What is the goal of Christian parenting? It is critical that we know what it is we are trying to do. Without a clear goal, our parenting efforts will lack direction and focus.
Principle #1: The Bible teaches that our goal should be for our children to become like Jesus (Galatians 4:19, Ephesians 4:13-15, Colossians 1:28). Contrast this with society’s goal of parenting. It tries to convince us that our goal is to produce happy, successful kids. Our culture says we should produce children who are athletically gifted, academically successful, and socially adept. Let’s be honest, it is hard to resist this current of our culture. But if we don’t, culture, not God, will bear its own fruit in our children’s lives. It is critical that we distinguish between our culture’s dream for our children and God’s dream for them. They are not the same! The world’s goal is that your children be happy. God’s goal is that they be holy! These are not mutually exclusive goals, by the way. True happiness is a byproduct of walking with God. It is not circumstantially-driven. It involves a settled sense of contentment that trusts in God goodness and rests in his sovereignty. We need God’s help as we seek to raise godly children. And that is where prayer comes in. Parenting will improve your prayer life! But to be successful parents we need to do more than just pray. We must spend time in the Scriptures. Why? Because that is how we get to know Jesus. That is how we grow in Christlikeness. Colossians 1:28 presents both the goal of parenting and the means to accomplish it: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Paul begins verse 28 with the subject of our parental instruction: Jesus! In our parenting, we are to present Jesus. Many of us never do. And we wonder why our children aren’t walking with God. They don’t know who he is! That makes perfect sense, because our children can’t imitate someone they don’t know. Remember, the goal of parenting is that our children become like Jesus, both in character and values. Similarly, we can’t accurately present someone to them that we barely know. That brings us to a second parenting principle.
Principle #2: To parent successfully, we must practice what we preach. The more like Christ you are, the more Christ-like your children are likely to become. If you want your children to become Christ-like adults one day, you must endeavor to become Christ-like yourself. Your children are much more likely to embrace Biblical values if they see you living them out. If you find yourself telling your children to do a lot things that you haven’t learned to do yourself, like manage your anger, be honest with others, or kick a bad habit, then you need to stop talking and start doing! If you won’t do it for your sake, do it for theirs! Can you honestly say that the way you live your life—your worship, your lifestyle, your devotion, your discipline, your habits, your stewardship, your generosity, your schedule, your priorities, your patience, your love and kindness— reflects how you want your children to live when they grow up? There is an immutable truth that we all need to accept: Our children are shaped by their role models, and they always begin with their parents. We must be what we want our children to become!
Principle #3: To parent successfully, parenting must be a top priority. It can’t be something that you tack on to an already full schedule. It can’t be something that you give focused attention to only on the weekends, or when it is convenient, or when a crisis emerges. And ideally, parenting should be a top priority for both Mom and Dad. Parents are the primary early shapers of how children think about God, truth, morality, and their responsibility to their neighbors and broader community. As our children grow up and are exposed to unbiblical ideas and values, engaged parents have the greatest opportunity to successfully challenge those false ideas and values. But for that to happen, you must be fully engaged. You must know who their friends are and what they are being exposed to. And then you need to shape a plan to address it, which requires time, energy, and focus. You must be committed to the process, especially when the going gets tough. And when the going gets tough, you must remind yourself of the importance of what God has called you to do— to be a tool in his hand to help form a human soul. That is what parenting is all about.
Are you beginning to feel the weight of our parenting responsibility? Good, we should. But God is there to help us. He loves our children more than we ever could. He wants us to draw upon his vast resources as we seek to raise children who are both holy and happy!
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Make it your goal to raise children who are becoming like Christ.
- Practice what you preach! You cannot impart what you do not possess!
- Remember: nothing is more important than forming a human soul.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, identify and write down one, concrete step of obedience, small or large but doable, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)