My friend David has amazing kids. It’s not because he constantly brags on them, either! They excel in school, sports, and work. They are popular and have good social and personal habits. Beyond that, and more importantly, they are unusually devoted believers to Christ. They worship openly in public, they pray in private and have a great grasp of the Bible. They give incredible amount of money to missions and enthusiastically serve in the ministries of their church.
So what gives? What makes some families particularly effective at making solid disciples of their own children?
I find that while all parents accomplish child rearing differently, those who raise kids who know the Bible, believe it for a lifetime and love not only God, but church, do some things the same.
While I haven’t composed an exhaustive list, I think I’ve hit on a few keys below that will help you in seeing your children become devoted believers. Here are a few core truths for parents who raise kids who are passionate about their faith and the Church know.
- Understand church attendance is not enough. The parents most effective at leading their children into a lifestyle of Christ-following understand that beyond a high commitment to being regularly at church, that’s not enough. Regular prayer, discussions about God, reading the scriptures–these are indispensable ingredients in leading children to find a faith that is their own.
- Don’t expect your children to rise above your own example. You may have heard that everything rises and falls on leadership, and the same is often true in families. Your children will pick up on the real you in the context of your home and your personal life. If you complain, are stingy, and suspicious of your church’s leadership, your children are likely to reflect the same attitudes or values. In the same way, when you consistently show patience with leaders, suppress gossip, and wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support your church, these kinds of attitudes will also likely rub off on your children. It’s not a surprise to me that many of the most well-adjusted kids in my own church who love God and own their own spirituality are the children of people who have modeled this regularly in their own lives.
- Remember that your kids are listening to what you have to say about others from church. Yeah, the attitude that parents put on display about the people they go to church with, the leaders, etc. has a big impact on their children’s perceptions not only about those people, but about the legitimacy of the church. If you smile at these people at church and yet grumble about them once you leave church, your children will likely eventually extrapolate that hypocrisy is the nature of Christianity. It’s not a big leap. Little ears are listening, so do your best to speak well of the people at church.
- Recognize that serving with your children will help them to value serving in ministry later in life. One of the most positive and formative experiences for my children was planting a couple of churches together with my wife and me. Our children were not that old, but they carried in equipment and boxes, helped us with younger children, and eventually served regularly in children’s ministry and other places. Now that a couple of them are teenagers, they regularly serve and seem to have volunteerism in their DNA. That’s because we serve often together as a family. Find ways to serve God together when your kids are young, and you will find them serving God and others when they are older.
- Engage with the church because you love God and his people, not because it’s a hip and trendy club. Relevant, attractive, excellent ministries can be a great reason why you start attending a church, but it can’t be the underlying reason for your commitment to church. Don’t allow fickleness with style to be the reason why you might leave a church or start a new one. Develop meaningful relationships and show your kids through words and deeds that the people there are the most important, and your offspring will have a greater chance to pick up the same values.
- Give clear reasons for boundaries. Legalism is one of the greatest reasons why children can end up turning away from God. When you have rules or are strict, be consistent in giving reasons for it. Do your best to tie those reasons to scriptural principles or commands and help your children understand why following the rules or staying the boundaries will help to create a fuller life. If you can’t find a clear, easy-to-explain reason for it, drop the rule. It may be evidence that you were handed some legalistic junk in your own upbringing.
What kind of things do you think are essential in this endeavor?