Raising Children Who Love the Lord
by Jody Keithley, Fifth Grade Teacher
As a parent, teacher, and friend the question of how to raise children who love The Lord is something I continually think and pray about. Every year the topic comes up in professional development at DMC. As we talk about this issue and brainstorm ways to inspire the students to pursue Christ, we inevitably come to the conclusion that we need to be on our knees before our Heavenly Father for our students and children. Only He can work and change their hearts for Him.
We are well aware of the problem of young adults walking away from their Christian upbringing and the church. The Christian community is facing unique challenges of its own regarding this problem, as many young adults are deciding to leave the faith after being raised in Christian homes. Barna research reports that 6 out of 10 twenty- somethings who were involved in church during their teen years have dropped out of actively participating in Christian activities.
One book I have turned to as my own children have grown into adults is, You Never Stop Parenting, by Elise Fitzpatrick and Jim Newheiser. This book comes to the subject of parenting your adult children from a biblical point of view, which is desperately needed. It is based on the assumption that Scripture is sufficient not only to tell us how to gain salvation, but also to help us establish and maintain wise, godly relationships, including those with our own children. While this book is mainly about handling our adult children, there were many insights which benefit us no matter our children's ages.
The first surprising thing you will read in this book is this, "When talking about parenting children to love the Lord, we need NOT talk about techniques or behavioral changes, but we need to go to the foot of the cross and talk about our hearts." What? This is about me as much as my children? When we cultivate our own authentic relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit guides and leads us in our relationships. The people around us, including our children, can see a di?erence in our spirit as we go about our day. As a result, they are inspired to desire the same kind of relationship with Christ because they see it lived out in us.
Another excellent book by Ted Tripp, Shepherding a Child's Heart, teaches us that "Our goal in training and discipling our children, is to bring them to maturity. If we are so blessed, they become self-governing and ready for adulthood long before it is time to release them from the home. The parenting task comes to an end, and we are no longer the on-site shepherds."
There is only one perfect parent, God. Our parenting will end when we step into eternity, but God's parenting will never end. "He has promised never to leave you nor forsake you; he is your Father and that will never change. He will always protect you,
provide for you, and pardon you. He is your merciful, everlasting Father. In truth, you can rest and face the day with confidence. This world and these difficulties aren't all there is. There is a heavenly Father to whom you can address all your concerns and who bears you on his heart."
Christianity Today's article, Prodigal Children: If It Can Happen to John Piper, It Can Happen to You. There's nothing we fallible parents can do to ensure our kids will keep the faith by Marlena Graves Abraham. Piper gives concrete suggestions to parents and anyone who works with kids in churches and schools.
- Point them to Christ. He notes that the "problem is that your child doesn't see Jesus clearly." While it isn't easy, you need to show them Christ.
- Don't expect them to be Christ-like. If your child is not a Christian, you shouldn't expect that child to act like one.
- Welcome them home. He writes, "Because your deepest concern is your son's heart, not his actions, don't create too many requirements for coming home."
God is in control, we are not. We cannot change our children's hearts, but we know Someone who knows our their hearts better than we do! He can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, cause our kids to see and open their hearts to the knowledge of Himself. The greatest thing we can do for our children is pray for them. Stormie Omartian has several books on prayer, and praying through The Power of a Praying Parent is a great way to start. As you read Scripture and your child comes to mind, pray those verses for your child; that they will love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind; that they will confess their sins and be healed; that they would seek and find that the Lord is good; that they would keep their minds on things above, etc.
Finally, don't be surprised by sin. We are all sinners. We all need Christ more than anything else. Strive to be great at forgiving, just as our Heavenly Father has forgiven us through Jesus Christ. (Eph 4:32) If we don't forgive others, how will our children learn to forgive and how will they see the forgiveness of God? By forgiving others, we live out the gospel of Christ for our children to see. Every human relationship needs grace to survive. As parents, we want see our kids walking with Christ and making wise choices NOW, but be patient and wait on the Lord. Sometimes He is working things out in us as well as our children, and He will do what He promises in just the right time.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10