Many parents would say that raising their kids is the hardest thing they have to do. We all want a silver bullet to guarantee happy, successful, Christ-loving children. And yet, we all know it doesn’t work that way. What we can do is trust God, pray, invest in our children, confess when we make mistakes, and seek help when we need it.
In 2007, based on his interviews of parents and their children, George Barna wrote a book called Revolutionary Parenting. The book focused on the upbringing of and parental input for young women and men defined as “spiritual champions” – those who actively follow Christ as their Lord and Savior, embrace a biblical worldview, desire to obey God, and strive to change the world for God. As we look to Barna’s book for parenting advice, we can pull out twenty biblical principles to guide us in parenting.
You won’t find these twenty principles listed in the table of contents of the book; this is just one way to summarize and organize the book’s content. Scripture verses, along with some personal insights, have been added to the concepts from the book. The first ten principles are below. Prayerfully review these ideas, and the other ten will be in next week’s blog. By the grace of God, may we each grow in living out these ideas with our kids!
- Look to your Heavenly Father as your model and strength in parenting. God is the only perfect parent. Let him be your Father before you attempt to be a parent. Watch him and imitate him. (Hosea 11:1-4, Ephesians 5:1-2)
- Accept that raising kids requires your full attention and energy. Children are a gift from God, a big responsibility, and a huge blessing. In the child-rearing years, parenting must be your primary calling. After your pursuit of Christ and investment in your marriage, it is your top priority. Be willing to let go of your own wants and needs for them. (Psalm 127:3-5, Psalm 78:4-7)
- Work toward the goal of raising Christ-like men and women. Begin with the end in mind. Have a clear vision of who you want your children to become, and then make a plan. Be purposeful in all you say and do. Set goals. Develop a proactive strategy, not a reactive strategy. Your ultimate goal is to grow them into God’s image (not your own). (Philippians 3:12-14, Colossians 3:9-10)
- Start early: first messages are the loudest. External influences impact your children from an early age. Don’t wait until they are “old enough.” The earlier you put these principles into practice, the more impact you’ll have in their lives. Set patterns and priorities for your family from the start. If you have missed the early years, be diligent and faithful with the time you have left. God is gracious and powerful. (Proverbs 1:7-9, 6:20-23, 22:6)
- Focus on shepherding their heart, not changing their behavior. The primary obstacle to your child’s well-being is their broken, selfish, rebellious heart. Only God’s Spirit can change that. If you endeavor to shepherd your child’s heart, not change their behavior, right behavior will flow from godly character. Emphasize a lifetime of discipleship rather than a one-time decision to accept Jesus. (Ezekiel 11:19-20, Matthew 16:24-25)
- Provide a stable, consistent family life. Keep regular patterns, priorities, routines, and consequences in the home. A strong marriage provides a strong foundation for a stable family life. Be a team. Keep the home a safe place. Be reliable. (Ephesians 6:1-4, Colossians 3:18-21)
- Model a heartfelt commitment to Christ and Christlike living. Intentionally pursue your own spiritual maturity. Your children will learn from you and imitate you. Your personal, growing, authentic relationship with Christ is crucial to their own. Model who you want them to be. God’s Spirit can draw our kids to himself through any means he wants, but as parents we can’t personally pass on to them what we don’t have ourselves. Thank God that his grace is bigger than our flawed examples! (1 Corinthians 4:14-16, 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6)
- Don’t pretend to have it all together – be authentic. You don’t have to be a spiritual superstar, but you do have to be serious and real with your faith. You will mess up (see point #1 – God is the only perfect parent!). Don’t hide your mistakes when you make them, and ask for forgiveness when needed. Be open, honest, and real with your kids. Teach them how to fail by seeking repentance when you sin. (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 1 John 1:7-9)
- Integrate your faith into all of life. Your faith can’t be relegated to Sunday mornings and a bedtime prayer. Make your commitment to Christ a regular, natural part of family life. Show them how Jesus impacts every facet of life. Fold the insights and guidance you have for your children into daily life. When issues do arise, parent in the moment. Read the Bible, memorize Scripture, pray, worship, and serve together in the context of life. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
- Focus on the ongoing process of building the relationship. Don’t assume you have a relationship because you are their biological parent. Like any relationship, it must be fostered. Ground everything in love. Ask questions; listen; value and respect your children. You have to build trust. The impact you will have on your children will only be as deep as your relationship with them. Don’t be so narrowly focused on winning a battle that you end up losing the relationship. (Mark 3:13-15, 2 Corinthians 2:4)