of life’s challenges
- The principle of sowing and reaping
- Godly stewardship of their time, skills, money and other resources
- Their responsibility and accountability to God
The best way to know how to communicate these principles to your children is to learn and apply them in your own life.
C. Children are responsible and accountable to God
For the purpose of this study, let’s focus on one particular concept. We need to guide our children to recognize and respect God as the ultimate authority in their lives.
As parents, we are our children’s God-given instructors and authority figures only for a season. Ultimately, they are responsible to the Lord for their actions and attitudes.
- Why is it important to begin teaching your children to transfer their feelings of responsibility from you to God while they are young?
- How might this principle impact your children’s behavior when they are teenagers?
D. Three Steps to Help Kids Be Accountable to God
- Allow your children to set some of the standards and parameters for their responsibilities. If they are old enough, ask them to prayerfully consider how they should help around the house, or what time their curfew should be. Encourage them to consult the Lord and make decisions based on His leading. Of course, you will still need to enforce the rules when they disobey.
- What are some of the benefits to this suggestion? What are some drawbacks?
- Is this a suggestion you feel comfortable implementing? Why or why not?
- In what small area could you give your children more say in deciding rules and responsibilities?
- Allow them to follow through with the standards and parameters they have set. Sometimes you need to let children make an unwise decision. Of course, if they suggest something ridiculous, you will have to intervene. But you should let your kids experience some consequences in order to mature.
- Did your parents let you make mistakes, or did they rescue you? What effect do you think that has had on your confidence and willingness to take risks as an adult?
- Most importantly, you must live in a way that reflects your own responsibility and accountability to God. Your children notice when you gossip about a family member or brag about avoiding a speeding ticket. As parents, we must demonstrate lifestyles of accountability to God even in small things, or this principle will be meaningless to our children.
- Evaluate your life. Are you setting a good example for your children by acknowledging your accountability to God? What areas could use some improvement?
Closing: We are all accountable and responsible to the Lord. Determine to model and teach these truths to your kids. If you will actively instruct your sons and daughters, you will be taking powerful steps to safeguard them from rebellion and disillusionment later in life.
Prayer: Father, please give parents the strength and wisdom to model a godly lifestyle. Empower them to fulfill their responsibilities of learning Your Word and teaching it to their children. May hurting families become healthy and happy for Your glory. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
In an achievement-oriented society such as ours, there is a tendency to equate our significance or importance with our ability to perform certain tasks. Even as Christians we tend to evaluate our worth on the basis of what we have done rather than on the basis of who we are in Christ. As we mature in our faith, however, the Holy Spirit is constantly at work within us helping us realize where our true identity is really found.
Often your child’s area of interest or strength will be something with which you are not familiar or which holds no interest for you. Do not make the mistake of downplaying an interest simply because it holds no natural attraction for you. For your child’s sake, you must go the extra mile to become interested. But keep in mind that your interest must be genuine; a child can tell if you are not being sincere.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)
The tragedy is that when we put ourselves on a performance scale to measure our worth and significance, we tend to put those around us on one as well. Thus, we accept others on the same erroneous and artificial basis that we accept ourselves. Unfortunately, our children often bear the brunt of our insecurity as adults. Our personal struggles with self-esteem overflow in our expectations of them. Since we are never quite satisfied with our own performance or looks or whatever, we find it difficult to be satisfied with theirs, either.
The result is that we push and push and push. We expect better grades, better batting averages, better manners, better friends, better goals, and so on. Things are never as good as they could be. So children grow up under pressure to achieve a standard they find somewhat elusive and ever-changing. They work to earn something that should be freely given, that is, acceptance. And as Hugh Parham Stanley puts it, “Nothing can alienate a child quicker than having to work for something that should be given freely” (The Challenge of Fatherhood in Today’s World; St. Meinrad, Ind.: Abbey Press, 1982, p.50).
