Whether we like it or not, as parents, our children represent us (I am the father of six!). Of course, they exhibit our characteristics, habits, etc., but it is remarkable and scary how much they exhibit our faith as well. After a week of having campers here, it is clear to us which parents are intentionally teaching their children about the things of God.
Our tendency as parents is to count on the church, VBS, Christian schools, summer camp, etc. to teach our children God’s Word, but that is a mistake. For children to grow up and embrace Christ as their Lord and Savior and to trust wholly in God’s Word, there must be intentionality on behalf of the parents. Here are three tips from a parent who is working on them as well:
We often have the perception that, as parents, we are be a perfect model of a Christian to our children. This is obviously unattainable and is a hindrance to our relationships. If you are like me, what you probably remember most about your parents (if they did this) was the times they humbled themselves and said they were wrong, or that they had sinned against you and asked for forgiveness. Everyone appreciates the leader who humbly admits they were wrong and takes responsibility for their sin while at the same time losing respect for those who refuse to acknowledge their role in a wrongdoing. So it is with parenting, our children must hear us confess our sins against them and ask for forgiveness. As an example, I raise my voice very quickly at times with my children. If I go on and say nothing of the incident, they see an example of a father who does not care that He sinned against them. If I confess my sin against them and ask forgiveness, they see an example of a father who is trying to be Christ like and willing to humble himself and acknowledge even the “smallest” of sins.
Be Heart Focused
“To focus on the heart takes work and it takes a conversation after every sin guiding the child to an understanding of their depravity and need for a Savior in their lives.”One of my biggest challenges as a parent is reminding myself that I must focus on their hearts and not simply on their behavior. Yes, children need discipline, that is clear from the pages of scripture and that is why God made behinds soft. However, discipline must have the end goal of changing the heart. The challenge is that it is easy to simply spank a child for hitting their sister and tell them not to do it again. To focus on the heart takes work and it takes a conversation after every sin guiding the child to an understanding of their depravity and need for a Savior in their lives. The child who is simply disciplined will probably be well behaved, but their motivation will be to avoid punishment. Conversely, the child whose parents’ focus on the heart teach the child that their motivation must be a love for God, His Word and their Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the only motivation that will last as they face this challenging world.
That term doesn’t make sense, but I had to stick with the “Be” theme. Family devotions are a rarity anymore and we are told that most families don’t even eat together anymore. As a parent, you should make family devotions the top priority. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Right now, we are reading the New City Catechism after supper each night in addition to time my wife spends each morning during school for devotions. There are countless solid resources that can help you in this endeavor. Another one is “The Ology,” by Marty Machowski. If you are not comfortable leading a devotion, get a good book like this and read from it, one chapter or section a night. The word that I always come back to for just about everything I do is “intentional.” You must be intentional as a Christian parent, because your children are going to have to face a world that is extremely intentional in leading them into sin.
Be good at starting over. A mentor of mine told me this and I have not forgotten it. I get it, schedules are busy, kids are playing sports and gone every night. Unfortunately, we only get one shot at raising our kids and as I am learning – it passes quickly. Spend your limited time with them on things of eternal importance. And if you miss a few nights of devotions, start again.