I’ve been a father for 2 years, and to be honest I don’t feel qualified to give advice on raising children. To put it mildly, parenting is humbling. I’m also a pastor who is often in a position to counsel parents. That is not always easy because there are so many variables when it comes to parenting.
There seems to be an endless number of books on parenting—some excellent, some awful, and many in between.
I had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home and heard the gospel in church. I believe I genuinely trusted Christ around the age of 8, but I also had a bumpy transition to an adult faith. The hypocrisy I saw in the church, combined with my own intellectual questions, had me wondering if all this was real. My parents did a great job of raising me, but I had some serious questions about God that the church never seemed to want to answer.
When I became a Dad to two beautiful girls in Hallie and Haven I began to realize that questions were important. Those curious questions come from the heart. And it’s the heart we need to focus on.
At Take Heart Church I have always taught that a parents priority is to one day move our child’s dependency from us to God. We do that by instructing and turning their hearts to him. So with that in mind I want to answer a few questions we all may have.
How does evangelism tie into raising children?
The noetic effect of sin blinds us to many things, including the right way to view family and children. God doesn’t just give us babies to raise; he entrusts us with eternal souls to influence. This changes all of my parenting.
The foundational Scripture for parents is not Deuteronomy 6 or Ephesians 6, as important as those are, but Matthew 28:18–20. The Great Commission is the mission of the church and undergirds my family’s direction. Once I have that North Star to guide my parenting, I can make wise choices and stand strong in a culture that’s pushing me in many directions.
Too many pastors and parents have separated kingdom life and family life. But God intends each family to be a Trinity-displaying, disciple-making unit. Understanding this truth changes everything.
Once parents have understood this point, what myths do you think Christian parents still believe?
Many good parents are tempted to believe that the perfect environment will guarantee that their children will walk with the Lord. Though we may not say it, our actions often show we are thinking this way. But our children’s salvation is not by works—theirs or ours. Discipling our children is not like making a cake: Put in the right ingredients and the right environment for the right amount of time—and out pops perfect children. Our kids have real choices they have to make.
But having warned of this danger, we must make the other point with equal strength: God can and does use means. Our duty is to faithfully discharge the duties he’s given us, leaving the results in his hands. Our job is not successful parenting per se, but faithful parenting.
If you could give parents one piece of advice, what would it be?
Make sure you are living the gospel at home. The number one reason kids give for walking away is hypocrisy on the part of their parents or church leaders. Lo and behold, we see in the New Testament that the first way a spiritual leader teaches is through example. And our home is a stage where our children are studying our lives. When they are young, they are imitating us. When they are older, they are evaluating us. Do they see a genuine relationship with the Lord? Paul could say of Timothy’s upbringing that his mother and grandmother had a living faith (2 Tim. 1:5), and it was because of those examples that he was following the Lord.
What would you say to parents of prodigals?
Your child’s salvation is not by parental works. A good Pastor friend of mine, whom I respect so much, tells the story of his deliberate decision to rebel as a teen. By his own words, his parents were wonderful Christian parents. Too many times, parents of prodigals feel shame and guilt based on a misunderstanding of Proverbs 22:6. We have taken this verse as a promise that if we train them well, they will not depart. Therefore, we think, if they depart, we must have done something wrong.
Perhaps there is real sin to confess on our part, but we must remember our child’s salvation does not depend on our parenting. We cannot parent so well as to give them a new heart. I want every parent to know the incredible privilege and responsibility they have been given to shape an eternal soul.
Parenting is hard, fun, exciting, exhausting, joyful, sorrowful, and fulfilling all rolled into one. Remember there is no one-stop method for how to raise good godly children. But scripture teaches us that His love never fails. Turning your child’s heart towards God is what will never return back void.