Children in this situation tend to become workaholics or to give up altogether and quit trying to measure up. In both cases the parents have failed because the children have come to believe on an emotional level that acceptability is based upon ability to perform certain tasks or to look a certain way.
Unrealistic and ever-changing expectations are a form of rejection because you as a parent communicate that you are more concerned with your children’s behavior as it reflects on you than you are with them as individuals. You may not think about it in those terms, but why else would you keep pushing them? Children may not recognize what has happened is rejection, but their deep feelings of alienation and hostility are characteristic of children who have been openly rejected . . .
“But,” you say, “am I not to motivate my children to excellence? Am I not responsible to help them develop to the fullest of their potential? Are there not times when I need to push a little?”
Absolutely! In fact, motivating your children to excellence and improvement is in itself a part of expressing unconditional love and acceptance to them. To allow children simply to get by in life is another form of covert rejection. It is as if you are saying, “I don’t care if you amount to anything in life.”
If you are to motivate your children to excellence without expressing an attitude of conditional acceptance, two things must be true. First, all your prodding and motivating must be preceded by demonstrations of your unconditional love for your children. There must be memorials, so to speak, to their worthiness in your eyes. By memorials I mean events or conversations that have clearly expressed your love.
Memorials such as these are beneficial because they reassure your children of your unconditional love, and they provide a comfortable context for failure. Sometimes you will expect too much from your children, and they will fail. These reminders of your unconditional acceptance make it easier for them to face you when the bottom drops out.
Memorials can also take the form of a gift, such as jewelry, something related to a favorite hobby, a special item of clothing, or even the bestowal of certain privileges. In presenting the gift, stress several times that it is not connected with any particular occasion or activity on their part; you are giving it just because you love them . . . .
The real key here is to view each of your children as a unique individual. The assumption must be that each child is gifted in some particular area. Your goal as a parent is to recognize that area of strength and emphasize it as your child develops, for in these areas of strength lies your child’s greatest potential for excellence. By cultivating these areas, you will do great things for your child’s self-esteem as well.
As disappointing and overwhelming it may be to learn a teenage daughter is pregnant, it’s crucial to keep a kingdom perspective. The sin is done. Whatever influences the teens have been under to lead them to sin can’t be avoided now. This new situation is not about the morality of out-of-wedlock sex or the reputation of a family. It’s about the development of a child. All children are blessings from God and He has a plan for each one (Psalm 139:13-18). Even if the circumstances in which they come may be less than ideal, that child is as precious and loved by God as any other.
The pregnant daughter is also precious to God. The role of parents is to teach and guide their children to live godly lives in whatever they face. This is a prime opportunity to do just that. The girl may be scared, ashamed, and emotional, and it is her parents’ responsibility to help her push past emotion and turn to her Heavenly Father.
Some parents fear that giving their daughter the love and support she needs will encourage the behavior that led to the pregnancy. But, again, being pregnant and giving birth to a child is not a sin, and there are so many other benefits to actively and publicly standing with a pregnant teen. It fosters an environment in which the child is valued as a blessing. It encourages the father to take responsibility without fear. And it makes abortion look like a much less desirable option.
If a family abandons their pregnant teen—even emotionally—she will be much more likely to make harmful decisions. She may think marrying the baby’s father is the only option. She may not know how to take care of her health and that of the baby. Other pregnant teens may see the volatile relationship and keep their own condition secret.
Conversely, the girl will be able to make much wiser decisions about her and her baby’s future if she can rest in her parents’ acceptance and loving guidance. Making this journey more emotionally difficult for her will not encourage clear thinking. Wise parents will help their daughter walk through the options of keeping the child or adoption. It may also be beneficial to involve the father and his family; he needs to take as much ownership as the mother. After careful prayer, parents should be clear about the level of support they can give in raising the child. Make use of Christian crisis pregnancy centers.
Our God is a powerful God who can bring joy and blessing even out of our sin. There may be incredibly tough times ahead for the pregnant teen and her family, but our God is the God who redeems.